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B/R NFL 1000 2013: Top 35 Centers

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterFebruary 25, 2013

B/R NFL 1000 2013: Top 35 Centers

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    It’s one of the most cerebral positions in all of football. The anchor of the offensive line, each team’s center must be able to recognize blitzes, make line calls and lead the front five protecting the franchise at quarterback.

    Our B/R NFL 1,000 series is back, taking a look at each position by scouting, charting, grading and finally ranking each player based on his 2012 season.

    The B/R 1,000 metric is based heavily on scouting each player and grading the key criteria for each position. The criteria are weighted according to importance for a possible best score of 100. Potential and past accomplishments are not taken into account.

    Offensive linemen are judged on pass-blocking (50 points) and run-blocking (50 points). Everything else that goes into the position—quickness, strength, vision, technique—can be grouped into those two categories.

    In the case of ties, I have asked myself, "Which player would I rather have on my team?" and set the rankings accordingly. Subjective? Yes. But ties are no fun.

    Each player was scouted by myself and a team of experienced evaluators, with these key criteria in mind. The following scouting reports and grades are the product of months of film study from our team.

     

    All statistics from Pro Football Focus. Players' heights, weights and seasons in the NFL are from NFL.com.

35. Dallas Reynolds, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Pass Block

    21/50

    Dallas Reynolds (6'4", 320 pounds, two seasons) allowed the most quarterback hits (10) and was at No. 5 in quarterback pressures (14) on the season. The film backed this up. Reynolds has quick hands to get up and defend his ground, but the lack of agility seen in his footwork was discouraging. He doesn’t have the quickness or flexibility to move side to side and mirror pass-rushers, and if caught out of position, he doesn’t show the ability to recover on the go.

    Run Block

    29/50

    Reynolds has the size to be a factor in the run game, but his impact wasn’t felt on the season. He played too high in most games we viewed, attempting to run over defenders instead of using his hands to actually block them. Keeping his pad level down, using his hands and driving with his legs would instantly improve his performance here.

    Overall

    50/100

    A general lack of athleticism hurt Reynolds’ abilities in the games we viewed. He would go from excellent (Weeks 12-13) to downright bad (all other weeks) without showing any ability to meet in the middle. The Eagles must consider a replacement in the offseason.

     

    Reynolds was not ranked in last year's B/R 1,000.

34. Samson Satele, Indianapolis Colts

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    Pass Block

    19/50

    Samson Satele’s (6'3", 299 pounds, six seasons) pass protection graded out as tied for the worst among the NFL centers we scouted. His six sacks allowed were tied for most in the NFL, and his technique and production otherwise showed that. Satele wasn’t fast enough to adjust to speed-rushers up the middle, and when asked to combo block to his right or left, he wasn’t able to get back in place for delayed pressure. Strength is his biggest asset, but due to a lack of speed, he was rarely in place to use it.

    Run Block

    32/50

    Satele is a power blocker, first and foremost. He doesn’t show the footwork to be highly effective when getting to linebackers, and he’s definitely not someone you want pulling to lead block. When he gets his hands on defenders, though, the game is over for them.

    Overall

    51/100

    A bottom-level starter based on 2012 film, the Colts would have been better off with A.Q. Shipley logging major minutes at center down the stretch.

     

    Satele was No. 22 in last year's B/R 1,000.

33. Brad Meester, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Pass Block

    30/50

    Brad Meester (6'3", 292 pounds, 13 seasons) has seen it all from the center position in his time. The 2012 season showed a player struggling to keep up with the speed of pass-rushers. Meester would overcommit at times and open himself up to counter moves. He’s a good combination blocker, but he shouldn’t be asked to handle nose tackles or stunting defensive tackles on his own.

    Run Block

    23/50

    When asked to track upfield, Meester can struggle to get free from defenders who are assigned to anchor the middle. He likes to use a high swim move to try and get past zero-technique players, but this opens him up to be tied down by tackles who are assigned to keep their linebackers clean. Meester struggles to attack the second level and doesn’t show the strength to drive block off the ball.

    Overall

    53/100

    An aging veteran who may not be back in 2013, Meester saw his game fall off in 2012 as he struggled to handle defensive linemen in one-on-one situations. A former strength in the middle of the line, Meester is now a liability at times.

     

    Meester was No. 12 in last year's B/R 1,000.

32. Nick Hardwick, San Diego Chargers

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    Pass Block

    25/50

    A one-time Pro Bowler, Nick Hardwick’s (6'4", 305 pounds, nine seasons) 2012 season will be one to forget. In pass protection, Hardwick was targeted more by defenses as they attacked the middle of the San Diego line. That led to three sacks and 14 pressures allowed—very poor numbers for a center. Hardwick has the technique, but he’s not strong enough or quick enough to handle one-on-one blocking duties. When nose tackles or inside linebackers come through his gap, he’s losing ground too quickly. A lack of strength here is a major issue.

