Ranking the Centers: Mangold is No. 1
Jets' Nick Mangold tops NFL centers, followed by Ravens' Matt Birk
After watching games and breaking down film, Scouts Inc. has evaluated and graded more than 2,500 NFL players heading into the 2011 season. Here's how the centers stacked up.
Another position that often gets overlooked actually has a real star. Nick Mangold is a flat-out runaway for the top center. As for how we grade, it starts with smarts. Centers must be extremely intelligent, able to uproot 350-pound nose tackles in the run game, but also call out blitzes and quietly do a lot of the work in pass protection many assume the quarterback is taking care of.
Mangold has excellent initial quickness to gain leverage early in the play. He understands angles and how to leverage larger defenders.
Mangold uses quick hands and a deceptively strong initial pop to maintain body positioning at the point of attack. He lacks great lateral quickness and agility on the second level. He doesn't have great natural strength to anchor versus powerful bull-rushers but uses pad level and technique to keep larger defenders at bay.
Birk is a crafty veteran who understands angles and leverage as an interior blocker. He is an excellent technician who uses his hands well to maintain body position.
He is athletic enough to slam and chip to the second level and stay connected with his target. He is effective in space and keeps his pads over his feet well when blocking downfield. He can anchor in the middle against powerful bull-rushers and has the quickness and range to make blocks on the perimeter.
Pouncey is a tenacious competitor who finishes his blocks with attitude. He has great initial quickness, foot agility and balance to gain leverage at the line of scrimmage.
. He plays with active hands and understands angles. He is quick to react to stunts and twists and is rarely out of position as plays develop. He plays with consistent pad level and is an excellent technician considering his youth.
Brown has prototypical dimensions for the position with excellent bulk and power. He is a good knee bender who can keep his pad level down to leverage blocks and create movement at the point of attack.
He has above-average initial quickness and short-area agility. He does a good job of getting a fit with his hands and steering opponents on by the pocket in pass protection. He is a smart center who understands blocking angles and is quick to recognize stunts and twists up front. He is a competitive blocker who works hard to finish blocks off and plays with an attitude.
Kalil has become the cornerstone of Carolina's offensive line. He is not a dominating blocker but has very good foot quickness, agility and body control.
He is an excellent technician and knows how to leverage blocks by keeping his pad level down and is a pretty good knee bender as he works to get under his opponent's pads. He shows excellent effort and competitiveness and does a good job of finishing his blocks off. He is most effective when he's facing an even front, as he can chip off double teams to work his way up to the second level to block linebackers.
To see the rest of Scouts Inc.'s ratings of every center in the NFL -- plus access to the rankings for every other NFL player -- you must be an ESPN Insider.
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