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B/R NFL 1,000: Top 32 Centers

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 5, 2012

B/R NFL 1,000: Top 32 Centers

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    The first person to touch the football on any given play is usually the person most quickly forgotten once the action starts. A good center is more than just a snapper—he's making line calls before the snap, identifying blitzing linebackers and shifting protections to best keep the franchise's poster-boy quarterback safe and sound.

    The center position isn't glamorous, but there are few spots on the roster more important to the life of a football team. Who are the best at what centers do?

    To find out, we've determined what makes up a great center and which players best represent those traits. The quest comes as part of the B/R NFL 1,000. The new series offers an in-depth look at every position in the NFL, breaking down players' skills in a way never before seen on the Internet.

    B/R 1,000 rankings don't assess who had the best year or even who has the most potential. Rather players—in this case, centers—are judged on their current skills and mechanics, based on film study of the 2011 NFL preseason and regular season only. 

    After hours spent scouting every starter and every potential starter, the top 32 centers have been scored in 10 criteria (here's more on the criteria). In the slides that follow, we'll explain each player's strengths and weaknesses as the final ranking is revealed.

32. Roberto Garza, Chicago Bears

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    Agility

    4

    Has the ability to stay in control but will lunge into his blocks. He's quick off the ball. A below-average athlete.  

    Awareness

    4

    Could keep his eyes up better post-snap. Aware, but will get caught up on twists. Makes too many mistakes for an 11-season veteran. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    4

    Gets too high in his stance and shows a narrow leg base in pass protection, allowing defenders to knock him off stride. Does a good job making contact with a punch.

    Pass Block, Power

    4

    Sloppy trying to pick up the blitz, as he tends to drop his hands too quickly after the initial hit.  Has to backpedal better and has difficulties dipping his hips to contain the bull rush.

    Run Block

    2

    When working upfield, he's ineffective in space and sometimes will duck his head upon contact. Fails to make contact consistently. Will get caught up in traffic. 

    Move in Space

    4

    Overextends when trying to work the screen, which is a key play in the Bears offense. Not the type who can be counted on to neutralize linebackers in the second level.

    Strength

    4

    Lacks the leg strength to get a good anchor and needs to show more force behind his hand punch. Doesn't show NFL-level strength consistently. 

    Technique

    5

    Will make good contact but fails to follow through. A waist-bender who can be slow to recover.  

    Size

    8

    Below average at 6'2" and 296 lbs. 

    Health

    10

    Garza didn't miss a start during the 2011 season. 

    Overall

    49

    Of the starting centers graded, Garza comes in dead last. His inability to move the pile in the run game, coupled with below-average pass blocking makes him the center most likely to be replaced in 2012.

31. Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Agility

    6

    Quick off the snap and is equally comfortable as either a finesse- or power-blocker. 

    Awareness

    4

    Alert at picking up defensive changes. Improved over the course of the 2011 as a rookie starter. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    1

    Kelce was destroyed this season by quick nose tackles (Marcell Dareus, Jay Ratliff) and hasn't shown that he's qualified to handle a speed rush off the snap. 

    Pass Block, Power

    3

    Tends to short-arm a bit in pass protection, but has the lateral agility to recover when rushers come back with a counter.

    Run Block

    4

    Was hot and cold in 2011.  

    Move in Space

    6

    Has adequate speed to get to the second level on running plays and must rely strictly on taking good angles. 

    Strength

    5

    Lacks the body mass to prevent the bigger defensive linemen from running him over. Average strength. 

    Technique

    4

    Sets low in pass protection and displays the hand skills to snap and make tough blocks, but has to get more consistent hand placement and leverage.

    Size

    7

    Kelce is considerably underweight at 280 lbs. 

    Health

    10

    Started all 16 games during the 2011 season. 

    Section title

    50

    A rookie starter at a position that requires patience and repetition, Kelce was not ready to handle the job. With a full offseason under his belt, 2012 will be better.

30. Phil Costa, Dallas Cowboys

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    Agility

    4
    Too stiff in his straight-line burst, but shows good balance and body control to take angles and neutralize second-level defenders.  

    Awareness

    2
    Learning on the job through two seasons—will benefit from a full offseason program and added reps. Smart, instinctive athlete, who has the upside to improve here. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    3
    Quick to set up in pass protection and has the flexibility needed to slide and recover. Athletically the talent is there, but he is overwhelmed by a quick burst off the line. 

    Pass Block, Power

    3
    Doesn't keep his hands inside the frame in order to latch on and control his man. Will benefit from learning leverage and angles. 

    Run Block

    4
    Has enough quickness coming out of his stance. Can clear defenders off the ball with his leg drive. Plays aggressive, which causes him to miss easy blocks and play out of position. 

    Move in Space

    4
    Is best served battling in the trenches, as he has heavy feet. Limited athletic ability and quickness. 

    Strength

    5
    Will get thrown around a bit when he fails to prevent the defender from attacking his body. Room to improve with true offseason program. 

    Technique

    5
    Has adequate foot movement in his kick slide and does a good job of mirroring the defender in one-on-one action. Got better as the year went on due to increased reps. 

    Size

    10
    At 6'3", 314 lbs, has a good bubble—wide hips, thick thighs. 

    Health

    10
    Costa started all 16 games in 2011. 

    Overall

    50
    After starting just one game as a rookie, Costa was hurt by the NFL lockout before the 2011 season—thrown into a starting job he wasn't ready for. He will be much improved in 2012. 

29. J.D. Walton, Denver Broncos

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    Agility

    5
    Doesn't always slide well left to right. Good burst out of the gate.  

    Awareness

    3
    Isn't very instinctive or very alert. Can be fooled by twists and stunts. Works best in tandem-blocking situations—a bad thing in a zone scheme. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    6
    Shows above-average quickness as a snap-and-step center, getting a strong surge when making initial contact. Gets his head up fast and improved over the season. 

    Pass Block, Power

    4
    Poor technique when he tries to latch on and control his man. Lacks the experience to know when to cut his man and when to shift directions.