    Run Block

    30/50

    As an undersized center, Hardwick is at a disadvantage when asked to take on defenders alone. When on the move, he can seal off defenders, but their attempts to shed and get to the ball aren’t met with much resistance. Hardwick’s run game regressed considerably from the player our team saw in 2011.

    Overall

    55/100

    Injuries and age have taken their toll on Hardwick, as has the lack of talent around him on the San Diego offensive line. A rebound year is in order in 2013, but Hardwick has to be top-shelf healthy for that to be a possibility.

     

    Hardwick was No. 11 in last year's B/R 1,000.

31. Jeff Faine, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Pass Block

    35/50

    A seven-game starter for the Bengals at center, Jeff Faine (6'3", 291 pounds, 10 seasons) had some good games and some very bad games. His grade reflects the highs and lows we saw. Faine struggled any time the defense put a defender head-up on him before the snap. This pressure and transition from snap to block was something he didn’t adjust to. When combo blocking or taking on delayed pressure, Faine was excellent, but that early pressure was a problem all year. Quicker eyes and feet would be a plus to improving that skill. All in all, Faine did a solid job in limited time.

    Run Block

    22/50

    Our film study showed that the Bengals run game got better once Faine was replaced in the lineup. That could be familiarity with the system from BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but the film didn’t lie. Faine was never able to consistently tie up defenders in the run game, as he struggled to get to the second level. And when asked to down block on the line of scrimmage, he didn’t show good ability to maintain blocks.

    Overall

    57/100

    Faine’s season was tough to grade, as the system around him tended to improve when he was out of the lineup. He did well as a pass protector, but he's not good enough to be considered a long-term answer here.

     

    Faine was tied at No. 26 in last year's B/R 1,000.

30. Geoff Hangartner, Carolina Panthers

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    Pass Block

    31/50

    A balanced center, Geoff Hangartner (6'5", 300 pounds, eight seasons) didn’t wow us when it came to his pass-protection skill set. Hangartner brings versatility to the lineup, as he’s able to play guard or center, but his pass protection at both positions struggled in 2012. He has the reach to get to defenders, but his footwork can be heavy and slow in space. A foot injury did slow him down late in the year, but what we wanted to see was quicker lateral movement and better ability to slide and help pick up pressure.

    Run Block

    28/50

    Hangartner shows the strength to push and gain a foothold on defenders, but he’s not agile enough to always connect on the second level. The Panthers have enough talented backs who only need a small window to run through, but getting the center to connect with linebackers was an issue all season.

    Overall

    59/100

    A better guard prospect than center, Hangartner has good value as a spot starter or high-level replacement player, but his days starting in the middle of the line are numbered.

     

    Hangartner was not ranked in last year's B/R 1,000.

29. David Baas, New York Giants

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    Pass Block

    19/50

    David Baas (6'4", 312 pounds, eight seasons) is a known mauler, but that didn’t show up in pass protection. Our team noted multiple games against 3-4 and 4-3 fronts where he simply struggled to see and recognize pre- and post-snap pressure. Baas has the strength to dominate damn near any defender in the league, but his leverage was never on point, and his lack of recognition killed his score for our purposes. Stats will show that he only allowed one sack, but he allowed far more pressures and gave Eli Manning plenty of headaches in the process.

    Run Block

    42/50

    That ability to maul and dominate with strength that we mentioned? This is where it shows up. Baas is mean, tough and maybe even a little dirty in the run game. He’s quick and powerful off the ball, and in that arena, he can drive defenders back without much effort. His grade would be higher if he played more controlled; at times, he’s asked to get upfield and goes full-bore instead of playing under control.

    Overall

    61/100

    Baas has the physical talents to be an exceptional center, but his technique and awareness in the passing game make him a low-level starter when he could be a top-five player.

     

    Baas was tied at No. 26 in last year's B/R 1,000.

28. Roberto Garza, Chicago Bears

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    Pass Block

    38/50

    Roberto Garza (6'2", 310 pounds, 12 seasons) is quick off the snap and has the footwork to chop and mirror defenders. Where he can get in trouble is by playing too high and allowing defenders to get inside his pads. Once they’re inside his arms, Garza isn’t strong enough to hold and anchor. A lot of quarterback pressure in Chicago came up the A-gap.

    Run Block

    25/50

    Garza is aggressive in the middle, but he’s often standing up off the snap and doesn’t play with the leverage needed to be consistent. Garza likes to throw defenders instead of locking them up and erasing them from the play. This might look cool, but it allows defenders to come free if they keep their balance. Garza has good quickness, but his strength and one-on-one skills are lacking.

    Overall

    63/100

    Garza is a serviceable short-term player, but his poor showing in run situations should give the team reason to look at an upgrade in the 2013 offseason.

     

    Garza was No. 32 in last year's B/R 1,000.

