Continuing my positional rankings for the last decade, today's focus is the center position. This decade of centers probably does not match the previous few eras in big names, but nonetheless, there were certainly some standouts at the position.
The honorable mentions this time are LeCharles Bentley, whose career was ended early by injury and Jeremy Newberry, who got edged out for the 10th spot due to lack of postseason play.
Koppen was selected in the fifth round of the 2003 draft and has been the anchor of the Pats line since his first game as a rookie. He has appeared in three Super Bowls, one Pro Bowl, and started 103 regular season games at center.
You won't find a younger player on any of my all-decade rankings, but it is hard to deny Mangold's presence at the position in his four years of play.
Mangold has started from day one and hasn't missed a game yet. He is a two-time Pro Bowler and was selected a first team All-Pro after his 2009 campaign. He has been a big reason the Jets have improved in rushing offense in each of his four seasons, jumping to No. 1 in the league last season.
Gurode would be higher on most people's lists, as he has been to four consecutive Pro Bowls. The reason he drops down some in my book is I think he is slightly overrated, and he played much of his first four seasons at guard. However, there is no denying he has been one of the better players at his position and is consistent in both areas of protection.
O'Hara is one of the more underrated players at the position, but has been a rock for the Giants the last seven seasons. O'Hara has been elected to the last two Pro Bowls and has only missed one start since the 2004 season.
Tom Nalen accomplished even more in the 90's than this decade, but he did start 108 games and was elected to his last two Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams this decade. One of the better centers of the last couple generations, someday Nalen will get Hall of Fame consideration. Not too bad for a seventh round pick.
Hartings retired over three seasons ago now, and the Steelers still haven't filled the void.
Playing guard for most of his career in Detroit, in 2001 the Steelers signed Hartings to be their starting center and his career took off. Hartings started 89 games in the regular season at center, was a two-time Pro Bowler, one-time All-Pro, and helped the Steelers win Super Bowl XL.
Matt Birk is the consummate professional and was a big reason the Vikings were one of the best run teams of the decade. Birk has started 139 games at center and has been to six Pro Bowls. He joined the Ravens last year and provided steady veteran leadership on a young offense. Birk still has the gas to keep going a few more years and continue his great career.
Saturday is probably the best pass blocking center on the list and only missed six games this entire decade. The unheralded aspect of his game is his recognition of defenses and blitz packages. He has been a huge part of Peyton Manning's pre-snap reads his entire career. Saturday is a four time Pro Bowler, two time All-Pro, and has been to two Super Bowls as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
I chose to put Kreutz's face as the picture because he seems to be known very little outside of Bears fans and football fanatics, but there is no question he was one of the best this decade. Only missing one start since 2000, Kreutz went to six straight Pro Bowls, helped the Bears get to a Super Bowl, and was voted first team All-Pro after the 2006 season.
Mawae is the most well known of the centers of the 2000's, partly because of his role in the NFLPA, but mostly because he has been to six Pro Bowls in the past 10 years and was twice voted All-Pro. Mawae's teams have almost always been in the top 12 of rushing in the NFL, and he is just as good as a pass protector. He is getting up there in age, but is still one of the more consistent centers in the league.