Draft Preview: Centers

Earlier today Merlin took a look at the nose tackle class in this year’s NFL Draft.  I have no idea who from his list will be drafted, but I do know that it is up to the center to nullify the nose tackle.  In fact, one of the keys to a fully functioning 3-4 defense is the idea that the nose tackle occupies at least 2 offensive linemen.  This means, that if the center can take on the nose tackle 1-on-1, then the 3-4 defense loses some of its effectiveness.  Kansas City Chiefs fans should be familiar with this since our NT can’t consistently force a double team.

Along with the NT class, the center class should also be of interest to the Chiefs since their current center, Casey Wiegmann, is currently 50-50 on retiring.  Even if he wasn’t retiring center should still be a priority for the Chiefs because while Wiegmann was serviceable, he was showing his age last season.  Also, as a smaller center (6’2” 285 lbs.) he was not holding up well versus the nose tackles he faced.  That being said, he was an upgrade from previous year’s center Rudy Niswanger.  Now that we’ve established the idea that the Chiefs need a center, here are some likely candidates to be drafted:

Mike Pouncey Florida     6’5”     303 lbs. Round Projection:  1-2

The twin brother of last year’s first round draft pick center Maurkice Pouncey, his stock is inflated a bit by the performance of his brother.  However, he is a good player in his own right.  His athleticism for a player his size is excellent and he has the ability to play either guard, center, and in a pinch maybe tackle.  His work ethic is good and has the size to combat the heavier nose tackle.

He is not perfect, though.  While he has the attributes to take on the nose tackle, he struggles against the players who are bigger and stronger than him.  He also has only spent one season at center in which he really struggled making the snap early in the season.  That is why some draft analysts don’t even have him on their board as a center.  If the Chiefs wanted him as a center, we would most likely need to use our first rounder to get him and it is no sure thing that he can start at center from day one.  And starting from day one is generally required for a first round pick with quarterbacks being the exception.

Rodney Hudson Florida State     6’2”     299 lbs.     Round Projection:     2-3

Hudson has quietly put together one of the better post season resumes.  Initially, Hudson was off my board because of his size (was 282 lbs.).  But he showcased he technical ability and excellent footwork at the Senior Bowl and got my attention.  However, the issue of his size still remained.  Cue the Scouting Combine.  Hudson shows up at 299 lbs.  The worry, of course, was that with the extra weight he would lose his great footwork.  Even with the extra weight he still had his footwork.

Do your homework on Hudson and you find that he is the most decorated offensive lineman in ACC history.  He has the respect of all his coaches and is a hard worker.  And has four years of college starting experience.  In his entire college career he’s been flagged twice.   In the first three years of college he allowed only 1.5 sacks.  The two biggest questions that surround Hudson are his weight and his adjustment to playing center.  You see, while Hudson has played center, he spent the majority of his time at guard.  That means there is going to be some adjustment to the center position.  If the Chiefs like Hudson it will most likely cost them their second rounder.

Stefen “The Wiz” Wisniewski     Penn State     6’3”     313 lbs.     Round Projection:  2-3

Coming from a family of offensive linemen, it is no surprise that Wiz is a technically sound player.  Heck, about a month ago I had him as the first round draft pick for the Chiefs in my mock.  When he fell off draft analyst Mike Mayock’s Top 5 Interior Lineman list, I felt that it was time to do more research.  What I found is that analysts seem to be divided on him.  I’ve seen round projections ranging from first to fourth rounds.  Why the differing opinions?

Looking over their analysis, they generally agree that he is a high character guy who works hard and is technically sound.  Where they differ is in the quality of his footwork and his strength and athleticism.  Some see the footwork as a bigger problem than others and lacks the strength to take on the stronger defensive linemen.  My worry is that because he has grown up learning the proper technique, his excellent technique is masking his flaws (an idea seemingly supported by Wiz’s name missing from this list).  The strength may be solved by the Chiefs’ strength and conditioning team.  The footwork may be a problem, but if the Chiefs think they can fix it, Wiz is the type of high character guy that Chiefs’ General Manager Scott Pioli targeted last draft.

While these are what I see as the top 3 centers in this year’s draft, others may have a different opinion.  The quality of this year’s center class is not good.  If the Chiefs decide to go center later in the draft, the two names I like are Brandon Fusco from Slippery Rock and Tim Barnes from Missouri.  They both will need even more time than the players above to adjust to the NFL.  Time I don’t think the Chiefs have unless they plan to put Jon Asamoah at center or bump Brian Waters over to play center.

What do you think about the centers in this draft?  Do you have the same top three as I do?  If not, who are your top 3?  And who do you see the Chiefs going after in the Draft (if at all)?  Sound off in the comments below.

Topics: Brandon Fusco, Brian Waters, Casey Wiegmann, Center, Jon Asamoah, Kansas City Chiefs, Mike Pouncey, NFL Draft, Rodney Hudson, Rudy Niswanger, Stefen Wisniewski, Tim Barnes

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