27. Scott Wells, St. Louis Rams

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    Pass Block

    37/50

    Scott Wells (6'2", 300 pounds, nine seasons) has been one of the better pass-protecting centers over the last few seasons in the NFL. But his 2012 tape didn’t quite show that. Partially due to injury, partially due to poor play around him, Wells struggled to move with defenders and cut off pass-rushing lanes. He’s agile, but his overall strength and fluidity were limited. That resulted in an uncharacteristic season from Wells, who should be back to normal in 2013.

    Run Block

    27/50

    Wells’ struggles in the passing game were nothing compared to his film on running plays. He didn’t look able throughout much of the year to lock on and drive-block guys out of space. Once he returned from injury, the next three games (Weeks 12-14) were some of the lowest-charted games we saw at center all season, as Wells struggled to push the pile or take down defenders.

    Overall

    64/100

    Injured in 2012, Wells didn’t have his best season. He did start to peak at the end of the year, which is encouraging for 2013.

     

    Wells was No. 3 in last year's B/R 1,000.

26. Jeff Saturday, Green Bay Packers

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    Pass Block

    46/50

    Jeff Saturday (6'2", 295 pounds, 14 seasons) is a likely Hall of Famer, but 2012 was a rough season for the veteran. In pass protection, Saturday started out the year very well, showing his classic strength, awareness and technique to keep defenders at bay. That skill regressed throughout the season as he wore down physically and defenses started keying on his mistakes. Grading Saturday on the whole season, you have to be impressed with his track record, but those early games carried his season-long score.

    Run Block

    19/50

    This was hard to watch. Saturday failed to show the pop to take on defenders and create openings. Even in a zone-blocking scheme, he struggled to create creases and opportunities. Saturday was largely ineffective when asked to take on defenders who were head-up on him (zero-technique) or just off-center in a one-technique. He didn’t show the power needed to move guys off the line, and it eventually got him benched.

    Overall

    65/100

    Saturday, playing in his last NFL season, was replaced late in the year due to his struggles in the run game. The 2012 season was his last, as he’s retiring this offseason.

     

    Saturday was No. 4 in last year's B/R 1,000.

25. Eric Wood, Buffalo Bills

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    Pass Block

    40/50

    Eric Wood (6'4", 310 pounds, four seasons) does a great job protecting the quarterback in space, but we noticed more flaws this year than last. Wood has a great reach and can defend the pocket when asked to stand up and mirror pass-rushers. He can get rocked back on his heels when bull-rushed and might need to develop a cut block to take down hard-charging nose tackles. Wood’s footwork in space is textbook for a center.

    Run Block

    26/50

    Wood didn’t show the same level of aggression this season when tasked with opening rushing lanes. The Bills did run more to the edge this season, but Wood’s ability to lock on and drive was limited. His quickness and footwork are excellent, but the actual result of his blocks was rarely a success. Wood’s knee injury could be completely to blame here.

    Overall

    66/100

    One of our favorite players from 2011, Wood saw a regression this year as he came back from injury. He has the agility and size to dominate at the point of attack, but his lack of strength and push in the run game were major downfalls this past year. He’s poised to come back strong in 2013.

     

    Wood was No. 7 in last year's B/R 1,000.

24. Lyle Sendlein, Arizona Cardinals

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    Pass Block

    38/50

    Lyle Sendlein (6'3", 308 pounds, six seasons) is an undersized, quick center who plays like a Tasmanian Devil. You can’t help but notice his mean streak, as it’s one of his best qualities. Sendlein doesn’t have the elite physical attributes to manhandle defenders, but his quickness out of the snap and his willingness to punch, slide and get dirty to protect the quarterback are notable. He’s often asked to help block more in the passing game due to really poor guard play, but when singled up in one-on-one blocking, he can get overwhelmed at times.

    Run Block

    28/50

    Sendlein’s aggressive, feisty style of play can be a benefit, but it can also be his undoing. Too often he’s caught overextending and playing with his head down when getting out to the second level to take on linebackers. Keeping his eyes up and seeing his blocks through would add an instant five points to his run-blocking score. All in all, he wasn’t moving the pile well in 2012.

    Overall

    66/100

    A fun player to watch because of his aggressive style, Sendlein has the tools to be good for an undersized center. He hasn’t had much to work with beside him at guard or in the quarterback department. This is a player who could look much better with better talent around him.

     

    Sendlein was No. 20 in last year's B/R 1,000.

23. Matt Birk, Baltimore Ravens

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    Pass Block

    26/50

    Matt Birk (6'4", 310 pounds, 15 seasons) isn’t the All-Pro center he used to be, but he is still one of the most intelligent linemen in the league. Birk really struggled this year protecting Joe Flacco, giving up five sacks, which ranks near the worst at his position. He doesn’t have the quickness to keep up with the more athletic defensive linemen. Birk has great technique and hand placement, though, which helps cover up his lack of agility.

    Run Block

    41/50

    Even with his pass-blocking skills taking a step back, Birk is still one of the best run-blocking centers in the game. He still possesses the strength to open up holes and is consistently sealing off blocks to help his running backs get to the second level. Birk lacks the lateral quickness to be effective when he has to pull.

