NFL1000: Ranking the Top Centers of 2017 Season

NFL1000 ScoutsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2018

NFL1000: Ranking the Top Centers of 2017 Season

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    If you were to create the perfect Venn diagram of the position that combines the sport's most important and least recognized attributes, center would take the lead. He begins every play with his head down, hoping to snap the ball correctly in a league that has an ever-increasing number of shotgun snaps. Before he snaps the ball, he's likely the one who's made the protection calls for the offensive line, adjusting for the defensive line's alignment. 

    The instant he snaps the ball, at least one defensive tackle will try to overwhelm him. If he's facing a 4-3 defense, he'll have to deal with a 1-tech nose tackle who may outweigh him by 20-30 pounds and can come off the snap like a bolt of lightning. On many plays, he'll have to get past that tackle and hit the second level, hopefully blocking a linebacker or safety with perfect timing, technique and accuracy. Or, he might be the leader in a zone-blocking slide that requires perfect coordination between the five linemen.

    Against a standard 3-4 front, the nose tackle on the other side will be right over his head, and he may weigh as much as 340 pounds. He'll get double-teamed. He'll whiff blocks at times due to the his opponent's sheer load.

    And then, after the play ends, he has to line up and do it all over again. Aside from his teammates, his family and a few offensive line geeks in the media, his accomplishments will not be noticed. The one time he will be noticed is when he makes a grievous error that leads to a busted play.

    So, let's take a moment to honor the NFL center: He who plays a position requiring a unique blend of intelligence, strength, agility and tenacity. NFL1000 offensive line scout Ethan Young has done so by scouting and ranking every NFL center through the 2017 season, based on the following criteria:

    Pass Protection: 25 points. How well does this center deal with pass-rushing tackles straight up or to either shoulder? Can he adapt to stunts and twists on the fly, and coordinate with guards to take on defenders moving through unpredictable gaps? Does he align well in slide protection? And, how well does he analyze fronts and make line calls, based on overall line coordination?

    Run Block: 25 points. Does this player drive-block well? Can he get to the second level and block linebackers and safeties with authority and accuracy? Does he align well in zone slides? Can he play the power/counter/trap game when it's called?

    Power: 20 points. Does the player use leverage correctly? Does he handle the defender with his hands off the snap? Can he drive the defender back and adjust with power when he's beaten back?

    Agility: 20 points. How quickly does this center get his body ready to block after the snap? How accurately does he work his body to block in space? Can he block downfield consistently?

    Position Value: 6 points. This accounts for positional importance when comparing scores across other spots on the offense. Centers are given 6/10 points across the board, making their top possible grade a 96. 

    Make sure to check out all of the NFL1000 rankings from the 2017 season.



Notable Omissions

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    When ranking centers, we needed enough snaps to get a true picture of a player's development in, and effect on, his offense. Those with less than 20 percent of their team's total offensive snaps were exempted from the rankings, including the following:

    • Gino Gradkowski, Carolina Panthers
    • James Ferentz, New England Patriots
    • Joe Hawley, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Deyshawn Bond, Indianapolis Colts

Nos. 40-36

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    40. Spencer Pulley, Los Angeles Chargers

    Pass Protection: 12/25
    Run Block: 
    14/25
    Power: 
    12/20
    Agility: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    57/100

    Pulley doesn't have what it takes to be a starting NFL offensive lineman from a pure traits perspective. The Chargers center put forth admirable effort on tape. But big two-gappers can overwhelm him, and he doesn't have the foot speed to match quick one-gap penetrators by himself. He plays through the whistle, and his effort makes him admirable for a depth option.

                 

    39. Hroniss Grasu, Chicago Bears

    Pass Protection: 11/25
    Run Block: 
    12/25
    Power: 
    13/20
    Agility: 
    16/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    58/100

    Grasu didn't look good in limited 2017 snaps. His lack of play strength is his biggest limitation, as bull-rushers can blow him off the line. He has good hand technique and grip strength to establish and maintain latches, but from the hip down he doesn't possess baseline interior lineman strength.

