2011 NFL Draft Top 5 Center Prospects
*Note: Guys like Mike Pouncey, Danny Watkins and Rodney Hudson (among others) could also play center, but I’m ranking them with the guards
1. Stefen Wisniewski- Wisniewski could also play guard at the next level, but he is the best natural center in this class, and I think that is his best fit at the next level. Wisniewski plays with a great base and really locks into defenders, when he gets his hands on them. He is quick out of his stance and shows above average agility making him a fit for any system. He also shows a good bit of smarts making him capable of reading blitzes and calling protections at the next level. His uncle was a long time All-Pro center for the Raiders, and Wisniewski seems to have inherited the family talent. Top 35 talent, could sneak into the first round, but much more likely to be drafted early-mid 2nd round.
2. Brandon Fusco- Fusco was an All-american, at Division-II Slippery Rock University. While he hasn’t faced the big time players on a regular basis, he shows the upside to develop into a very good starter. Fusco more than held his own during the Senior Bowl week of practices, displaying good athleticism for a guy his size and a decent anchor. He showed himself to be a fighter and never gives up on a block. Fusco is the type of guy who will have some growing pains, but he should reach his potential. Top 120 talent, could sneak into the 4th round, but I’m guessing his small school background will keep him in the 5th round.
3. Alex Linnenkhol- Linnenkhol isn’t a mauler and isn’t great with a NT on top of him, but when he gets a chance to pull or block in the second level he really shines. Linnenkhol uses his speed to drive the defender, and he is very quick off the ball. He shows good leverage and never gives up on a block. He will struggle versus bigger tackles, but still could develop into a starting caliber center. Top 140 talent, should be taken in the 5th-6th round range.
4. Kris O’Dowd- O’Dowd is a great kid with a good head on his shoulders that you want to root for, but I’m just not sure if he can make it to the next level. He really struggled during Senior Bowl week in one-on-one matchups. He did play better in full squad drills, but overall there is a lot of concern there for him at the next level. He doesn’t play with the best technique or leverage and doesn’t have a mean streak. Right now I think he is backup material at best, but do think if he works hard at it he could develop into more. Top 160 talent, likely a 6th or 7th rounder.
5. Tim Barnes- Barnes is a guy I have really mixed feelings about. On one hand he displays a ton of natural ability and raw talent, but on the other his technique and execution leave a lot to be desired. I love his athletic ability and quickness off the ball, but he seems to get countered by defenders to easily. I think he is better in pass protection overall, but flashes good run blocking ability. He’s a bit of a project player for me, and a guy that could develop into a starter down the road. Top 180 talent, 7th rounder, but could rise with good workouts.