    Overall

    67/100

    Birk is getting older and struggled at times during the regular season, but he was exceptional in the playoffs. He kept Flacco upright and helped lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl win. This offseason, he retired.

     

    Birk was No. 10 in last year's B/R 1,000.

22. J.D. Walton, Denver Broncos

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    Pass Block

    39/50

    A starter the first four games, J.D. Walton (6'3", 305 pounds, three seasons) is a quick center with good athletic ability in short areas. That shows up in the passing game, as he has a good snap-to out of his stance and good awareness. Where Walton can struggle is in locking up and engaging pass-rushers. He’s best being a catch-all and helping the guards with pressure. If you send late pressure up the A-gap, he’s going to struggle with taking on the force and not getting moved back.

    Run Block

    31/50

    Walton has done a good job in a moving-style blocking scheme, but some of his deficiencies get masked by the scheme. Walton is agile and quick, but his lack of strength shows up when he's asked to handle defenders. He’s not the type of blocker to open holes on his own. He is strong enough and quick enough to down block to open up cutback lanes, but he’s not a single-style blocker.

    Overall

    70/100

    Walton just barely qualified for the 2013 rankings, as he logged only 256 snaps on the season. What we saw from him was his best season yet. It’s remarkable what a good quarterback with actual pocket presence can do for an offensive lineman.

     

    Walton was tied at No. 28 in last year's B/R 1,000.

21. A.Q. Shipley, Indianapolis Colts

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    Pass Block

    38/50

    A.Q. Shipley (6'1", 309 pounds, one season) wasn’t able to come in and secure the long-term starting job at center, but he played well enough to keep Andrew Luck healthy. Shipley’s pass protection shows solid technique and hand placement, but he’s beaten off the ball too often. A lack of quickness out of the snap hurts him, and even with top-level strength, he can struggle with getting walked back in the pocket if he’s not out of his stance fast enough.

    Run Block

    33/50

    Shipley’s run game wasn’t quite up to par with his pass protection. We liked his ability in combination blocks to chip and help the guard, but his next-level skills weren’t what we wanted to see. Shipley has the agility to get to the second level, but his impact there was minimal. Too many missed blocks at the first and second line keep his score down.

    Overall

    71/100

    If you’re looking for a third-tier starter or wave player, Shipley can be your guy. He’s young, tough and smart, and those three qualities could easily translate to a big improvement in the offseason.

     

    Shipley was not ranked in last year's B/R 1,000.

20. Ted Larsen, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Pass Block

    40/50

    Ted Larsen (6'2", 305 pounds, three seasons) played well to end the season as a starter, showing the goods to compete here once the Tampa line is healthy. He shows good awareness to make adjustments on the go. So many times on film, we saw Larsen make late adjustments to get a defensive tackle who beat the right guard, showing off his awareness, agility and athleticism. While he doesn’t have great strength to take on a bull rush, he was smart enough to take those players to the ground.

    Run Block

    32/50

    Larsen has the strength to stand-up a shaded defensive tackle in the A-gap if he gets the right angle off the snap. He did a good job down-blocking to fill in for pulling guards to either side. Larsen shows the quickness to be a moving blocker, but he must increase his accuracy to hit and impact on the go. He doesn’t have great strength, and this is a big point for his development. He must get stronger to handle defenders by himself in the run game.

    Overall

    72/100

    Larsen was a good surprise for our team. We love his agility and awareness, but we wish he was stronger at the point of attack. Once he cleans that up in the offseason, we could be looking at a top-10 center.

     

    Larsen was not ranked in last year's B/R 1,000.

19. Todd McClure, Atlanta Falcons

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    Pass Block

    33/50

    Todd McClure (6'1", 296 pounds, 14 seasons) is an experienced and technically sound center who shows good hand placement and leverage. McClure will get caught leaning forward, and defenders take advantage of him being off-balance. He is pretty good when he has to block defenders one-on-one, but he will make incorrect reads and allow an open rusher up the middle. That led to him giving up the second-most sacks for his position this year.

    Run Block

    39/50

    McClure plays with a high motor, but as he gets older, his agility and quickness are starting to regress. He does a nice job of sealing off blocks and forcing the defense away from the play. There are times where McClure will not get his hands inside his opponent’s pads, which allows his opponent to shed his block and make a play in the backfield.

    Overall

    72/100

    Due mostly to his age, McClure noticeably regressed this year and is no longer one of the top centers in the league. He still has the skills to be a serviceable center, but look for Peter Konz to take over those duties in the next year or two.

     

    McClure was No. 8 in last year's B/R 1,000.

18. Ryan Lilja, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Pass Block

    30/50

    Ryan Lilja (6'2", 290 pounds, nine seasons) started the year at left guard, but he made the move to center in Week 4. Lilja struggled some with going from snap to blocker, which allowed too much pressure up the middle. He’s a tandem blocker who didn’t show the ability to anchor against a hard middle pass rush.