                

    38. Wesley Johnson, New York Jets

    Pass Protection: 12/25
    Run Block: 
    13/25
    Power: 
    16/20
    Agility: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    59/100

    Johnson looked like he could develop into a serviceable starter after his strong close to 2016. But he didn't improve his technical deficiencies or put many reps on tape in 2017 that showed he could. Johnson's biggest issue is his feet. They stay planted in the dirt on too many reps rather than work to maintain a consistent half-man relationship. As a result, he rarely plays from a strong base. He has a strong upper body that can hold defenders at bay when he does keep them in his 6'5", 297-pound frame, but those instances are too few and far between to matter. That upper-body play strength doesn't translate to the run game, though, as he doesn't have the push needed to drive defenders off the ball.

    37. Tony Bergstrom, Washington Redskins

    Pass Protection: 15/25
    Run Block: 
    12/25
    Power: 
    14/20
    Agility: 
    15/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    62/100

    Bergstrom isn't surprising anyone, but the career backup showed he can be a solid fill-in pass protector. That said, Bergstrom was a horrible fit in the Redskins' run scheme, as he doesn't have the play strength to clear lanes inside for a gap-scheme team that needs power inside.

    36. Daniel Kilgore, San Francisco 49ers

    Pass Protection: 14/25
    Run Block: 
    14/25
    Power: 
    14/20
    Agility: 
    15/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    63/100

    Despite a lack of playmakers, the 49ers need an upgrade over Kilgore more than any other starter. He's started for a few years, and while he doesn't lose reps badly at a high clip, he doesn't make positive plays that often, either. Kilgore doesn't understand how opposing fronts are attacking in real time, and he gets beat mentally with missed loops and split blitzes. Getting a young, dynamic center to pair with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo may be what this offense needs to take the step into the league's elite.    

Nos. 35-31

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    35. Russell Bodine, Cincinnati Bengals

    Pass Protection: 15/25
    Run Block: 
    15/25
    Power: 
    14/20
    Agility: 
    15/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    65/100

    Somehow, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton survived another year with Bodine at center. But if they ever want running back Joe Mixon to reach his potential, they need to give him help up front. No unit was less capable at getting its backs clean second-level looks, and Bodine was a big reason for that. He doesn't have the base-level play strength to handle bull-rushers in pass protection or clear holes in the run game, and that's something the Bengals will have a hard time fixing as he heads into his fifth season. If they are serious about optimizing their offense, it's time to address this line.

                   

    34. Travis Swanson, Detroit Lions

    Pass Protection: 16/25
    Run Block: 
    14/25
    Power: 
    16/20
    Agility: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    65/100

    After a surprising 2016 emergence, Swanson wasn't as consistent in 2017. His feet aren't active enough to consistently match quicker rushers when they shoot gaps, and he often sells out by leaning to try to get back in front of his matchups. That opens him to countermoves right over his face. He has strong hands that can hold leverage opportunities when he creates them, but opponents figured out his tendencies and limited those situations. For Swanson to get back to holding the line in pass protection, he needs to take more practical angles out of his sets and prove he can't get beat with quick penetration every time.

                

    33. Tyler Shatley, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Pass Protection: 16/25
    Run Block: 
    14/25
    Power: 
    16/20
    Agility: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    66/100

    Shatley is an above-average pass protector who displays decent play strength but lacks active feet or mirroring ability. He can't slide and get ready to meet defenders with a set base after moving off the line like others with smoother feet can.

                      

    32. Tyler Larsen, Carolina Panthers

    Pass Protection: 14/25
    Run Block: 
    16/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    66/100

    Larsen is a vanilla interior swing lineman in terms of performance but brings a decent level of play strength that can be hard to find in these backup types. His biggest inconsistency is his hand technique, as he often places his punches too high on opponents' frames and opens his strike zone to counterattacks.

