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 "The best crop of centers ever" 
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Post "The best crop of centers ever"
NFL news leading up to the combine
By Pat Kirwan
NFL.com Senior Analyst

(Feb. 22, 2005) -- I'm just a few days from arriving in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. And as I prepare for the big event, I talked with a number of NFL coaches and front-office executives about this year's crop of talent. As always, there are many different perspectives about what the combine will bring out and what are the positives and negatives in this draft.

There is no real reason to overreact to the good or the bad news about this year's talent pool because in the end, there will be good players and bad players, and it will be three years before we know if the 2005 draft was a good one or a bad one as many have predicted.

Let me start out with a positive report on one very important position that is regularly overlooked as a critical draft issue. As one well-respected offensive line coach said to me on the phone this week, "This may be the best draft ever for centers." This is not a coach who tends to over-exaggerate about future NFL talent. I know that it is not often that a center is a first-round pick, but try and be a good football team without an excellent center. The middle man on the offensive line handles the ball every play, makes many of the protection calls for the other linemen, and with the 3-4 defense being very trendy right now, you better have a good one who knows how to handle it.

There are 13 centers invited to the combine. And even though there is a lot of talk about Ben Wilkerson (LSU) and Jason Brown (North Carolina), some NFL coaches see as much, or maybe even more, potential from Michigan guard David Baas and Mississippi center Chris Spencer. Coaches look for different things than scouts look for. And as much as left tackles are a priority for the backside pass protection of a right-handed quarterback, coaches want solid centers to build the offensive line out from the middle. The offensive line coaches I spoke with think Baas and Spencer have all the tools to be great. One coach said, "Spencer is a better prospect than Damien Woody was when he came out."

Don't expect the opinion of a few veteran line coaches to change how the draft will go. The centers may have a run in the late second or early third round, but there are coaches out there that believe first- and early second-round talent is at the center position.


February 25th, 2005, 2:50 am
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Maybe we should let Raiola go, and re-sign McDougle! Considering the OT crop is the worst in years!


February 25th, 2005, 2:51 am
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But, it is hard for an offensive lineman to play well his rookie season.


February 25th, 2005, 9:30 am
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Considering the fact that Baas made the switch to center only this year and did it nearly flawlessly, I feel he could be an exception to the rule 'rookie linemen usually don't play well'.

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February 25th, 2005, 3:56 pm
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Jack Grove played pretty well.

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February 25th, 2005, 8:20 pm
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I thought the centers at the combine were impressive as a group. Guess that doesn't matter now with Raiola re-signing. On the bright side, we have enough to still address on the line at LG and RT. And remember, Backus is a FA next year as well. In that context, perhaps it is a good thing we re-signed Dominic.


February 28th, 2005, 10:32 am
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