    Run Block

    43/50

    When asked to pull and move, as the Chiefs linemen must in the zone-blocking scheme, Lilja showed that he can move and stick with the best of them. His experience at guard helped here. Lilja did a good job moving laterally and then tracking upfield to find a man to block. He had no trouble getting to the second level, but he liked to attempt cut blocks on "Mike" ‘backers here, and his success rate was poor. He’s much better as a standup angle blocker on the lateral move.

    Overall

    73/100

    Lilja did a commendable job filling in for Rodney Hudson at center, especially when it came to opening cutback lanes for Jamaal Charles in the run game. In his first-ever season at center, he did great. While his pass-blocking score kept him down on our list, Lilja was undoubtedly solid in 2012. He announced his retirement at the end of the 2012 season.

     

    Lilja was not ranked in last year's B/R 1,000.

17. Dan Koppen, Denver Broncos

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    Pass Block

    45/50

    When it comes to pass protection, Dan Koppen (6'2", 300 pounds, 10 seasons) is one of the smartest players in the game. He was able to transition from snap to block quickly and without panicking if pressured immediately. He’s patient and has the football IQ to read and recognize what the defense is doing. He gets a wide, balanced base out of the gun and has the strength to hold up at the point of impact.

    Run Block

    28/50

    When asked to lower his pads and clear a path, Koppen wasn’t as effective. He’s never been a very strong player, and it can show, as he struggles to single-handedly move defenders. He isn’t timid—he’ll get in and make contact—but he’s not moving defenders from that point.

    Overall

    73/100

    Koppen took the starting job in Week 5 and never looked back. The veteran center was a huge boost in the passing game, and while he didn’t become a major factor in the run game, his job was to keep Peyton Manning upright.

     

    Koppen was not ranked in last year's B/R 1,000.

16. Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Pass Block

    39/50

    Maurkice Pouncey (6'4", 304 pounds, three seasons) is a high-level athlete with exceptional quickness off the snap. You won’t find many defenders who can beat him to the hole. Pouncey is quick to snap up and get set, but where he struggles most is in individual blocking. He’s at his best combination-blocking with a guard, as he can get walked back and run over when he’s on his own. When Pouncey uses his natural leverage, he’s almost impossible to move. He has to learn to keep that power base, though.

    Run Block

    35/50

    In the run game, Pouncey is quick enough to explode off the ball and get into defenders, but his strength to drive them off the line is lacking. He’ll stand up a defender and allow cutbacks, but he’s not driving open any holes.

    Overall

    74/100

    Pouncey’s reputation as a blocker is better than his actual performance the last two seasons. While he has the athletic ability to be one of the best in the game, he’s missing on too many blocks and failing to make a real impact on others.

     

    Pouncey was No. 14 in last year's B/R 1,000.

15. Ryan Cook, Dallas Cowboys

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    Pass Block

    34/50

    Ryan Cook’s (6'6", 325 pounds, seven seasons) first starting season had some ups and downs. Cook has good athletic ability to move and shuffle his feet to get depth in the pocket. He’s patient and shows good vision. He’ll reach and overextend to pick up delayed pressure, which can put him out of place and expose his backside. While Cook is agile, he’s not strong enough to take on head-up nose tackles who are driving him back off the ball.

    Run Block

    41/50

    Cook was better when it came to attacking the defender and clearing holes for the run game. He does a good job of down-blocking and then scraping off to get to linebackers on sweeps and off-tackle runs. Cook shows that he can get to Mike linebackers and keep them out of the play, but he does tend to be top-heavy when blocking in space. He’ll want to work to keep those pads down and his weight balanced.

    Overall

    75/100

    Cook may not be the long-term answer at center, but his 2012 film supports the team giving him every chance to keep the job. He’s quick and able in the run game, showing off a skill set tailored to the Dallas run game. If he can improve his pass-blocking strength, the Cowboys will be set.

     

    Cook was not ranked in last year's B/R 1,000.

14. Dominic Raiola, Detroit Lions

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    Pass Block

    45/50

    Ageless wonder Dominic Raiola (6'1", 295 pounds, 12 seasons) has been a fixture in the Detroit line for years. 2012 may have been his best pass-blocking season. Used mostly as a combination blocker, Raiola excels at recognizing pressure and adjusting calls pre-snap. He’s able to move and pull on screen packages and can be an impact there. Raiola does a very good job using his length to keep pass-rushers off his chest, and he’s strong enough to do well against a bull rush.

    Run Block

    31/50

    Age has slowed Raiola down some when asked to attack the second level. He can get there, but we noted too many instances of him coming in hot and failing to make a controlled, finished block. When locked up one-on-one, he can struggle to turn defenders.

    Overall

    76/100

    Raiola is still one of the better centers in the NFL when it comes to protecting the quarterback. His run-game skills have regressed some, but the talent is still here for him to be a starter on the Detroit line for another season.