    31. Spencer Long, Washington Redskins

    Pass Protection: 16/25
    Run Block: 
    14/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    66/100

    Long has somehow managed to continue to find a big role in Washington. But while he has proved he can stick around as a versatile interior depth option, the team should strive to revamp part of this group and have five better options than Long heading into camp. With his lack of ability to get to the second level or drive defenders off the ball in the run game, he perpetuates the one-dimensional nature of the Redskins offense that has hurt them the last few years.           

Nos. 30-26

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    30. A.Q. Shipley, Arizona Cardinals

    Pass Protection: 17/25
    Run Block: 
    14/25
    Power: 
    14/20
    Agility: 
    15/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    66/100

    Another year, another decent season of pass protection for Shipley. He's not the type of center who will blow you off the ball in the run game, but the 6'1", 307-pounder is squatty, knows how to create leverage with his hands, and his pre-snap recognition experience is clear. With Bruce Arians' vertical-passing offense gone, that skill set may not have as much value for the Cardinals if they go to a more balanced 2018 attack, so his fit with the new staff is worth watching.

                

    29. Cody Whitehair, Chicago Bears

    Pass Protection: 13/25
    Run Block: 
    17/25
    Power: 
    14/20
    Agility: 
    16/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    66/100

    After an up-and-down rookie season, Whitehair's inconsistent play continued in 2017. The Bears offensive line had brilliant flashes when healthy but fell apart at the first sign of trouble. When injuries struck, things got ugly. Whitehair didn't look comfortable with a midseason shift to guard in the wake of those injuries, and some ugly reps (like tripping over his teammates' feet when they engaged with a defender) resulted. The highs are encouraging when he is in his element, but for him to thrive long term, he needs to play better when chaos strikes.

               

    28. Mike Person, Indianapolis Colts

    Pass Protection: 16/25
    Run Block: 
    15/25
    Power: 
    15/20
    Agility: 
    15/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    67/100

    Person did an admirable job filling in for Ryan Kelly and Deyshawn Bond throughout the year. He lacks play strength, but the 6'4", 300-pounder is smart and has good hand placement. He's also one of the safer depth options available this offseason.

                  

    27. Mitch Morse, Kansas City Chiefs

    Pass Protection: 16/25
    Run Block: 
    14/25
    Power: 
    14/20
    Agility: 
    17/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    67/100

    Morse had a season to forget, as a foot injury limited him to seven games. One of the NFL's most promising young interior linemen coming into the year, the 25-year-old looked like a different player while trying to battle through injury. He missed cut blocks, didn't drive out out of his stance as explosively as he had in the past and took less direct approach angles when attacking the second level. With a full offseason to get healthy, Morse can get back to pushing into the league's top-tier center group once again.

    26. Corey Linsley, Green Bay Packers

    Pass Protection: 14/25
    Run Block: 
    16/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    67/100

    Linsley had a disappointing season, especially in pass protection. After the Packers stuck with him over JC Tretter by letting the latter jump to the Browns, Linsley was in a position to take a big step forward in his fourth year. But his performance leveled off. His biggest issue was his ability to read opposing fronts, which set him up in the wrong direction and put him behind the eight ball when mirroring opponents and attempting to meet them with a set base. He can drive guys off the ball in the run game, but keeping Aaron Rodgers clean as he ages will be vital for this front. Linsley will need to work on his pre-snap keys to do that to his full ability.

Nos. 25-21

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    25. B.J. Finney, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Pass Protection: 15/25
    Run Block: 
    17/25
    Power: 
    16/20
    Agility: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    68/100

    The 6'4", 318-pound Finney is a strong player who can grapple defenders and maintain leverage for a long time through his reps. But in terms of extending his pass sets, he lacks top-tier foot quickness to match up with quicker gap-shooters if he misses his punch. His play is promising, but he hasn't had that many reps over the last two years, and it's hard to put him higher because he hasn't been exposed to much.

