Richner: 2014 Top Cs

Last Updated: 1/18/2015 8:58 PM ET
Since 2000, there have been eight centers drafted in the first round. In 2013, the Dallas Cowboys shocked almost everyone when they selected Travis Frederick from Wisconsin in the first round. A number of NFL team's had Frederick rated as at best a third round talent. Only once since 2000 has more than one center been drafted in the first round. In 2009 Eric Wood (Buffalo) and Alex Mack (Cleveland). The last five NFL All-Pro centers were either selected in the first round (Nick Mangold, Maurkice Pouncey) or second round (Ryan Kalil, Max Unger).

Centers can be a position where bigger isn't always better. A bigger body can block a quarterback's sight and throwing lanes, some scouts and coaches won't be shy in taking a center under 6'3” that weighs around 300 pounds. They have to have the athletic ability to pull and trap block. An athletic center should have enough speed and quickness to get to the second level to seal defenders to create wide running lanes.

This year's offensive linemen are ranked and evaluated using both career and single season stats, such as sacks allowed. In addition, we also utilize a complex Combine performance formula that evaluates and compares each player's measurables with those of the top offensive tackles in the NFL.

The center and quarterback need to be linked, they are both working in unison to get the protection calls correct and everyone in the right spot. A center that can study, learn and then communicate defensive tendencies to get the right protection or shift the line in the right direction is extremely valuable. The mental makeup of the center position is one of the most important components in evaluating the position.

For ranking purposes, we have broken the center into three groups. The first group is the top five pass blockers. A top tier pass blocking center has to have the skill set to handle the power rushers. They must possess the strength and leverage to hold their ground and not be driven back into the quarterback's pocket. Most scouts are looking for knee benders, this way they have a solid foundation and balance to take on a defender. They need to keep their head on a swivel.

The second category of offensive center is in run blocking. A top tier center should dominate his opponent at the point of attack, play low and with leverage, and they must finish their blocks.

Most NFL teams now run a zone-blocking scheme, which relies on players acting as a unit versus taking on individual assignments. In a man-blocking scheme, each player has a specific opponent that he must block on each play. A zone blocking scheme puts emphasis on speed and quickness. In a man-blocking scheme, power and strength are usually emphasized as they must be able to move their opponent out of the gap or, in some cases, move an entire pile to pick up key yards.

The final rankings are the top-10 overall rankings for the offensive group. These rankings include both the pass blocking, run blocking and Combine measurables to determine an overall rating.

Top 5 Pass-Blocking Centers (Number team sacks allowed in 2013)
1) Gabe Ikard (Oklahoma) (15)
2) Marcus Martin (USC) (34)
3) Brian Stork (Florida State) (33)
4) Tyler Larsen (Utah State) (33)
5) Russell Bodine (UNC) (21)

Top 5 Run-Blocking Centers (2013 Total Rushing Yards, YPR, Rushing TD, YPG)
1) Travis Swanson (Arkansas) (2,504; 5.28; 14; 208.7)
2) Weston Richburg (Colorado State) (2,861; 5.01; 37; 204.4)
3) James Stone (Tennessee) (2,261; 4.92; 18; 188.4)
4) Russell Bodine (UNC) (1,928; 3.93; 19; 148.3)
5) Tyler Larsen (Utah State) (2,493; 4.21; 21; 178.1)

Top 15 Overall Offensive Centers:
1) Weston Richburg (Colorado State)
2) Gabe Ikard (Oklahoma)
3) Tyler Larsen (Utah State)
4) Travis Swanson (Arkansas)
5) Brian Stork (Florida State)
6) Marcus Martin (USC)
7) Russell Bodine (UNC)
8) Corey Linsley (Ohio State)
9) James Stone (Tennessee)
10) Chris Elkins (Youngstown State)
11) Matt Paradis (Boise State)
12) Matt Armstrong (Grand Valley State)
13) Jonotthan Harrison (Florida)
14) Gus Handler (Colorado)
15) Zac Kerin (Toledo)