     

    Raiola was No. 23 in last year's B/R 1,000.

13. Robert Turner, St. Louis Rams

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    Pass Block

    45/50

    Robert Turner’s (6'4", 308 pounds, six seasons) strength is in his versatility. The center/guard played major minutes for St. Louis in 2012 at both positions. Playing both guard and center, Turner showed good presence in his pass sets and has a quick get-off from his stance. He’s patient, which allows him to pick his spots and not overextend to defenders.

    Run Block

    31/50

    Turner’s patience in the pass game oftentimes shows up in the run game, and that’s not a positive. He has a bad habit of standing up out of his stance, which makes gaining leverage in the run game tricky. If he can gain leverage, Turner can be very good at moving the pile upfield. Otherwise, he’s limited to angle blocking and sealing off for backside cuts.

    Overall

    76/100

    Turner has promise as a center or guard in the Rams’ future based on a very strong 2012. If he can get his pad level down in the run game and continue his excellent pass-blocking trends, Turner will be moving up our list next spring.

     

    Turner was not ranked in last year's B/R 1,000.

12. Ryan Wendell, New England Patriots

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    Pass Block

    28/50

    Protecting Tom Brady is the most important job for the Patriots offensive line. First-year starter Ryan Wendell (6'2", 300 pounds, four seasons) struggled at times, but he showed impressive potential in pass protection. Wendell is aggressive at the snap and shows a good base, but teams did a good job confusing him with stunts and twists in the middle of the line. His awareness has to increase going forward.

    Run Block

    50/50

    Wendell is quick off the ball and has a great leverage point to attack nose tackles and shaded defensive linemen. He does a great job of opening cutback lanes for backs, as he’s getting good push off the ball.

    Overall

    78/100

    Wendell played every single snap for the Patriots this season, establishing himself as the team’s future at the position with an impressive track record as a run-blocker. While his pass protection needs work, Wendell was dominant in the running game. That’s good enough for us.

     

    Wendell was not ranked in last year's B/R 1,000.

11. Fernando Velasco, Tennessee Titans

26 of 36

     

    Pass Block

    38/50

    Fernando Velasco (6'4", 312 pounds, three seasons) had to work with two different quarterbacks this year, and he held his own with both. Velasco’s production was much better than his appearance this year. When pulling his snaps up on film, you see a sluggish center who doesn’t move his feet well, but he rarely gives up pressures or sacks. He could benefit from better leverage and quicker feet, but as a power center, he’s one of the better pass protectors. That inability to slide and protect fluidly could hurt him down the road.

    Run Block

    41/50

    Velasco’s strength is his power off the ball, but with that comes limited quickness and agility. He doesn’t show the ability to get to the second level effectively and consistently due to a lack of quickness. He’s not overly flexible, which can make it tough for him to get leverage off the snap. When put into a drive-blocking assignment, Velasco is strong enough to open holes and push the pile. He can easily handle one-on-one assignments.

    Overall

    79/100

    Velasco was a tough player for our team to grade. From a physical standpoint, he’s not what you’d look for in a center. He can be slow and heavy-footed, but he’s also dominant in tight spaces and a handful for defenders once he gets his mitts on them. Production speaks, and Velasco has it.

     

    Velasco was not ranked in last year's B/R 1,000.

10. Stefen Wisniewski, Oakland Raiders

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    Pass Block

    50/50

    Stefen Wisniewski (6'3", 307 pounds, two seasons) is textbook when it comes to protecting the quarterback from the center position. He’s smart and quick to diagnose the defense pre-snap. When asked to slide and protect, Wisniewski has the footwork to keep pace with defenders. His ability to recognize and pick up delayed pressure up the middle is elite—he has the patience of a left tackle here. He won’t get walked back by power, as he’s strong enough to sit down on the rush. He’s also technically savvy enough to lock his arms and drive the defender up, thus erasing their power base.

    Run Block

    32/50

    In the run game, Wisniewski’s toughness is on display, but he must get better at finding and attacking angles in 2013. He does a fine job in combination blocks, but when asked to take on players by himself, he’s not the same. If he can get a better angle to attack defenders from the side, he’ll be able to better seal off and walk them down the line to open up rushing lanes on his backside.

    Overall

    82/100

    We didn’t have a high preseason grade on Stefen Wisniewski, but after watching him stonewall defenders in the passing game, it’s easy to fall in love with his skills. He needs work as a run-blocker, but those angles and opportunities will come in due time for one of the brightest young players in the league.

     

    Wisniewski was not ranked in last year's B/R 1,000.

9. Brian De La Puente, New Orleans Saints

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    Pass Block

    41/50

    NFL scouts want a center who is quick off the snap, someone who beats the defensive line to the punch. Brian De La Puente’s (6'3", 306 pounds, three seasons) strength is in this ability. He has a quick snap-to-attention move, coupled with quick feet to mirror and slide. He has very good first-step quickness when he knows he’s bypassing the first line of defense. You could make the case that De La Puente is helped by Brees’ quick release, but you could also say Brees is helped by his center’s pass-blocking skills.