                       

    24. Nick Martin, Houston Texans

    Pass Protection: 16/25
    Run Block: 
    14/25
    Power: 
    16/20
    Agility: 
    16/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    68/100

    After a promising start, Martin saw a dip in performance as the Texans offensive line crumbled around him. He has impressive latch ability for a young player, and his hand technique is solid, but the 24-year-old needs to be more consistent in his approach from the hip down. Considering 2017 was basically Martin's rookie season after an early ankle injury in 2016, there was plenty to be hopeful about for Houston fans.

                   

    23. Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers

    Pass Protection: 18/25
    Run Block: 
    16/25
    Power: 
    16/20
    Agility: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    68/100

    Kalil battled a neck injury and only ended up playing six games. He still has nice leverage ability, but his health issues have taken a toll, especially on his approach when working to the second level. That said, he elevates his teammates' play, and Carolina should feel good about rolling him out again in 2018.

               

    22. Ryan Kelly, Indianapolis Colts

    Pass Protection: 15/25
    Run Block: 
    15/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    15/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    68/100

    After grading out as the NFL1000's No. 2 center for 2016, Kelly had an injury-plagued 2017 and his dominant flashes were not as prevalent as a result. That said, he was consistently squeezed out of extending his set due to his teammates' lack of spatial awareness. His linemates often seemed late on twists in his direction, and he had a QB behind him in Jacoby Brissett who held on to the ball way too long. Kelly is a great example of why context is needed in offensive line evaluations.

               

    21. Pat Elflein, Minnesota Vikings

    Pass Protection: 15/25
    Run Block: 
    16/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    68/100

    Elflein took the Vikings' center job right out of the gate and never looked back. The rookie had some bumps part way through the year, particular in pass protection where he had the tendency to lunge at his opponents. But, Elflein flashed impressive hand usage and play strength at the point of attack that should make him a key building block.

Nos. 20-16

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    20. Brett Jones, New York Giants

    Pass Protection: 18/25
    Run Block: 
    15/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    69/100

    After encouraging play in limited reps last season, Jones got a chance to prove himself in 2017. He performed well enough to earn a starting job somewhere on the interior for 2018. Jones wins with power, which he relies on to be a consistent seal in pass protection. Regardless of what happens with Weston Richburg next year, that type of play is something the Giants or perhaps someone else could use.

                   

    19. Chase Roullier, Washington Redskins

    Pass Protection: 17/25
    Run Block: 
    14/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    16/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    70/100

    Roullier had a successful rookie season, flashing an impressive blend of fluidity and play strength in his pass sets. However, it appeared he didn't make the protection calls for Washington like most centers do. Heading into his second year, it will be interesting to see if he takes on that task.

                

    18. Weston Richburg, New York Giants

    Pass Protection: 16/25
    Run Block: 
    17/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    70/100

    Richburg had an odd season, but he did play well when he was on the field. He went on injured reserve after a Week 4 concussion but claimed he had been cleared for multiple weeks near the end of the season without being activated. There seems to be animosity over it, and given the year the 3-13 Giants had, it wouldn't be a surprise if they moved on from Richburg, who's an unrestricted free agent. If they do, expect there to be a hot market for his services, as he'll be one of the most proven offensive line options available.

                     

    17. JC Tretter, Cleveland Browns

    Pass Protection: 17/25
    Run Block: 
    15/25
    Power: 
    15/20
    Agility: 
    17/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    70/100

    The Browns had a rough year up front, especially when you consider the investment they put into Kevin Zeitler and Tretter. But Tretter wasn't the reason for their bigger issues and had a solid season overall, particularly in pass protection. He wasn't much of an asset in the run game, though. He can get to a spot and reset his base, but he won't drive opponents off the ball often, which is how Cleveland used him. You can question his fit and schematic usage, but he wasn't that effective in creating holes. Tretter struggled in play recognition as well. He was slow to pick up opposing stunts and twists and gave up key disruptions. That said, Tretter has active feet and sound hand technique, which make him a nice pass protector.