    Run Block

    1
    Hands down, the worst run-blocker I scouted at center. Fails to engage the defender, doesn't have the strength to hold his ground and is run over consistently. 

    Move in Space

    4
    Improving, but still looks lost at times and gets through space without hitting anyone. 

    Strength

    5
    Will get thrown around a bit when he fails to prevent the defender from attacking his body. Could stand to fire off lower to gain leverage. 

    Technique

    5
    Learning on the job through two seasons.  

    Size

    10
    Impressive size (6'3", 305 lbs) for the zone blocking scheme Denver runs. 

    Health

    10
    Walton started all 16 games during the 2011 season. 

    Overall

    53
    Walton improved from week to week, but there's something missing in his game. He doesn't dominate at the point of attack, and in space he looks lost at times. Denver could make a big improvement to their protection by upgrading at center. 

28. Eugene Amano, Tennessee Titans

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    Agility

    4
    Adequate acceleration off the snap. Lacks the short-area quickness to move efficiently in space.  

    Awareness

    4
    Amano must be more alert to the blitz, as he tends to keep his head down. Can get walked back to the pocket. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    5
    Decent reach-blocker, but is better when he sets, slides and punches in pass protection. Can get beaten off the ball and is susceptible to swim moves.  

    Pass Block, Power

    5
    Knows how to sink his hips and play flat-footed while making proper change-of-direction adjustments. 

    Run Block

    2
    Lacks the feet and balance to consistently finish on the move. Poor vision. Doesn't lock on and drive defenders off the ball. 

    Move in Space

    4
    Best when blocking in line, as he struggles to follow through in his attempts to wall off and screen in space.  

    Strength

    4
    Vulnerable when he allows defenders to attack his body. Could stand to fire off lower to gain leverage advantage. 

    Technique

    5
    Amano gets too tall in his stance and struggles with his balance. Has a clean punch with decent results. 

    Size

    10
    Great size at 6'3" and 310 lbs. 

    Health

    10
    Didn't miss a start in 2011. 

    Overall

    53
    Amano would benefit from a move to guard, or perhaps from playing primarily as a backup. He lacks the strength and technique to be more than a wave player who can fill in when necessary. 

27. Jeff Faine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Agility

    5
    Good initial burst but lacks the elite agility or balance to see a higher score.  

    Awareness

    6
    Could keep his eyes up better post-snap. Aware, but will get caught up on twists. Goes through phases where he's dominant, then the next game he's getting tricked.

    Pass Block, Speed

    4
    Extremely quick off the rise to get into his man, showing good hand placement. Lacks punch and can be neutralized by a second move. Fails to finish his blocks.  

    Pass Block, Power

    5
    Has a good anchor but doesn't always handle a nose tackle on his own. A good help-blocker or combo player. 

    Run Block

    3
    Too aggressive at times, which puts him out of position. Does not get the push against a powerful interior defensive lineman—too stagnant.  

    Move in Space

    4
    Struggles to get out in the open field and engage moving targets. Good, not great, speed to get to the second level.  

    Strength

    7
    Has above-average strength for the position with no major flaws. 

    Technique

    4
    Penalized just three times in 2011, but his technique dropped off considerably. Good flexibility in hips and knees. His biggest issue is that he will get too high at times. 

    Size

    10
    Has the ideal build for an NFL center at 6'3" and 300 lbs. 

    Health

    9
    Missed one game to injury in 2011. 

    Overall

    57
    Faine was at one point a top center in the NFL, but over the course of the last few seasons he's regressed due to injury and poor support at guard. He's survived nine seasons, but barring a great 2012, Faine could be on his way out of a starting job. 

26. David Baas, New York Giants

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    Agility

    5
    Has a quick initial step off the snap but average in-line kick slide to mirror the bull-rushers at the line of scrimmage.  

    Awareness

    5
    Baas is alert to stunts, using his knee bend to recover, but doesn't play with his head on a swivel or work well in supporting his guards on combo blocks. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    4
    Can be beat off the ball due to his hesitation in snap-to-set. Doesn't meet and mirror speed-rushers coming from his outside at the 3-technique, or "A"-gap blitzers. 

    Pass Block, Power

    4
    Looks too often to pancake defenders instead of containing them. 

    Run Block

    3
    Missed far too many blocks in 2011. Consistency is the key. Was manhandled in Week 8 by the Miami Dolphins in the run game. 

    Move in Space

    5
    Struggles to get out in the open field and engage moving targets. Uses correct angles in the short area, but gets tangled up when on the move. A player you'd rather have in the trenches than on the edge.  

    Strength

    10
    Very powerful in his upper body. Knows how to use his strength in run and pass blocking. Can be a physical presence inside, especially when he’s helping on double-teams. Plays with a mean streak. 

    Technique

    5
    Relies too often on brute strength instead of angles and leverage. Isn't strong enough to win every battle.  

    Size

    10
    Has picture-perfect size, at 6'4" and 320 lbs.

    Health

    6
    Limited by injury to 11 regular-season games in 2011. 

    Overall

    57
    The New York Giants will hope they kept their receipt on David Baas' free-agent contract. Signed to anchor the line, Baas has been injured and inconsistent when in the lineup—something anyone who saw him playing in San Francisco could have predicted before the season began. 

25. Kyle Cook, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Agility

    4

    Cook doesn't always slide well left to right. Just decent burst out of the gate. 

    Awareness

    4

    Isn't very instinctive or very alert to his surroundings. Can be fooled by twists and stunts. Works best in tandem-blocking situations. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    5

    Shows above-average quickness as a snap-and-step center, getting a strong surge when making initial contact.   

    Pass Block, Power

    5

    Best when blocking in line, as he sets with a strong base and achieves better balance by sinking his weight and staying low in his pad level. 

    Run Block

    6

    Consistent in gaining movement when he keeps his hands active. He works hard to position and wall off on drive blocks. Will miss in the open field. 

    Move in Space

    5

    Struggles locating a moving linebacker when working in space. Comes out as average. 

    Strength

    6

    Fails to get leverage and can be handled by a defender who attacks his body.

