Let’s take a look at arguably the top six centers in this year’s NFL Draft — Rodney Hudson (Florida State), Stefen Wisniewski (Penn State), Kris O’Dowd (USC), Tim Barnes (Missouri), Jake Kirkpatrick (TCU), and Brandon Fusco (Slippery Rock). Now, before I get into the analysis, you are probably shouting out at the computer screen … you idiot Sports Writer, you forgot Mike Pouncey! Not so! If you read my last article about prospective guards, I analyzed Mike Pouncey and noted that he could play either guard or center. So, if you want to know more about him, you’ll have to go back and read that article.
Here is the tabular look at these top six centers — you can click on the chart below to enlarge. I have included in the table their college and age as well as some key results from the NFL Combine. I also included the number of starts they played in college and the positions they played in those starts, their projected NFL position, all-american and all-conference honors (if you are interested), and their 2010 team statistics for rushing and passing. I included these team stats because I was interested in whether their college team was a predominately rushing or passing team. Tony Sparano stated the Dolphins would still be a run first team. The Dolphins need their center to perform better in the run game. So, I wanted to see what their experience base was in college — run or pass.
The first thing that struck me about the prospective centers is the top two centers (plus Pouncey) largely played guard in college. Hmmm?
Rodney Hudson was a 2010 first team AP All-American at the left guard position. He also played LT during his college playing days at Florida State showing some position flexibility — however, I don’t think a 299 pound tackle will hack it in the NFL. He is a two-time recipient of the ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy (2009 & 2010) and was a finalist for the Outland Trophy in 2010. Hudson started 47 games in four years and was only penalized once in 832 offensive snaps in 2010 — this will impress Tony Sparano. However, Hudson is a little under-sized at 6′ 2″ and only 299 pounds. This may be a strike against him as Sparano likes bigger offensive centers to handle the large NTs of the AFC East — remember, Sparano traded Samson Satale away to Oakland because he was not big enough. Hudson has strong upper body strength (27 reps in the bench press), but his lower body strength (95″ broad jump) and quickness (3 cone drill) are questionable. His dismal 8.03 second time in the three cone drill leads me to believe that he is a better fit at center than guard. So, Hudson will have to start his NFL career by undergoing a positional change and does not have much (if any) college playing time at center and the associated line calling duties. There seems to me to be a lot of contradictions with Hudson indicating some risk, but Hudson is a gamer with durability and a lot of recognition.
Stefen Wisniewski was a 2010 second team AP All-American at the right guard position. He started all games in 2010 at RG and all games in 2009 at center — demonstrating position flexibility. Stefen is the nephew of Raiders O-line coach and All-Pro guard Steve Wisniewski — who was a former Penn State All-American. Wisniewski has good size for either guard or center (6′ 3″ and 313 pounds), good upper body strength (30 reps in the bench press), good lower body strength (100″ broad jump) and good quickness — his 7.51 seconds in the three cone drill was quicker than all the guards that I looked at in my last article. What impresses me is the thought that Wisniewski played at Linebacker U — meaning that he practiced every day getting to the second level against good LBs and good LB coaching. I like the idea that he could play center for the Dolphins with Incognito at LG and Jerry at RG. Or, if Jerry does not pan out at RG, he could play RG with Incognito at center. He may be on the Dolphins radar, if they trade down in the first round and pick-up a second round draft pick.
Kris O’Dowd was a 2010 honorable mention All-PAC 10 team starting all 13 games in the USC pro-style offense. In 2009, he was slowed throughout the season by injuries seeing action in just 8 games — he dislocated his right kneecap and had a sore shoulder. O’Dowd has fair size, good upper body strength (31 reps in the bench press), good lower body strength (105″ broad jump) and pretty good quickness (7.67 second time in the 3-cone drill).
Tim Barnes was a 2010 first team All-Big 12 center for Blaine Gabbert at Missouri — a three year starter. He has fair size, good lower body strength (108″ broad jump) and outstanding quickness — his 7.19 seconds in the three cone drill was quicker than all the guards that I looked at in my last article. And, believe it or not, Barnes was faster in the 3-cone drill than prospective running backs DeMarco Murray (7.28), Jordan Todman (7.24), and Jaquizz Rodgers (7.31) — in fact, he almost beat the time of Mark Ingram (7.13) and speedster Da’Rel Scott (7.15). However, Barnes has questionable upper body strength (only 25 reps in the bench press) which is the likely reason why he is seen as a fourth round pick.
Jake Kirkpatrick was the 2010 Remington Award Winner (NCAA most outstanding center) and a second team AP All-American selection. Amazingly, the TCU center was a NFL Combine snub. He is a little under-sized at 6′ 2″ and 300 pounds (roughly the same size as Hudson). Kirkpatrick has good lower body strength (103″ broad jump) and pretty good quickness (7.69 second time in the 3-cone drill), but has questionable upper body strength (only 25 reps in the bench press). Despite having questionable upper body strength, I find it amazing that the Remington Award Winner would only be projected as a 5th round draft pick. I specifically watched Kirkpatrick in the Senior Bowl and thought he played well. Kirkpatrick may be a steal, if still available in the 5th round.
Brandon Fusco was the 2010 Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award Winner. He started 44 games in his career at Slippery Rock to include at center, guard, and tackle — definite position flexibility considering his good size at 6′ 4″ and 316 pounds. Fusco has good lower body strength (103″ broad jump) and outstanding quickness (7.29 second time in the 3-cone drill), but has only fair upper body strength (only 26 reps in the bench press). He is also projected as a 5th round draft pick.
Okay, so there you have it! This is my take on the centers in the upcoming NFL Draft. What do you think? Should the Dolphins take one of these centers?