                

    16. Max Unger, New Orleans Saints

    Pass Protection: 18/25
    Run Block: 
    15/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    70/100

    Unger deserves a lot of credit for his work in 2017. Durability concerns have plagued him throughout his career, but he didn't miss a single snap this past season, helping him anchor one of the NFL's elite offensive lines. That said, the wear and tear he has accumulated over the years has added up, making his feet heavier and hurting his ability to mirror in pass protection as well as get to his spot with a set base in the run game.

Nos. 15-11

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    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    15. Justin Britt, Seattle Seahawks

    Pass Protection: 17/25
    Run Block: 
    15/25
    Power: 
    15/20
    Agility: 
    17/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    70/100

    Britt took a step back as a run-blocker in 2017, although his supporting cast didn't help. He struggled to latch on to bigger two-gappers throughout the season, resulting in some negative runs that set the Seahawks behind the sticks. His mobility in the run game is a plus, but he won't be much of an asset there if Seattle continues to slam its backs up the middle in an attempt to create holes out of short sets.

                       

    14. Mike Pouncey, Miami Dolphins

    Pass Protection: 18/25
    Run Block: 
    16/25
    Power: 
    16/20
    Agility: 
    15/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    71/100

    Pouncey led a pass-protection unit that surprisingly had a good season, but his lack of awareness in the run game set the Dolphins behind the sticks at times. That said, this group struggled to create holes, and while the personnel was a factor, a lot of the issues were schematic. Many of Miami's running problems came on poorly designed slides that relied on tight ends to make key blocks against higher-end defensive linemen and asked the Dolphins' interior to shift gaps and diagnose opposing fronts in real time—something they all struggled with. Pouncey is solid when healthy, but until this blocking scheme puts him and his teammates in better positions to win, they won't.

              

    13. Ben Jones, Tennessee Titans

    Pass Protection: 16/25
    Run Block: 
    18/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    71/100

    The exotic smashmouth offensive attack relies on play strength and tenacity up front, and Jones has quietly been a big part of that over the last couple of years. In pass protection, though, he doesn't keep his head on an active swivel and can miss second-level blitzers and incoming twists. Jones is a steady starter, but his awareness in pass protection will keep him from reaching the next tier as he continues to step into his prime.

                

    12. Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Pass Protection: 18/25
    Run Block: 
    14/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    16/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    71/100

    Pouncey had his best year in pass protection. He gave up no direct sacks (based on my charting) in 2017, and he won with impressive physical tools that allowed him to throw fast punches with some fire behind them. He's also got active feet. He didn't sustain blocks in the run game as long as he did in 2016 for Le'Veon Bell and his patient running style, and his technique wasn't the most refined, but Pouncey still managed to clear some big holes in the run game.

                 

    11. Eric Wood, Buffalo Bills

    Pass Protection: 16/25
    Run Block: 
    17/25
    Power:
     17/20
    Agility: 15/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    71/100

    Wood had a nice bounce-back season after dealing with a serious leg injury in 2016. He won't beat you to a spot and win the body-positioning game, but his upper-body strength is still among the best in the league. In addition, his ability to bench-press defenders out of the A-gap allows him to drive almost anybody off the ball.

10. Ali Marpet, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Pass Protection: 15/25
    Run Block: 
    16/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    18/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    72/100

    After emerging as a linchpin at guard in 2016, Ali Marpet moved to center in 2017. And although there were a couple of early bumps early, he acclimated to his new spot and continued his transformation into one of the league's most consistent interior players. With his physical gifts and rapidly improving technique, he should continue to rise up this list as he gets more comfortable at center.

