How I See It; The Top 10 NFL Centers

Matt ShervingtonCorrespondent IIJuly 17, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 16:  Jaff Saturday #63 of the Indianapolis Colts points out the defense during the game against the Oakland Raiders on December 16, 2007 at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Colts won 21-14.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

1.) Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis Colts

I honestly don’t know how anybody can sit back and rank the Center position and not have Jeff Saturday as the number one player at the position. Fact is, the Colts Offense is comparable to some of the best all time like Walsh’s 1980 WCO and Kelly’s K-Gun, and ever since the 2000 NFL season, Jeff Saturday has been one of the four most important parts.

He, however, alongside Manning is the only remaining important part from that far back, making him, easily, the 2nd most important part over that time span. I mean, look at how badly the Colts struggled for the first month of the season.

Saturday is, far and away, the league’s best pass blocking Center, as rarely do the Colts give up sacks up the middle. This is evidenced by his 7.25 Career sacks allowed. But he’s great at helping to push piles as a run blocker, and Edgerrin James and Joseph Addai can attest to that, as both have run for over 4 ypc up the middle as Colts.


2.) Brad Meester, Jacksonville Jaguars

In the way that Jeff Saturday is clearly the league’s best pass blocker at the Center position, Brad Meester is the league’s best run blocker at the Center position. In 2006 and 2007 when the Jaguars HalfBack duo ran for an incredible 4,942 yards rushing.

Over that span, 2,527 of those rushing Yards were up the middle of the Offensive line with Meester throwing the key block or one of the key blocks. Additionally to this, the duo ran for 25 touchdowns, 24 of which Meester was in the lineup. Over that two year span the Jaguars accounted for 46% of their rushing yardage running behind Meester.

For the second year in a row Meester missed significant time due to injury, but it didn’t seem to faze him, as though he was not as good as the previous two seasons, he was still one of the league’s best run blockers. When he returned the Jags ran up the gut 121 times for 405 Yards and 4 accompanying touchdowns.


3.) Nick Mangold, New York Jets

Mangold is clearly the future of the position. In only a few short years he has shown that he is very capable of being an elite Center and soon will be the best. Mangold is the captain of his Offensive line despite being so young, and he is for a reason; he takes his play to a high level.

Mangold was a lynch pin for both Leon Washington and Thomas Jones in the run game, as both averaged well over 4 yards per carry up the middle and a combined 4 touchdowns. Up the middle the Jets were only stuffed 3 times, but managed 20 First Downs.

Mangold has only afforded 4 Career sacks and is strongly disciplined despite his young age. He’s been playing at a high level ever since he was a rookie and I see no reason as to why that will stop any time soon.


4.) Shaun O'Hara, New York Giants

77 rushing Attempts, 429 yards rushing, 24 First Downs and 5.5 yards per carry. That is the Statline for the New York Giants running behind the center last year during the regular season.

O’Hara is the Center in the middle of the best interior Offensive line in the NFL. While all three are excellent run blockers, O’Hara is the one in the group that also commands respect due to being the captain of the Offensive line. O’Hara only allowed 2 sacks last season and was only flagged for holding once.

More importantly though, O’Hara is the guy who has to make the reads alongside Eli Manning in order to make the adjustments for the Giants line which took huge steps last season in pass blocking due to Manning and O’Hara.


5.) Nick Hardwick, San Diego Chargers

Hardwick, alongside Kris Dilman and Marcus McNeil, are the reason that the San Diego Chargers have the best Left Side in the National Football League. LaDainian Tomlinson has never had trouble running behind the center while Hardwick has been in town, and Hardwick is also a pretty darn good puller when asked to do such, which helps make Kris Dielman such a darn good Guard.

What makes Hardwick so darn good, however, is that, unlike most centers, he just has a mean streak that only guys like Olin Kreutz has, but unlike Kreutz Hardwick has not been labeled a dirty player, just a tough one that doesn’t give up on plays.


6.) Casey Weigmann, Denver Broncos

Weigmann is a guy that some said was elite while his was in Kansas City, but the opposition argued that the numbers in Kansas City behind the center were more a result of Preist Holmes and Larry Johnson’s excellent skill, as opposed to Weigmann’s blocking ability. Others argued that it was due to the fact that he played between the league’s best Guard duos.

Well, Holmes and Johnson have gone on to retire and become average, while one of Guards retired with a Hall of Fame career while Weigmann moved onto Denver after an injury to battle with future Hall of Famer Tom Nalen.

He won out due to injury, and Weigmann proved that he still had it, anchoring what would become the league’s best Offensive line in 2008. It’s no coincidence that Weigmann has been part of some pretty elite Offensive lines.


7.) Olin Kreutz, Chicago Bears

Call it dirty or call it playing with tenacity, but Olin Kreutz is the most ferocious center in the NFL. Perhaps that’s why so many people have thought that he was the best at the position for a few years.

Kreutz is an elite pass blocker, and might even be better than Jeff Saturday, despite what I said earlier, when one has to consider that Kreutz has played for Chicago who hasn’t had an elite QuarterBack since the 1980s.

Kreutz’s meanstreak shows up in the run game, though he is more willing than able when it comes to that aspect, but he gets props for trying. He is a staple to his franchise, and there is a reason he’s the remaining holdout every time that the Bears make offensive line changes.


8.) Jeff Faine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Faine was highly sought after during the off-season last year, and as a result he saw himself switching within the division from the Saints to the Buccaneers. Many thought he wouldn’t see nearly the success he saw due to going to a weaker offensive line in Tampa Bay, but Faine kept up his high level of play.

He allowed only 1 sack on the season, and was only flagged for Holding twice. But what makes him a top 10 center, rather than a product of the Saints and Drew Brees is the fact that Earnest Graham and Cadillac Williams liked to run behind him last year, something he wasn’t assured with Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister.


9.) Andre Gurode, Dallas Cowboys

Gurode has some clear problems in his game. He has trouble snapping the ball out of shotgun formations, he is an average, at best pass blocker, and he doesn’t seem to play his hardest on every offensive snap. With that said, he’s still a top 10 Center in the National Football League.

Gurode isn’t a mauler in the run game on every snap, but I don’t know if there is one better center in the NFL in short yardage situations trying to run the ball behind the center.

Over the past three seasons the Cowboys have run for 15 rushing touchdowns Beind-Center, 13 of which were the accomplished while they were in short yardage situations. When the Cowboys get into the endzone, they plug in MBIII and run behind Gurode because they know they’re getting in.


10.) Kevin Mawae, Tennessee

Kevin Mawae is one of those guys that I used to dislike due to the undue media hype associated with him. He earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl bids in the early half of the decade despite not truly being a dominant blocker in any phase.

He earned a reputation, however, due to the success of Curtis Martin and the incredible mean streak that Mawae plays with, alongside his high level of intelligence. However, last season Mawae had the best season of his career, not affording a single sack on the year, while playing next to Eugene Amano. While he wasn’t as good in the run game as the media portrayed, he was serviceable and got the job done.


Honorable Mentions

Matt Birk, Baltimore

~ Had a bad year last year


Jason Brown, St. Louis

~ Could very well be the No. 10 guy.


Dominic Raiola, Detroit

~ He just frickin gave up on the game of football last year


Jamaal Jackson, Philadelphia

~ Needs more consistency


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