    Run Block

    41/50

    As an NFL center, you must be proficient at firing off the ball, combination-blocking a defensive tackle and then scraping free to attack an inside linebacker. Watching De La Puente this year, we saw him execute this very well at times, while other times he wasn’t quick enough to meet the inside linebacker in pursuit. De La Puente has a good ability to slide and mirror in the pocket without surrendering ground to the backfield. He’s an ideal No. 2 blocker to aid and assist in the backfield.

    Overall

    82/100

    It’s tough to find this kind of balance in a center, but De La Puente has it. He’s very good at doing what the Saints ask of him—getting to the second level, sliding to protect Drew Brees while opening up passing lanes—and as he gains experience, it’s easy to see him becoming one of the top centers in the NFL.

     

    De La Puente was No. 17 in last year's B/R 1,000.

8. Will Montgomery, Washington Redskins

29 of 36

     

    Pass Block

    40/50

    You have to like Will Montgomery’s (6'3", 304 pounds, six seasons) agility off the ball in the run game (No. 63 in the photo above). He excels at coming clean and getting into space. While he can struggle to hit on blocks at that level, the agility is impressive. When standing in as an anchor, Montgomery can get walked back, but he does a good job dipping his shoulders and digging in his heels to limit the push.

    Run Block

    43/50

    Montgomery has an ideal makeup for the zone-blocking scheme, as he shows the quickness to move laterally off the ball. His vision off the ball stands out, and he does a good job picking players to block while on the move. Montgomery can get to the second level off the ball, but in man situations, he’ll struggle if a defender shoots his gap early in the play.

    Overall

    83/100

    A top-level zone-blocking center, Montgomery’s agility and quickness are tailored for what the Redskins do up front. While he might not be as effective in other schemes, he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level in Washington.

     

    Montgomery was No. 15 in last year's B/R 1,000.

7. Nick Mangold, New York Jets

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    Pass Block

    40/50

    A solid anchor in the middle of the line, Nick Mangold (6'4", 307 pounds, seven seasons) is primarily asked to help block against 4-3 teams and go man-to-man against 3-4 fronts. He’s good in space and can easily slide to help guards. Mangold will do better when asked to attack head-up tackles, but there are times a speed rush can get him rocked back on his heels. Pound for pound, there aren’t many centers who handle power better, but speed continues to be his problem.

    Run Block

    44/50

    Depending on which game you watched, Mangold could be seen as the best center in the NFL when it comes to the run game. But in scouting his season, we charted Mangold against the San Francisco 49ers and had to move his grade down. He couldn’t get a hold in the run game against the 49ers, allowing too many inside linebacker tackles off his backside shoulder. Cleaning up that mechanical issue would put him higher.

    Overall

    84/100

    One of the best centers in the NFL over the last five seasons, Mangold saw a few more problems this year due to poor guard play around him. Without that help on each side, Mangold was asked to do more on his own, which really isn’t his game.

     

    Mangold was No. 2 in last year's B/R 1,000.

6. John Sullivan, Minnesota Vikings

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    Pass Block

    39/50

    John Sullivan (6'4", 301 pounds, five seasons) enjoyed a very good season clearing paths for Adrian Peterson. While Peterson’s production is undeniable, we saw some flaws on tape. Sullivan can struggle to handle pass-rushers in one-on-one situations in the passing game. While he has a good, strong base and nice feet, he’s not exceptionally strong at the point of attack.

    Run Block

    45/50

    Sullivan does a great job getting movement and push off the line, but in a zone-blocking play, he can struggle to make contact with defenders. Against the San Francisco 49ers, Sullivan did a good job moving the line of scrimmage, but he gave up tackles off his weak shoulder too often. That’s being incredibly picky, but when a player has few flaws, you have to be. Sullivan was exceptional for most of the season at getting off the ball, getting into his angle and creating lanes for Peterson. On the second level, he’s powerful and accurate.

    Overall

    84/100

    Sullivan was rated the best center in the NFL last season by Pro Football Focus, but from a pure scouting standpoint, some issues in strength and one-on-one blocking kept him from the top spot for us. That said, he had a very fine season.

     

    Sullivan was No. 5 in last year's B/R 1,000.

5. Jonathan Goodwin, San Francisco 49ers

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    Pass Block

    42/50

    It's notable that Jonathan Goodwin (6'3", 318 pounds, 11 seasons) didn’t allow one sack all season in a 49ers scheme that depends on individual blockers. Goodwin was top-level against the pass rush.

    Run Block

    43/50

    Goodwin plays low and has great leg drive that helps him create running lanes for the 49er backs. He isn’t the most powerful center, but he has good quickness, which makes him excel when asked to pull. Goodwin’s ability to clear out holes is one of the major reasons why the 49ers finished the season with the No. 4 rushing attack.

