As we approach the NFL Draft in April, TFDS is ranking the top prospects at every position. Today's focus, the last of the series of offensive positions, is on the Centers and Guards. Two of the most under appreciated positions in the NFL, Guards and Centers rarely get the credit they deserve on a well working offensive line.
Not glory boys like offensive tackles, Centers and Guards are the players responsible for guarding the quarterback from the biggest threats he'll face – pressure up the middle from defensive tackles and blitzing linebackers or safeties.
Most defenses love a soft interior offensive line because it's much easier to rush up the gut than expend energy trying to go around a left tackle. Here are some prospects the Raiders may consider as they look to solidify their offensive line play under new OL coach Tony Sparano
1. Chance Warmack 6’2 322 lbs Alabama
Dominant is the word that comes to mind when I watch Warmack, who is probably the best college football player in the country. Unfortunately, he’s not typically recognized as such because of the position he plays. However, Warmack has dominated SEC defenses routinely as a member of Alabama’s line.
He’s able to keep some of the best defensive linemen in college football at bay, locking on and eating them up with a vacuum grip. Warmack has a great anchor and uses his hands well in pass protection and those skills transfer well to driving linemen back in the run game.
Warmack will be great addition to any OL and although he played G at Alabama, Center may be a better position due to size.
Pro Comparison: Bobbie Williams
2. Larry Warford 6’3 343 lbs Kentucky
Big man Warford excels at pass protection and taking his man down by “Pancake” (knocking them flat) is one of his specialties.
When watching him, I wanted to see him improve his run blocking by coming out of his stance with more drive and power. A natural leader and very durable, Warford should be starting on Sundays quickly for the team that grabs him.
Pro Comparison: Davin Joseph
3. Barrett Jones 6’4 305 lbs Alabama
A jack of all trades when it comes to linemen, Jones has lined up at tackle, guard and center for the Crimson Tide. A better run blocker then pass blocker, the Outland trophy winner’s best fit may be guard at the next level.
Pro Comparison: Eric Wood
4. Jonathan Cooper 6’3 310 lbs UNC
Cooper may fit in other schemes but I see him best fitting on a team that employs the ZBS scheme in the NFL. On Pulls and traps he is consistently able to get to the second level and driving defenders off the ball.
I wish he had more of a mean streak and he’ll need to add some strength but he can shine in the right scheme.
Pro Comparison: Wade Smith
5. Mario Benavides 6’4 290 lbs
Benavides shows excellent drive in the run game and exhibits the ability to get his hands on his man and redirecting him. He needs to improve his hand technique in pass protection but what he lacks in technical skill he makes up for in scrappiness, enough so to get the job done.
“Super Mario” may be a tad undersized and lack elite athleticism, but he more than makes up for it with a high football I.Q, leadership and passion for the game.
Pro Comparison: Jeff Saturday
For more thoughts on the NFL Draft or the Raiders from Tyler, follow him on Twitter @Raiderpedia