    —NFL1000 OL Scout Ethan Young

                              

    A nasty attitude and excellent technique in a phone booth are the two primary attributes Marpet brings to the line, regardless of position. He comes off the snap with great leverage, upper-body strength and toughness, making him an ideal man-on-man blocker. He's still learning the intricacies of playing center and can get out of place at times on crack-back blocks and second-level targets, but he has a high ceiling at the position. A Week 12 knee injury put him on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. 

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar

9. John Sullivan, Los Angeles Rams

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Pass Protection: 17/25
    Run Block: 
    17/25
    Power: 
    18/20
    Agility: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    72/100

    People tout left tackle Andrew Whitworth as the Los Angeles Rams' offensive line savior, and rightly so given his impact. However, the upgrade John Sullivan provided on the interior should be recognized. Sullivan looked done before latching on with Los Angeles in 2017 and earning the starting center job. He's proved he still has plenty left in the tank and has been a physically imposing force up front, helping spring big holes for Todd Gurley many times.

    —NFL1000 OL Scout Ethan Young

              

    Sullivan uses his 6'4", 310-pound size and impressive wingspan to envelop defensive tackles at the line of scrimmage, and he has a ton of strength to make his first impact felt. At this point, Sullivan looks a bit slow at the second level and on the hoof, but he was a major player in Los Angeles' run game. 

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar

8. Ryan Jensen, Baltimore Ravens

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    John Grieshop/Getty Images

    Pass Protection: 16/25
    Run Block: 
    18/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    15/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    72/100

    Ryan Jensen had a fantastic season. The Colorado State-Pueblo alum has improved in each of the five seasons he's been in the league and has become a vital cog in the Baltimore Ravens' creative run game. Jensen's schematic importance in what they want to do on the ground cannot be overstated, as he's become the catalyst inside.

    —NFL1000 OL Scout Ethan Young

                 

    Jensen has fantastic tools for playing center. He gets in his stance in a flash after snapping the ball, engages with great leverage, is mobile to and through the second level, and has the toughness and attitude to take a defender down with a cockroach block from time to time. Baltimore's 27th-ranked offense was severely limited in 2017, but none of that was Jensen's fault.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar

7. David Andrews, New England Patriots

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Pass Protection: 17/25
    Run Block: 
    19/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    15/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    74/100

    Perhaps the most underappreciated center in the league, David Andrews continues to exceed expectations. His consistent play and firm seal in the run game have been a big reason for Dion Lewis' rise as one of the most efficient running backs in the league for two years, and quarterback Tom Brady's continued health.

    —NFL1000 OL Scout Ethan Young

                

    As you would expect from a New England Patriots center, Andrews is intelligent and plays assignment-correct football on the inside. He slams into blockers to either side in pass protection and is nimble enough to crack second-level openings. He will lose strength battles from time to time, but he's the most reliable member of an interior line that is in need of overall development.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar

6. Matt Paradis, Denver Broncos

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    Pass Protection: 18/25
    Run Block: 
    17/25
    Power: 
    18/20
    Agility: 
    15/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    74/100

    After bursting onto the scene in 2016, Matt Paradis followed up with a steadier 2017. The Denver Broncos faced a lot of attrition up front as the season went on, and Paradis' leadership and mental skills when making line calls kept their banged-up front from becoming a disaster down the stretch.

    —NFL1000 OL Scout Ethan Young

                 

    Paradis might be the best center in the league when it comes to squaring up with linebackers at the second level. He's tremendously agile and adjusts his body quickly to retain ideal leverage. In 2017, he showed increased strength and leverage at the point of attack. He was a rare bastion of stability in a broken offense.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar

5. Brandon Linder, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Pass Protection: 19/25
    Run Block: 
    18/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    15/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    75/100

    Brandon Linder wasn't complacent after his huge July payday, justifying his big contract as he took a step toward becoming one of the game's most consistent pass protectors. His hand technique has improved during each of his four years in the league, and his ability to bat down defenders' leverage attempts reached new heights in 2017 as he anchored a much-improved Jacksonville Jaguars line.

