2006 Draft Preview: Centers

It seems like every draft is "feast or famine" when it comes to the crop of centers available. For the most part, it has been famine as the talent has been thin. But that changed last April after the likes of Chris Spencer was selected in the first round. And, while the outlook for 2006 is not bad - which is good news for the Niners if they need to begin searching for a replacement for two-time Pro Bowler Jeremy Newberry - there are some limitations.

The top prospects at center are all similar as the best players are quick, explosive yet undersized and lacking for strength.

Minnesota's Greg Eslinger has been an All Conference performer and very productive player in college.  Smart and athletic, Eslinger is effective blocking on the move and does an outstanding job quarterbacking the offensive line.  Barely 285-pounds, he is not a blocker who opens up the middle of the field nor a center teams will consistently run behind.

In similar fashion, Donovan Raiola of Wisconsin, whose brother Dominic plays for the Lions, is an outstanding athlete that quickly gets downfield and stands out blocking in motion.  Raiola possesses tremendous feet and blocking skills in space but at 280-pounds, is another that does not create large holes for the ball carrier.

A third center from the Big Ten, Ohio State's Nick Mangold, also grades out highly.  The biggest of the group, Mangold tips the scales at 288-pounds.  Like the other pair Manglod must add bulk and strength to his frame but is an intelligent blocker on the pivot who gives top effort for 60-minutes.

Pat Ross is much like his predecessor at Boston College, Dan Koppen, now starting center for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.  A tough, heady blocker with a great feel for the game Ross is a limited athlete who can start in the right system.

Florida's Mike Degory is also a consistent lineman that has done well on the college level.  Effective in all aspects, he offers a good amount of upside potential for the next level.

Were a single player from this position possibly to make a move up draft boards it would be Fresno State junior Kyle Young.  Sized well at 6-feet 5-inches tall and 310 pounds, Young is a drive blocker who also stands out in pass protection.

Top Ten Centers

 Name School
Donovan Raiola Wisconsin
Kyle Young* Fresno State
Greg Eslinger Minnesota
Pat Ross Boston College
Nick Mangold Ohio State
Mike Degory Florida
Nick Mihlhauser Washington State
Trevor Rees* Northwestern
Enoka Lucas* Oregon
Chris Morris Michigan State

* Denotes Underclassmen

Niners Digest Top Stories