    Technique

    3

    Picked up six flags in 2011.  

    Size

    10

    Has a short, stocky frame at 6'3" and 325 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Started all 16 games in 2011. 

    Overall

    58

    Cook plays on one of the biggest and most dominant lines in the NFL, and that allows him to hide. His chief job is to get the ball to Andy Dalton on shotgun and under-center snaps and then hold his ground. Cook could still develop, but at this point, after four seasons, he could be replaced.

24. Dan Connolly, New England Patriots

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    Agility

    5
    Connolly's feet don’t match his arms. Struggles to move laterally and is just average here. A limited athlete.

    Awareness

    5
    Struggles at finding the blitz and picking up inside changes. Should keep his eyes up post-snap.

    Pass Block, Speed

    4
    Fails to finish his blocks and lacks the foot speed to mirror and slide with defenders at the line of scrimmage. Isn't quick enough off the ball to help much here. 

    Pass Block, Power

    3.5
    While he has a good hand punch, he will overextend and lose the block too quickly. Too often tries to wait and catch the defender instead of delivering first hit.

    Run Block

    5
    Trips over his feet trying to get out to neutralize the linebackers. A marginal athlete who is better in the trenches. 

    Move in Space

    6
    Inconsistent getting to the second level, because he's unable to sustain speed. Tends to get top-heavy. When he does get there, Connolly locks up well and can redirect defenders. 

    Strength

    7
    Has the leg base and strength to keep his balance dropping back in pass protection. Solid, above-average power.

    Technique

    6
    Has adequate foot movement in his kick slide and does a good job of mirroring the defender in one-on-one action. Got better as the year went on due to increased reps. 

    Size

    10
    Ideal at 6'4" and 320 lbs. 

    Health

    8
    Played in just 13 games this season due to injury and being replaced in the lineup. 

    Overall

    59.5
    A backup for four seasons, he was thrown into the starting lineup in 2010. He's best as a backup. 

23. Dominic Raiola, Detroit Lions

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    Agility

    5
    Age has limited his ability to move laterally, but he still has very good burst off the snap and can slide laterally.  

    Awareness

    7
    Aware and picks up inside blitzers after giving help to either side. A smart, heady player, usually. Susceptible to mean streak that has him looking for big hits instead of playing assignment football.  

    Pass Block, Speed

    6
    Has the quickness to keep up with speed-rushers, but doesn't always finish with good technique. Will look to make one big hit instead of sustaining his block.  

    Pass Block, Power

    7
    Shows the ability to lock up defensive tackles with a good initial punch. Needs to use his hands more aggressively in pass protection to jolt and slow aggressive pass-rushers. 

    Run Block

    3
    Missed far too many blocks in 2011. Consistency is the key. Struggled to move nose tackles off the ball in games against San Francisco, Dallas, Kansas City and Minnesota. 

    Move in Space

    5
    Doesn't always get out in the open field and engage moving targets. Uses correct angles in the short area, but gets tangled up when on the move. A player you'd rather have in the trenches than on the edge. 

    Strength

    9
    Very powerful in his upper body. Knows how to use his strength in run and pass blocking. Can be a physical presence inside, especially when he’s helping on double-teams.  

    Technique

    4
    Technique has regressed with age, relies too often now on brute strength instead of angles and leverage. Isn't strong enough to win every battle. Flagged six times in 16 games.

    Size

    8
    Undersized at 6'2" and 295 lbs, but covers up lack of size with strength. 

    Health

    10
    Played in every game in 2011. 

    Overall

    64
    An 11-season veteran who may have seen his best days pass him by, Raiola is regressing more each season. His run blocking and penalties are a liability at this point. 

22. Samson Satele, Oakland Raiders

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    Agility

    6
    Has some quickness and mobility in the short area. His hip flexibility is just adequate, and he really is not fast. 

    Awareness

    3
    Satele isn't very instinctive or very alert to his surroundings. Can be fooled by twists and stunts.

    Pass Block, Speed

    4.5
    Lacks the balance to prevent rushers from getting under and tossing him around. Must learn to come out lower and with more balance.  

    Pass Block, Power

    5
    Had his worst game of 2011 against Cleveland's Phil Taylor—a powerful nose tackle known for his ability to drive off the ball.  

    Run Block

    8.5
    Effective widening and maintaining the rush lanes working between the tackles. Has the strength to drive the defender off the ball and wall off lanes. 

    Move in Space

    5
    Satele is best served battling in the trenches, as he has heavy feet. Limited athletic ability and quickness.

    Strength

    10
    Elite strength at the position, but it doesn't translate well to the field in pass sets.

    Technique

    5
    He can get a little reckless with his hands outside his frame, resulting in penalties and blown plays. Gets too high out of his stance.

    Size

    9
    Satele lacks ideal height at 6'2", 300 lbs. 

    Health

    9
    Missed just one start in 2011. 

    Overall

    65
    A very strong center who works great in a power run game. Satele could improve his ability to tandem block with guards, which would raise his pass-blocking score. 

21. Jason Brown, St. Louis Rams

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    Agility

    5
    Too stiff in his straight-line burst, but shows good balance and body control to take angles and neutralize second-level defenders. 

    Awareness

    6
    Alert to defensive schemes but can be inconsistent picking up the stunts and blitzes. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    6
    Above average as a snap-and-step center, and powerful when making initial contact.  

    Pass Block, Power

    6
    Shows better pop with his hands when blocking on the move than when he's stationary. 

    Run Block

    6.5
    Has enough quickness coming out of his stance. Can clear defenders off the ball with his leg drive. Plays aggressive.

    Move in Space

    6
    Has the lateral agility to get out front on traps and pulls. Gets moving and can run behind his momentum. 

    Strength

    8
    Has strong, thick legs, with good hip rotation.

    Technique

    5
    A waist-bender who can be slow to recover. Has proper knee bend to gain position, anchor and sustain. 

    Size

    10
    Brown has good height at 6'3" and an excellent bubble and base at 320 lbs. 

    Health

    7
    Missed three games during 2011 season to injury. 

    Overall

    65.5
    Brown has played both guard and center in his seven seasons and has been above average at both positions. Was at one point the highest-paid center in the NFL, which was a status not deserved. Brown is serviceable, but would be best in a depth role. 