    —NFL1000 OL Scout Ethan Young

                  

    An outstanding drive-blocker and pass protector, Linder uses his quick feet to stay aligned with his defender no matter where he is on the field. He'll occasionally lose his man when run blocking, but when he latches on and gets going, Linder is one of the main reasons for Jacksonville's success in the power run game. 

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar

4. Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Pass Protection: 15/25
    Run Block: 
    19/25
    Power: 
    16/20
    Agility: 
    19/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    75/100

    There may not be a better offensive lineman in space than Jason Kelce. His range in the open field as a blocker is about as wide as you will find, and his ability to get a firm base down when sliding is a rare trait that allows him to mask some of his other deficiencies. Kelce loses more reps than he should in pass protection, but his ability to mirror one-gap penetrators with fluidity and active feet is impressive.

    —NFL1000 OL Scout Ethan Young

                       

    Kelce has always been tremendous in space and on the move. In previous years, however, he has lost more power battles than he should have at the line of scrimmage. He's obviously worked on his technique and leverage because that was much less of an issue in 2017. He's a mainstay for one of the NFL's most diverse, effective offenses.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar

3. Alex Mack, Atlanta Falcons

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Pass Protection: 16/25
    Run Block: 
    20/25
    Power: 
    17/20
    Agility: 
    18/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    77/100

    Alex Mack is the ultimate second-level player. Thanks to how he explodes out of his stance, his timing and feel for when to peel off combo blocks, as well as his fluidity in the open field, there are not many players who are better at getting on top of smaller bodies and clearing them out of running lanes. His ability to reset his base is among the best in the league and is what gives him an edge in both the run and pass game.

    —NFL1000 OL Scout Ethan Young

                 

    After Mack signed a five-year, $45 million contract with the Falcons in 2016, he struggled with second-level blocking for the first few weeks. But intelligence and technique took over, and Mack became a great blocker in space. He was a key cog in Atlanta's 2016 offense, and though that unit took several steps back schematically in 2017, Mack's effect didn't diminish. He's a tremendous power blocker who has proved an exceptional ability to adapt to whatever scheme is presented to him.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar

2. Rodney Hudson, Oakland Raiders

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Pass Protection: 22/25
    Run Block: 
    19/25
    Power: 
    18/20
    Agility: 
    16/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    81/100

    Rodney Hudson has developed into the NFL's best pass-protection center since arriving in Oakland in 2015, and he's been key in keeping Derek Carr upright on so many of his reps. Hudson's strength is the trump card, and when he combines that with his relentless effort and active feet, it's hard to generate leverage or get him out of position.

    —NFL1000 OL Scout Ethan Young

                  

    Oakland's offense was a problem in 2017, and that included a line that regressed in both run and pass blocking. But when Hudson's isolated on tape, it's clear he's still a tremendous player. Few interior offensive linemen can match his combination of pure in-line power, body control and agility to and through the second level.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar

1. Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Pass Protection: 20/25
    Run Block: 
    21/25
    Power: 
    19/20
    Agility: 
    15/20
    Position Value: 
    6/10
    Overall Grade: 
    81/100

    The most consistently dominant center in the league, Travis Frederick has a combination of play strength and hand technique that no one comes close to. He's the driving force behind a highly touted Dallas Cowboys line and their tone setter in the run game. If you want to beat Frederick, you better be an elite one-gap penetrator with a great first step, because you won't go through him.

    —NFL1000 OL Scout Ethan Young

               

    Frederick is the gold standard at center. It is nearly impossible to beat him one-on-one in a strength battle because he's a leverage monster who'll drive his opponent out of the play. He's also great at quickly controlling his body in short spaces to deal with defenders on either shoulder. The 26-year-old has light feet and quickness to reset his body as a pass-blocker, which makes it tough for any defender to push him back or get past him. It's not often you can claim that one player stands head and shoulders above everyone at his position, but that can be said of Frederick—and it's been true for the last few seasons.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar