Quick: How many starting Centers from the NFL can you name from last season? Chance are, not many. The Offensive Center position is one of the most important on the entire football team, but he usually gets lost in the trenches like most offensive linemen do.
What separates the Center from the other OLinemen? Primarily, the intelligence factor. The Center is typically the player reading defenses, calling out blocking audibles, and sometimes, alerting the QB to a potential play change.
The Chicago Bears have had one of the best Centers in the league for the last 10 years in Olin Kreutz. He has made 6 Pro Bowl appearances, and consistently been a leader in the locker room. But, it may be time to start looking at an eventual successor to Kreutz. Here are the top Center prospects in this year's NFL Draft.
Alex Mack, California, 6'4", 315lbs
Alex Mack is considered by most to be the best Center prospect in the draft, and possibly the only Center drafted in the 1st round. Mack is an awesome combination of size, strength, and power. He is an exceptional leader on both the field and in the locker room, which will carry over into the NFL. Mack could be an immediate starter in the NFL, and has spoken with several teams already, despite suffering from an ankle sprain while preparing for the combine.
The only thing that will be a knock against Mack is that he sometimes plays too hard... he can be over-aggressive and try to do too much. There has also been some comments about his technique... he will need to develop some of his blocking skills to be able to take on blitzing linebackers.
Video Highlights. (New window)
Max Unger, Oregon, 6'4", 315lbs
Max Unger is another Center that could immediately start at the NFL level. He has good size, like Alex Mack, and is very strong. Unger has become known for his great footwork and athleticism, and that has been seen at the combine... he was 3rd among linemen in the 3-cone drill and 3rd in the 20 yard shuttle.
He has been projected by many mocks in the late 2nd round or early 3rd, but seems to be increasing his value at the combine. We may see Unger now near the top of the 2nd round, if not a late 1st round selection. The only knock against Unger I have seen is his lateral movement will need to improve a bit. While Centers don't do as much pulling as does Guards and Tackles, we are seeing an increase in the NFL in getting Centers into the open field as lead-blockers. Unger could also be seen as a Guard at the NFL level.
Video Highlights. (Clickety pops)
Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas, 6'4", 310lbs
Jonathan Luigs is probably the hardest worker among Center prospects in this draft class. He turned in the 6th-best 40 yard dash time at the combine among OLinemen, and had the 7th highest vertical jump.
Luigs is very athletic, and is good at both pass and rush blocking. He constantly faced some of the best defensive tackles and linebackers in the NCAA, and consistently performed well. He has proven to have a very admirable work ethic, and this has impressed many NFL scouts. The only thing that might hinder Luigs come draft day will be the fact that he isn't a very scrappy player. He is strong, but doesn't have a real killer instinct.
Eric Wood, Louiville, 6'3, 300lbs
Eric Wood has really benefitted from this year's NFL combine. He placed 12th among linemen in the bench press, 10th in the vertical jump, 8th in the 3-cone drill, and 4th in the 20 yard shuttle.
Wood has said to only be average at pass blocking, but has a real killer instinct on run blocking. He is incredibly smart, and makes very few mistakes. Wood will need to pack on a few pounds for the NFL level, and continue developing his technique, but has done a great job at the combine, which should greatly affect his draft stock.
I haven't been able to find much in highlights on Wood, but if any of you have some, let me know and I'll throw it up. Until then, here is a video of Wood at the Sr. Bowl.
Anyone else I should have included? Should the Chicago Bears be interested in any of these players?