20. Lyle Sendlein, Arizona Cardinals

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    Agility

    6

    Has a quick initial step to create movement off the snap but average in-line kick slide to mirror the bull-rushers at the line of scrimmage. 

    Awareness

    6

    Has a quick kick step when redirecting and is alert to stunts, using his knee bend to recover. Plays with his head on a swivel and works well in supporting his guards on combo blocks.

    Pass Block, Speed

    3.5

    Sendlein struggled against 4-3 defenses, where he had to extend to reach the defensive tackle. Works well in a combination, but doesn't reach well due to average athletic ability. 

    Pass Block, Power

    3.5

    Best when blocking in line, as he sets with a strong base and shows better balance when he sinks his weight and stays low in his pad level. 

    Run Block

    8

    Consistent in gaining movement when he keeps his hands active. He works hard to position and wall off on drive blocks. Can be dominant at the point of attack. Keeps his legs driving and maintains good hand placement.

    Move in Space

    6

    Struggles some at locating a moving linebacker when working in space.

    Strength

    8

    Physically strong player who is a productive in-line blocker, but will get pushed back into the pocket when he gets too tall in his stance. 

    Technique

    7

    Was flagged just once in 16 games this season. Plays with a strong anchor, thanks to proper knee bend.

    Size

    9

    Lacks ideal height at 6'2", but good bulk and build at 310 lbs. 

    Health

    10

    Sendlein started every game during the 2011 season. 

    Overall

    67

    Sendlein would be a starter on half the teams in the NFL, realistically. He's very solid and consistent, and generally a player who will improve if paired with good guard play. Smart and durable. 

19. Mike Pouncey, Miami Dolphins

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    Agility

    7
    Pouncey has good flexibility, balance and body control, and gets his hips turned around properly to wall off defenders. 

    Awareness

    4
    Learning on the job—Pouncey will benefit from a full offseason program and added reps. Smart, instinctive athlete, who has the upside to improve here.

    Pass Block, Speed

    4
    Extremely quick off the rise to get into his man, showing good hand placement, but lacks punch and can be neutralized by a second move. Fails to finish his blocks. Allowed 15 pressures, the third most among starting centers.

    Pass Block, Power

    4
    Doesn't keep his hands inside the frame in order to latch on and control his man. Will benefit from learning leverage and angles. Physical ability is there.

    Run Block

    9
    Dominating at the point of attack. Has enough explosiveness in his initial step to open the hole. Has enough functional leg drive to gain movement. Rolls his hips and drives into defenders well, doing a nice job of keeping his pads low and centered.

    Move in Space

    7
    Very effective at using his flexibility and balance to snap and then lead on screens. 

    Strength

    8
    Shows good muscle tone and enough of a base to power block. He has the ideal bulk and frame for the position and is strong enough to physically dominate. 

    Technique

    5
    Flagged four times in 2011 and gave up 21 total quarterback pressures. Will make good contact but fails to follow through.  

    Size

    10
    Well built at 6'5" and 300 lbs, with good muscle tone and a lean frame. 

    Health

    10
    Started every game in 2011. 

    Overall

    68
    Pouncey was a first-round selection in the 2011 draft and was handicapped by the NFL lockout. Given a full offseason program, his on-field strength will improve and he'll better understand the intricacies of pass blocking. 

18. Max Unger, Seattle Seahawks

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    Agility

    6

    Has very good burst off the snap and can slide laterally. A little stiff in his movements and isn't as crisp as you'd like moving from center. 

    Awareness

    5

    Could keep his eyes up better post-snap. Aware, but will get caught up on twists.  

    Pass Block, Speed

    6.5

    Adjusts smoothly to a moving target, keeping his head on a swivel to pick up stunts and kick out to help on the edge. Can get beat by a double-move or delay. 

    Pass Block, Power

    7

    Has the strength to take on a bull rush, but can be beaten with a strong swim move. Needs to get set faster and show better leverage.  

    Run Block

    4

    Does not lock on, and his assignment makes too many tackles throughout the course of a game. Does not get the push against a powerful interior defensive lineman.  

    Move in Space

    5

    Struggles to get out in the open field and engage moving targets. Uses correct angles in the short area and has the agility to slide down the line.  

    Strength

    8

    Can handle nose tackles one-on-one. He has good lower-body power and is a true anchor against a pass rush. 

    Technique

    7

    Good flexibility in hips and knees. His biggest issue is that he will get too high at times. 

    Size

    10

    Fits the model of a modern NFL center at 6'5" and 310 lbs. 

    Health

    10

    Started all 16 games in 2011. 

    Overall

    68.5

    Unger's value as a versatile offensive lineman is why he was drafted out of Oregon, but he's developed in to a solid center with massive upside. He needs to work on his run-blocking skills, but this will come in due time as he becomes more comfortable at center.

17. Brian De La Puente, New Orleans Saints

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    Agility

    6

    Good initial burst but lacks the elite agility or balance to see a higher score. 

    Awareness

    6.5

    Sets quickly with good awareness to stunts. Has room to grow here. Shows good kick slide and lateral ease of movement setting up in pass protection.

    Pass Block, Speed

    6

    Has good balance on the move, but will get narrow in his stance, making it easy for the defender to get into his chest and walk him back into the pocket. 

    Pass Block, Power

    6

    Sinks his hips and keeps his base wide when anchoring. Improved over the course of the season. Good positional blocker who has the feet to mirror.

    Run Block

    4.5

    Will sometimes tries to lean into the opponent, falling off the block. Lacks the strength to dominate at the line and must improve leverage.

    Move in Space

    6

    Quick to reach the second level and is an effective chop-blocker. Must work on getting clear of traffic on screens. 

    Strength

    6

    Will get thrown around a bit when he fails to prevent the defender from attacking his body. Could stand to add strength. 

