C Rodney Hudson (Chuck Cook/US Presswire)
NFL Scouting’s Michael DiJulio assesses the top centers in the draft, listing their strengths and weaknesses. Who has the size, who has the speed and who has the intangibles?
POSITION REPORT CARD: This year’s crop of centers is thin throughout and there are no potential first-round picks (unless you project Mike Pouncey as a center). Even the top two prospects played guard in their final seasons and could ultimately wind up there at the next level. It’s a slightly below average class, which is why I’m assigning the centers a C-minus grade.
Rodney Hudson, Florida State
Good News: Good lateral agility in pass protection…Keeps hands active and latches onto defenders with strength…Very good awareness of stunts and blitzes…Great initial quickness and can get to the second level in a hurry…Squatty build gives him a solid anchor considering his size…Plays through the whistle with good effort.
Bad News: Playing weight was very light at just over 280, but has since added nearly 20 pounds to his frame…Strength is not great due to a lack of size, but good enough to turn defenders out of the hole and seal the lane…Doesn’t always play with best leverage and bends at the waist on occasion.
Prediction: Hudson started at guard for the Seminoles but experienced time at center as well. His slight frame makes him a better fit at the latter position, but the 2010 All-American has the athletic ability to excel at guard in a zone-blocking scheme. He projects as a second- or third-round pick.
Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State
Good News: Solid as a pass protector…Works well in unison with fellow lineman and has the awareness to get a hand on the initial defender before helping the tackle (or guard if at center)…Generally maintains leverage and can absorb the defender’s bull rush with anchor…Decent agility and quickness when pulling…Fights to sustain after engaging with good effort…Generally keeps solid hand placement and a nice wide base.
Bad News: Lacks the strength his size would indicate…Doesn’t have the power to drive defenders off the ball…Can struggle to anchor against bigger, stronger defenders…Reaches the second level quickly, but isn’t always successful getting blocks on defenders in space.
Prediction: Wisniewski played guard for the first two years of his career before converting to center prior to his junior season. He then played guard again as a senior in 2010, but a move back to center may be in his future. The former Penn State standout is technically sound, but lacks great strength to force defenders off the ball. I view his best pro position at center and he should warrant a second- or third-round pick.
KRISTOFER O’DOWD, Southern California
Good News: Good anchor despite taller build…Good in pass protection…Lacks elite agility but has great awareness and keeps his head on a swivel…Works very well when helping the guards and is at his best uncovered…Latches onto defenders and keeps his feet moving with good effort in the running game.
Bad News: Lacks great strength or hand punch and doesn’t usually move defenders off the ball…Struggles to sustain at times and can be a bit of a leaner…Gets to the second level quickly, but doesn’t have change-of-direction agility in space and will whiff on blocks...Balance is average…Has a history of injuries and durability is questionable.
Prediction: O’Dowd is taller for a center but still displays an anchor against bigger defensive lineman. He won’t blow you away with athleticism or strength, but he has excellent awareness and gives great effort. The biggest question will be his durability, as O’Dowd has endured numerous injuries throughout his career, including a torn labrum that required surgery. He should warrant fourth- or fifth-round consideration.
BEST OF THE REST
Brandon Fusco, Slippery Rock
Notes: Division II product owns the size of an NFL center but will be making a big jump and some question athleticism.
Projection: 4th-5th round.
Tim Barnes, Missouri
Notes: Combine snub is tough and smart despite lacking great physical tools.
Projection: 5th round.
Zane Taylor, Utah
Notes: Lacks great athletic ability, but makes up for it with strength and smarts.
Projection: 6th round.
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