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    Richner: 2015 Top Centers

    by Matt Richner, NFL Draft Expert
    Last Updated: 2/25/2016 7:35 PM ET
    Since 2000, there have been eight centers drafted in the first round. In 2013, the Dallas Cowboys shocked almost everyone when they selected Travis Frederick from Wisconsin in the first round. A number of NFL teams had Frederick rated at best a third round talent.

    Only once since 2000 has more than one center been drafted in the first round. In 2009 Eric Wood (Buffalo) and Alex Mack (Cleveland) were both selected in the first round. The last six NFL All-Pro centers were either selected in the first round (Nick Mangold, Maurkice Pouncey, Travis Frederick, Alex Mack) or second round (Ryan Kalil, Max Unger).

    Centers can be a position where bigger isn't always better. A bigger body can block a quarterback's sight and throwing lanes, some scouts and coaches won't be shy in taking a center under 6'3” and weighing around 300 pounds. They have to have the athletic ability to pull and trap block. An athletic center should have enough speed and quickness to get to the second level to seal defenders to create wide running lanes.

    This year's centers are ranked and evaluated using both career and single season stats, such as sacks allowed. In addition, we also utilize a complex Combine performance formula that evaluates and compares each player's measurables with those of the top centers in the NFL.

    The center and quarterback need to be linked, they are both working in unison to get the protection calls correct and everyone in the right spot. A center that can study, learn and then communicate defensive tendencies to get the right protection or shift the line in the right direction is extremely valuable. The mental makeup of the center position is one of the most important components in evaluating the position.

    For ranking purposes, we have broken the centers into three groups. The first group is the top five pass blockers. A top tier pass blocking center has to have the skill set to handle the power rushers. They must possess the strength and leverage to hold their ground and not be driven back into the quarterback's pocket. Most scouts are looking for knee benders, this way they have a solid foundation and balance to take on a defender. They need to keep their head on a swivel.

    The second category of offensive center is in run blocking. A top tier center should dominate his opponent at the point of attack, play low and with leverage, and they must finish their blocks.

    Most NFL teams now run a zone-blocking scheme, which relies on players acting as a unit versus taking on individual assignments.

    In a man-blocking scheme, each player has a specific opponent that he must block on each play. A zone blocking scheme puts emphasis on speed and quickness. In a man-blocking scheme, power and strength are usually emphasized as they must be able to move their opponent out of the gap or, in some cases, move an entire pile to pick up key yards.

    The final rankings are the top-15 overall rankings for the center position. These rankings include both the pass blocking, run blocking and Combine measurables to determine an overall rating.

    Top 5 Pass-Blocking Centers (Number team sacks allowed in 2014)
    1) Cameron Erving (FSU) (23)
    2) Andy Gallik (Boston College) (21)
    3) B.J. Finney (Kansas State) (30)
    4) Reese Dismukes (Auburn) (15)
    5) Shane McDermott (Miami) (21)

    Top 5 Run-Blocking Centers (2014 Total Rushing Yards, YPR, Rushing TD, YPG)
    1) Hroniss Grasu (Oregon) (3,518/5.46/42/234.5)
    2) Reese Dismukes (Auburn) (3321/5.47/32/255.5)
    3) Cameron Erving (FSU) (1,933/4.29/27/138.1)
    4) Shaq Mason (Georgia Tech) (4,789/6.06/47/342.1)
    5) B.J Finney (Kansas State) (1,745/3.67/30/134.2)

    Top 15 Overall Offensive Centers:
    1) Cameron Erving (FSU)
    2) Reese Dismukes (Auburn)
    3) Hroniss Grasu (Oregon)
    4) B.J. Finney (Kansas State)
    5) Andy Gallik (Boston College)
    6) Shaq Mason (Georgia Tech)
    7) Chris Jasperse (Marshall)
    8) Shane McDermott (Miami, FL)
    9) Dallas Lewallen (Wisconsin)
    10) Greg Mancz (Toledo)
    11) Brandon Vitabile (Northwestern)
    12) Dillon Day (Mississippi State)
    13) Max Garcia (Florida)
    14) David Andrews (Georgia)
    15) David Peterson (San Jose State)
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