    Technique

    8

    Engages defenders quickly and uses his leg strength and balance to gain movement. Has clean hands and uses a quick punch to stun defenders. Doesn't get caught grabbing. 

    Size

    10

    Good overall size at 6'4" and 305 lbs. 

    Health

    10

    Started every game in 2011. 

    Overall

    69

    De La Puente is an underrated center who hit the scene in 2011 and became a very dependable starter. He has a ton of upside and will benefit greatly from playing with a wise quarterback in Drew Brees

16. Jonathan Goodwin, San Francisco 49ers

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    Agility

    6.5
    Shows very good balance and flexibility and is an above-average athlete for the position. 

    Awareness

    7
    Keeps his head on a swivel and is very alert to stunts and games. Will be better in 2012 with more exposure to the offense. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    6
    Has good arm extension into his blocks and uses his hands well. Solid pass-protector with quick feet and good change of agility to adjust, and also shows good lateral recovery ability. 

    Pass Block, Power

    6
    Has good strength and explosive hands to lock on and sustain. 

    Run Block

    6.5
    Has the athletic agility to unlock his hips and explode through blocks with good lower-body drive. Not massive or a road grader, but gets movement through good knee bend and leg drive. 

    Move in Space

    6
    Goodwin is athletic enough to pull and get out in front of the backs. Not great at finding defenders in screen packages.

    Strength

    6
    Goodwin has above-average strength. He's strong enough to get the job done, but won't maul or pancake many defenders. 

    Technique

    6
    Has the sudden burst off the snap to establish leverage and position. Stays square in his base and has good lateral movement. 

    Size

    10
    Goodwin has ideal size for an NFL center at 6'3" and 320 lbs.

    Health

    10
    Started every game in 2011. 

    Overall

    70
    Goodwin made the move from New Orleans to San Francisco without missing a beat. He's a smart center who helped solidify the left side of the 49er offensive line. Goodwin is solid, even if unspectacular.
     

     

15. Will Montgomery, Washington Redskins

19 of 33

     

    Agility

    6
    Montgomery shows the ability to stay in control and it is rare to see him lunge into his blocks. He's quick off the ball. An above-average athlete. 

    Awareness

    6
    Could keep his eyes up better post-snap. Aware, but will get caught up on twists. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    7
    Adjusts smoothly to a moving target, keeping his head on a swivel to pick up stunts and kick out to help on the edge.

    Pass Block, Power

    7
    Does a good job of maintaining position. Keeps his pads down to defeat the bull rush. 

    Run Block

    8
    Has the lateral agility and balance to shock second-level defenders. He keeps his head up on contact. Has the lower-body strength to drive the defender off the ball. 

    Move in Space

    6
    Has above-average initial quickness off the snap and the lateral movement to make the second level on pulls and traps. Can get knocked off balance. 

    Strength

    6
    No flaws, but not elite. 

    Technique

    6
    Has the hand-placement skills to tie up and maul the defender when working in a phone booth. Will get dinged with penalties on holds. 

    Size

    10
    Ideal at 6'3", 310 lbs. 

    Health

    10
    Started every game in 2011 season. 

    Overall

    72
    After five seasons in the league, Montgomery is an underrated center with some upside as a zone-blocker in Washington's scheme. He's quick, and his ability to cut down defenders with good angles and smart leverage makes him a potential riser in 2012. 

     

14. Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers

20 of 33

     

    Agility

    7

    Slides well left to right. Good balance and is lighter on his feet than you expect him to be. Good flexibility in hips and knees.  

    Awareness

    7

    Regressed in 2011 at finding the blitz and picking up inside changes. A smart player who will benefit greatly from a healthy season and a full offseason of training camp. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    7

    Has shown the ability and quickness to snap and then raise up to stop a nose tackle, or to help with a 3-tech coming from outside. Quick off the ball. Can be beaten off the ball at times.  

    Pass Block, Power

    7

    Has the strength to take on a bull rush, but can be beaten with a strong swim move. Needs to get set faster and show better leverage.  

    Run Block

    7.5

    Stays low and gets under the pads of his opponent to move him off the line of scrimmage. Very good combination blocker.  

    Move in Space

    6

    Good, not great, speed to get to the second level. Hustles downfield and looks for someone to hit.  

    Strength

    8

    Stout at the point of attack. Big and strong enough to handle the nose guard one-on-one. 

    Technique

    6

    Quick, accurate hand placement and impressive strength to handle the bull rush. Gets too wide with his hands and will be knocked off balance right off the snap.

    Size

    10

    All good at 6'4", 304 lbs. 

    Health

    7

    Missed three games, plus the playoffs, to injury in 2011. 

    Overall

    72.5

    Pouncey has as much potential as any player at any position in the NFL. But he has to stay healthy and to date he hasn't been able to string together a complete season in his two NFL years. 

     

13. Casey Wiegmann, Kansas City Chiefs

21 of 33

     

    Agility

    6
    His snap motion is fast, but his feet don’t match his arms. Just decent burst out of the gate.

    Awareness

    8
    Reacts quickly after the snap. Keeps his head on a swivel and notices changes in the defensive front. Can find and pick up blitzers. A very smart player. Has great vision. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    8
    Fires the ball out and quickly gets into his stance. Shows a good slide move to kick outside. Doesn’t get in the other linemen’s way and knows which angle to take on a defender to neutralize him. Wiegmann didn't allow a single sack all season.

    Pass Block, Power

    8
    Keeps a wide base to hold his ground but can be pushed back by powerful bull-rushers. Really great when he’s helping on double-teams. 

    Run Block

    4
    Does not lock on defenders, and his assignment makes too many tackles throughout the course of a game. Does not get the push against a powerful interior defensive lineman—too stagnant. 

    Move in Space

    6
    Struggles to get out in the open field and engage moving targets. Uses correct angles in the short area and has the agility to slide down the line. 

    Strength

    7
    Has very good natural strength for a center. A solid base with good leverage and momentum. 

    Technique

    8
    Can deliver a strong initial punch, but his hands get too wide. Rarely penalized and has a clean stance and balance in his drop steps. 