    Overall

    85/100

    In an offensive scheme built on personal responsibility up front, Goodwin was one of most well-rounded centers in the NFL. While he is aging (34 years old), he proved in 2012 that he has enough left in the tank to anchor the 49ers line.

     

    Goodwin was ranked No. 16 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

4. Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns

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    Pass Block

    46/50

    Alex Mack (6'4", 311 pounds, four seasons) plays with the patience of an offensive tackle, making him a tough player to beat in the middle of the line. He doesn’t tend to reach or lunge for pass-rushers, and with a strong base, he’s hard to beat with countermoves. Mack has a strong lower body and can stand up pass-rushers by getting leverage underneath their pads and driving up. He is rarely beaten, but when teams do get the best of him, it’s with speed up the A-gap.

    Run Block

    40/50

    While he’s very good in the run game, Mack could benefit greatly from attacking with a lower pad level. Defenders can get inside his frame and push his back up. While he doesn’t lose many of these battles, it prohibits him from getting push up the middle. On the move, Mack is excellent at combining power and agility to pull on the edge or clear the second level.

    Overall

    86/100

    Mack is truly one of the most fun players to watch at the position. And based on scouting technique, he could make a case for the best player at the position. Cleaning up some issues in the run game would put him atop the list of the NFL’s best centers.

     

    Mack was No. 9 in last year's B/R 1,000.

3. Max Unger, Seattle Seahawks

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    Pass Block

    38/50

    A versatile pass-blocker who has lined up at guard and tackle, Max Unger (6'5", 305 pounds, four seasons) has the ability to stand up and mirror pass-rushers from the center position. Where he gets in trouble is by standing too tall and losing leverage and agility. Unger has a tendency to play flat-footed and can allow pass-rushers to gain ground off his shoulders. When pressed up the middle, he’s exceptionally strong to hold his ground. With a long reach and big base, Unger has the skill set to get much better here with time.

    Run Block

    48/50

    If you watch Marshawn Lynch cut back for big yards, chances are that Max Unger was the one clearing the second level for him. He does a fantastic job getting off the ball and working upfield to take linebackers out of the play. Even when a nose tackle is designated to tie him up, Unger is good enough with his hands to make quick work of him. You’ll love watching Unger fire off the ball into the defensive tackle and then scrape to take out linebackers who are closing on the ball-carrier. This is what he does best; he’s a nonstop blur in the run game.

    Overall

    86/100

    One of the best run-blocking centers our team graded this year, Unger does need to get better in the passing game, but the talent is there. He’s a versatile, strong center who fits the moving-line philosophy that the Seahawks use so well to fuel the run game.

     

    Unger was No. 18 in last year's B/R 1,000.

2. Mike Pouncey, Miami Dolphins

35 of 36

     

    Pass Block

    46/50

    A top-level athlete at the position, Mike Pouncey (6'5", 303 pounds, two seasons) can do it all. One of the best strengths to his game is his ability to read and recognize blitzes pre-snap. Once the ball is in play, Pouncey is exceptional at anchoring to hold his ground. He has a quick first move and can jump to his base without losing leverage. He’s strong enough to stand his ground and rarely gets moved back into the quarterback.

    Run Block

    41/50

    Pouncey is a strong moving center in the run game. Off the snap, he does well to angle block to the left or right, and when attacking defenders from the side, he’s very good at driving and sealing off lanes. When asked to simply take on a defender head-up, Pouncey can sometimes struggle with leverage in the run game. He’s better at holding his ground than moving players backward.

    Overall

    87/100

    One of the most complete centers in the NFL, Pouncey does a great job for the Dolphins no matter the down or distance. For him to take the next step and become an elite player, all he needs is more time and more experience.

     

    Pouncey was No. 19 in last year's B/R 1,000.

1. Chris Myers, Houston Texans

36 of 36

     

    Pass Block

    50/50

    The first thing you notice about Chris Myers (6'4", 290 pounds, eight seasons) is his agility. As one of the best moving centers in the entire NFL, Myers is excellent at sliding inside the line to pick up blitzes and help guards in pass protection. When put into a one-on-one situation, he can lose anchor and get walked back, but he is smart enough to go to the ground and cut the defender if that happens. Myers does a great job coming out to meet pass-rushers, and with his quick feet and strong hands, he’s able to mirror and protect the pocket.

    Run Block

    41/50

    Myers’ agility is the key here. He’s super fast out of his stance and easily gets the angle on defenders to drive-block from the side and/or to seal off rushing lanes up the middle. The lone negative would be that Myers doesn’t have the pure strength to lock horns with nose tackles and drive them out of the hole. When moving laterally and up the field, he is deadly.

    Overall

    91/100

    Myers isn’t the biggest guy at 290 pounds, but he makes up for that with excellent quickness and vision. As the best center in the NFL during the 2012 season, Myers is a key cog in the Houston Texans offense.

     

    Myers was No. 1 in last year's B/R 1,000.

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