Center Ranks: Nick Mangold No. 1
Jets pivot still heads class, but young talent closing gap
After watching games and breaking down film, Scouts Inc., in conjunction with ESPN.com's Matt Williamson, has evaluated and graded more than 2,500 NFL players heading into the 2012 season. Here's how the top centers stacked up.
Note: No rookies were included in this exercise. Age refers to player's age at start of 2012 season on Sept. 5.
Centers generally are not as tall or as impressive physically as offensive tackles or as thickly built as guards, but their mind for the game is extremely important. The center acts as the leader up front and is almost always in charge of the line calls and adjustments.
Today's centers also must be able to brace up and handle the bull rush from 350-pound nose tackles and use leverage and technique to move these opponents off the ball in the run game. Centers also need to show quick feet and balance to reach linebackers on the second level or handle the off-the-ball quickness of the NFL's most athletic interior defensive linemen.
Nick Mangold has been the standard at this position in the league now for some time. Taller than most of his pivot counterparts, Mangold doesn't sacrifice leverage despite his height because of his excellent ability to bend at the knees and stay low no matter the situation. There is a fine group of young centers though that is looking to dethrone Mangold. Alex Mack, the Pouncey twins, Ryan Kalil and Eric Wood immediately come to mind as the possible heir apparent to Mangold.
Here's how these players all stack up:
Mangold has been one of the most durable and productive centers in the league since entering the NFL in 2006. He is an instinctive interior lineman who plays with excellent technique to leverage larger defenders.
He utilizes active hands and deceptive strength to anchor the middle in pass protection and is effective at the point of attack in the running game. Mangold brings leadership and consistency to the Jets' offensive line.
Pouncey bounced back from an ankle injury to perform well in 2011. He has an excellent combination of size, strength and athleticism.
He anchors the middle of the Steelers' offensive line with great quickness, active hands and pad level to leverage interior defenders. Pouncey is a smart, instinctive center who already plays at a high level but should continue to improve in 2012.
He will work to keep his feet alive and active to sustain his blocks. He can keep his pad level down to leverage blocks but is more of a finesse blocker than a powerful road grader. He can line up at either guard or center.
To see the rest of the center rankings -- and get access to rankings for every NFL player -- you must be an ESPN Insider.
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