    Size

    8
    Undersized at 6'2" and 285 lbs. 

    Health

    10
    Did not miss a start in 2011. 

    Overall

    73
    Wiegmann is better than many realize. He's not flashy, but he is consistent. In 1,087 snaps in 2011 he didn't allow one sack.

     

12. Brad Meester, Jacksonville Jaguars

22 of 33

     

    Agility

    7

    Slides well left to right. Good balance and lighter on his feet than you expect him to be. Good flexibility in hips and knees. 

    Awareness

    7

    An 11-year vet who has seen it all. Good ability to read and react. Doesn't always pick up delayed blitzes. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    7

    Has a quick move out of his stance and is ready to strike within seconds. Has a good punch and can stun defenders off the ball. Good agility helps him slide and mirror.  

    Pass Block, Power

    6.5

    Has a good anchor but doesn't always handle a nose tackle on his own. A good help-blocker or combo player. Good awareness. 

    Run Block

    8

    Does a nice job using angles from center to control his man. Has shown the ability to cut block. 

    Move in Space

    7

    Effective when chipping and releasing to the second level.  

    Strength

    7

    Can handle nose tackles one-on-one. 

    Technique

    4

    Meester was flagged six times in 2011. His go-to move became a reach-and-pull when beaten off the ball. 

    Size

    10

    Just right at 6'3", 300 lbs.  

    Health

    10

    Started every game in 2011. 

    Overall

    73.5

    Meester brings experience and toughness to the position. In a day where centers are more and more athletic, he is a throwback to the power-football days. 

11. Nick Hardwick, San Diego Chargers

23 of 33

     

    Agility

    6

    Doesn't always slide well left to right. But stays on balance and is light on his feet.

    Awareness

    8

    Not perfect, but after 103 NFL starts, Hardwick knows what he's looking for and how to see it.

    Pass Block, Speed

    10

    Big hands produce a quick, efficient punch that can stun defenders off the ball. Does a nice job sliding in pass protection to mirror defender. Has long arms and uses them well to keep pass-rushers at a distance.  

    Pass Block, Power

    9

    Gets through his pass set quickly after the snap, something that gives him an advantage facing a three-man front with a nose tackle head-up on the center.  

    Run Block

    4

    Doesn't do a great job engaging the defender. Will make initial contact and then lose hold on the player. Struggles to get from snap to block. 

    Move in Space

    4

    Is not a fluid mover downfield trying to throw the extra block. Stiff and awkward at the second level. 

    Strength

    8

    Hardwick is strong enough to be overpowering at the point of attack. He has good lower-body power and is a true anchor against a pass rush.

    Technique

    8

    Good flexibility in hips and knees. Very consistent hand placement. Only adequate in getting his pads low to drive block, and could improve there.  

    Size

    7

    Is light and lean at 295 lbs.  

    Health

    10

    Started every game during 2011 season. 

    Overall

    74

    Hardwick's play dropped off some in 2011, but he is still a top center when it's all said and done. Few at the position are as good in pass protection, but his run blocking leaves something to be desired. 

10. Matt Birk, Baltimore Ravens

24 of 33

     

    Agility

    4.5

    Birk possesses average to good agility. As he ages, his lack of agility becomes more of an issue.

    Awareness

    8.5

    An incredibly smart center who combines a great football IQ with a decade of experience. Birk is rarely out of position and rarely makes the wrong call. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    8.5

    Has the ability and quickness to snap and then raise up to stop a nose tackle, or to help with a 3-tech. Quick off the ball. Very consistent hand placement.

    Pass Block, Power

    8

    Big, strong hands that produce a quick, efficient punch. Has a good anchor and can handle a nose tackle on his own. Great awareness. 

    Run Block

    6.5

    Is quick off the snap and gets a hold of the defender quickly. Has the strength to turn the defender and then drive him away from the ball. Average lateral agility. 

    Move in Space

    5


    Limited in space due to age and stiffness. Isn't asked to get out on screens or lead-block often. 

    Strength

    7

    Can deliver a big-time pop when his technique and balance are on point. Can send a linebacker airborne when picking up a blitz. Strong player up top with good drive power from his base. 

    Technique

    7

    Picked up four penalties, which is about average. Is a near-flawless blocker. Might try to pancake too often and can reach when beat on the outside. 

    Size

    10

    Ideal size at 6'5" and 308 lbs. 

    Health

    10

    Started every game in 2011. 

    Overall

    75

    One of the best against the pass, his lack of agility and mobility hurts in the run game. The Ravens can hide him though, with two Pro Bowl-caliber guards. 

9. Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns

25 of 33

     

    Agility

    8

    Snaps the ball back and is instantly up and ready to block. Drives off the ball. Amazing first step. Very quick hands and coordination. Explosive. 

    Awareness

    5.5

    Regressed in 2011, his third season, at finding the blitz and picking up inside changes. Did not work as well with replacement guards once Eric Steinbach was lost to injury. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    7.5

    Mack works a good kick slide and maintains good balance after his first move. Can get down and cut defenders who get away from him.

    Pass Block, Power

    8

    Big, strong hands that produce a quick, efficient punch. Bends well from the knees to generate power and hold his ground. Able to anchor the line. 

    Run Block

    5

    Is quick off the snap and gets a hold of the defender quickly. Has the strength to turn the defender and then drive him away from the ball. Missed far too many blocks in 2011. Consistency is the key. 

    Move in Space

    6.5

    Moves well in space. Has been a lead-blocker on tosses and sweeps. Has good quickness out of his stance and a nice slide-step to pull or trap. Has good balance on the move. 

    Strength

    8

    When he sets his feet to hold his spot, Mack is hard to push around. He’s strong throughout his frame, and it shows in his playing style. 

    Technique

    7

    His biggest issue is that he will get too high at times. In 2011, we saw Mack giving up sacks because stood too tall and defenders snaked past him. 

    Size

    10

    Comes in at 6'4", 311 lbs. 

    Health

    10

    Made every start in 2011. 

    Overall

    75.5

    One of the most talented centers in the NFL, Mack fell off in 2011 due to the absence of Steinbach. He didn't look like the potential All-Pro he was in 2010. 

8. Todd McClure, Atlanta Falcons

26 of 33

     

    Agility

    6

    McClure's snap motion is fast, but his feet don’t match his arms. Struggles to move laterally.

    Awareness

    7

    Does a nice job picking up blitzes and stunts. Adjusts well. Good experience (13 seasons) for the position and won't be fooled.

    Pass Block, Speed

    8

    Has shown the ability and quickness to snap and then raise up to stop a nose tackle, or to help with a 3-tech. Quick off the ball.  

    Pass Block, Power

    8

    Keeps a wide base to hold his ground. Has the strength and leverage to control defensive tackles at the point of impact. 

    Run Block

    6

    Gives a lot of effort on each play, plays through the whistle. Tries hard to get his hips into the hole, but will lose track of hands. Too much of a shoulder-blocker as he fails to lock on and drive. 

    Move in Space

    5

    Struggles to get out in the open field and engage moving targets. Uses correct angles in the short area, but gets tangled up when on the move. 

    Strength

    8

    Very powerful in his upper body. Knows how to use his strength in run and pass blocking. Can be a physical presence inside, especially when he’s helping on double-teams. 

    Technique

    10

    Very consistent hand placement. Has a good anchor and can handle a nose tackle on his own. Good awareness and very few penalty flags are thrown his way.

    Size

    8

    Slightly undersized at 296 lbs, but a good fit in the zone scheme ran by Atlanta. 

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss a start in 2011. 

    Overall

    76

    A very good center who works well in tandem with the guards. McClure didn't allow a single sack in 2011. 

7. Eric Wood, Buffalo Bills

27 of 33

     

    Agility

    9

    Wood is excellent at firing off the ball and getting upfield. He has a quick first step and is able to move well laterally or in getting to the second level. 

    Awareness

    7.5

    Does a nice job picking up up late blitzers up the middle. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    8

    Quick enough off the ball to handle speed-rushers without overextending. Zero sacks allowed in 2011. 

    Pass Block, Power

    8

    Solid anchor, using his arms and feet to keep tackles on the line. 

    Run Block

    6

    Gets off the ball quickly and gets into the numbers of his man. Shows he can drive back tackles, but will struggle to move nose tackles at the point of attack. 

    Move in Space

    9

    The best in the NFL at firing off his snap and getting to the second level or out in front of screens. Wood can be a bit stiff in space, but he doesn't miss blocks when on the move. 

    Strength

    8

    Lacks ideal lower-body strength to anchor but has a very strong punch and gets off the ball fast. His agility makes up for the lack of elite power-train strength. 

    Technique

    6

    Only adequate in getting his pads low to drive block, and could improve there. Quick, accurate hand placement and impressive strength to handle the bull rush.  

    Size

    10

    Taller than most centers, but has ideal bulk and length. 

    Health

    5

    Played in just nine games in 2011 due to injury.

    Overall

    76.5

    Had Wood stayed healthy all year we would be talking about him as a top-four center. His agility and movement in space are elite, and his run blocking isn't far behind. If he is back healthy in 2012, he'll be an All-Pro candidate.

6. Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers

28 of 33

     

    Agility

    10

    Good quickness and accuracy in firing the snap back and catching the defensive tackle. Good lateral agility and balance to handle quicker tackles.

    Awareness

    7

    A smart, heady player who can get caught with a mean streak and look to make big hits versus playing assignment football. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    6.5

    Has the quickness to keep up with speed-rushers, but doesn't always finish with good technique. Will look to make one big hit instead of sustaining his block. 

    Pass Block, Power

    6.5

    Has the strength to take on a bull rush, but can be beaten with a strong swim move. Needs to get set faster and show better leverage. 

    Run Block

    7

    Stays low and gets under the pads of his opponent to move him off the line of scrimmage. Very good combination blocker, heading off two defenders at once.

    Move in Space

    7

    Good, not great, speed to get to the second level. Hustles downfield and looks for someone to hit. 

    Strength

    8

    Stout enough to handle any nose guard one-on-one.

    Technique

    7

    Quick, accurate hand placement and impressive strength to handle the bull rush. Rarely penalized. 

    Size

    10

    Ideal size for the NFL. 

    Health

    10

    Started all 16 games in 2011. 

    Overall

    79

    Kalil is a very good center with the ability to be great. He needs to handle pass blocking better by getting out of his stance faster and with more awareness, but he has the tools to be an elite center. 

5. John Sullivan, Minnesota Vikings

29 of 33

     

    Agility

    7

    Good set in pass protection. Quick first step to the second level. Limited ability to get out in space. 

    Awareness

    7

    Picks up inside blitzers after giving help to either side. Aware enough to stop assigned defender and pull to pick up charging backside defenders.

    Pass Block, Speed

    7

    Keeps his feet moving and can slide well from side to side to maintain blocks in pass protection. Has a bad habit of stopping his feet after contact.

    Pass Block Power

    7

    Shows the ability to lock up defensive tackles with a good initial punch. Needs to use his hands more aggressively in pass protection to jolt and slow aggressive pass-rushers.

    Run Block

    8.5

    Can pin and seal defensive tackles to the side of the play on in-line run blocks. Has the agility to reach the edge and lead block.

    Move in Space

    6

    Could improve his ability to get out in front of running backs on the move. 

    Strength

    8

    Has the strength to physically control all but the elite nose tackles in the game. Doesn't get pushed back off the line very often. 

    Technique

    9

    Was flagged once in 956 snaps in 2011. Sullivan has clean technique and doesn't rely on holds or grabs. He's smart and it shows on his record. 

    Size

    10

    Ideal size at 6'4" and 301 lbs. 

    Health

    10

    No injury issues, started every game in 2011. 

    Overall

    79.5

    Perhaps a surprise as a top-five center, but John Sullivan was incredible in 2011. He rarely missed assignments and was dominant in run blocking. He's a legitimate up-and-comer after four seasons. 

4. Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis Colts

30 of 33

     

    Agility

    6

    Age (36) has limited Saturday's ability to move laterally, but he still has very good burst off the snap and can slide laterally. 

    Awareness

    10

    There's not a smarter player at his position in the NFL. Saturday's mind is making up for his limitations athletically. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    8

    Allowed just 11 total quarterback pressures this year, including sacks. Does a great job moving his feet to keep up with inside blitzes. 

    Pass Block, Power

    8

    He's strong enough to take on nose tackles, and smart enough to know how to handle whatever the defense brings.

    Run Block

    7

    Saturday may be slowing down, but he still brings good burst off the ball and most importantly he knows where he's supposed to be and doesn't miss assignments. 

    Move in Space

    6

    Age and a lack of great agility impair his ability to get out in space. 

    Strength

    8

    Very strong, especially in his lower body and back. Able to stand up and take on bull rushes and hold his ground. The model from which all centers should be built. 

    Technique

    7

    Is an experienced player, but saw his penalties go up in 2011. Saturday is relying more on grabbing and pulling when a defender beats him off the ball.  

    Size

    10

    Solid size for the position at 6'2", 295 lbs. A classic, throwback mauler who needs his bulk to make plays. 

    Health

    10

    Played every game in 2011. 

    Overall

    80

    There may not be a smarter center in the NFL. Saturday is nearing the end of a brilliant career, but he's still one of the best in the league. 

3. Scott Wells, Green Bay Packers

31 of 33

     

    Agility

    9

    Fires off the ball very fast and has an excellent ability to slide to his left or right. Is able to reach linebackers and get to the outside due to his quickness. 

    Awareness

    8

    A smart leader of the offensive line. He sees changes pre-snap and will make the right calls. Could be better at picking up delays. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    8

    Wells' hand placement and foot speed make him a very good speed-blocker. He's quick enough to get up and out of his stance to meet linebackers trying to crash the gap. 

    Pass Block, Power

    8

    He's not incredibly strong, but Wells is very smart and does a good job using his position, leverage and momentum to his advantage. 

    Run Block

    7

    Takes good angles and has smart leverage, but lacks the strength to be a dominating run-blocker. Is very good, but not quite elite. 

    Move in Space

    7

    Has the quickness to get out in front of runs and to be very effective in leading on screen packages and draws. 

    Strength

    8

    His strength shines when he's moving forward. Is able to set his feet and fight off defenders. Very good leg drive. 

    Technique

    9


    Nearly perfect, but can be a bit high in his run blocking and will get caught reaching and grabbing when beaten by inside rushers. 

    Size

    8

    Ideal size for the position in the Packers' scheme, but nowhere else. He's just 6'2", but so is Aaron Rodgers.

    Health

    10

    Started every game in 2011. 

    Overall

    82

    Scott Wells is a perfect fit at center in the Green Bay offense. You could make a good case for him as the best center in the game. If Wells were better in the run game, he would have made it as our No. 1 center. 

2. Nick Mangold, New York Jets

32 of 33

     

    Agility

    7

    The first thing you notice about Mangold is his quickness. He's incredible at getting off the ball. Average lateral quickness.

    Awareness

    8

    Top-notch here, but can get caught up on twists and delayed inside blitzes.  

    Pass Block, Speed

    8

    Mangold shows very good ability to adjust to speed-rushers. Will quickly reset in his set to pick up changes. 

    Pass Block, Power

    8

    Strong enough to set his feet post-snap and hold his ground. Can get pushed back by a strong nose tackle when playing one-on-one. 

    Run Block

    9

    Very good at blowing off the ball and powering the run game. Big and strong, he uses his lower body to push the pile with ease. 

    Move in Space

    5.5

    Limited ability to fire off and get set into screens. Isn't asked to pull or get out in front of the ball much. 

    Strength

    10

    Elite strength at the position. 

    Technique

    8

    Will get caught holding too often with a wide reach. Needs to show better leverage due to his height. 

    Size

    10

    Is the ideal build for an NFL center at 6'4" and 307 lbs. Has long arms and a solid frame. 

    Health

    9

    Played in 14 games during 2011 season, missing two with injury. 

    Overall

    82.5

    The classic choice for best center would go to Mangold. He has been a dominant player since the Jets made him a first-round pick six years ago. Mangold is truly gifted at the position.

1. Chris Myers, Houston Texans

33 of 33

     

    Agility

    10
    Incredibly quick off the ball. Myers has the agility to move from center and get involved in the run game to his left or right. Very light on his feet. Ideal for a zone-scheme center. 

    Awareness

    8
    Good overall awareness and pre-snap reads. Will make changes as needed and does a good job adjusting to what the defense does. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    7.5
    Centers are rarely great in pass protection, and Myers grades out as very good. He's quick, but can be beaten with a strong inside move from a defensive tackle or inside linebacker charging hard. 

    Pass Block, Power

    7.5
    Can get blown off the ball, which is what the Bengals' Geno Atkins did regularly during their wild-card playoff meeting. 

    Run Block

    10
    This is where Myers makes his money. He has great burst off the ball and quickly gets into the defender. Is strong and agile enough to use his momentum to redirect players. Has great vision to see the defense in the zone-blocking scheme. 

    Move in Space

    6
    Does a good job moving laterally and is very agile. Myers was downgraded here because he doesn't get out as well to help with screen packages. Is good in space when run blocking, but not setting up the pass. 

    Strength

    8
    Myers has just average strength and is a smaller player. Gets by with great agility and smart angles and leverage. 

    Technique

    8
    Does a good job getting up out of his stance. Has quick hands and a deadly first step. Can get a little off balance at the point of attack.  

    Size

    10
    Myers doesn't have ideal size for center, but has ideal size for a center in a zone scheme like the one Houston runs. He's 6'4", 289 lbs.

    Health

    10
    Didn't miss a game in 2011. 

    Overall

    85
    Myers may not come to mind as the best center in the NFL, but he narrowly outscores Nick Mangold to claim the top spot. Myers was great in 2011 in powering the dynamic Houston run game and deserves his mention here. 

     

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