Chicago Bears center Roberto Garza is a 13-year veteran who turns 35 in March. If he returns to Chicago, it won't likely be for long. GM Phil Emery will surely be looking at this year's draft for a pivot player that could fill Garza's shoes in the long-term.
Admittedly, the 2014 class of centers is weak, with only three or four expected to land in the fourth round or higher. One player who stood during Senior Bowl practices was Weston Richburg out of Colorado State.
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
Weston Richburg (6-4, 300)All-Mountain West first-team honoree in 2013.
Projected: 3rd Round
Richburg is a very athletic offensive lineman who moves well. He's gets down the line quickly on pulls and traps and is at his best out in front of pitch plays. He's not a mauler but he understands the value of body positioning as a run blocker and uses leverage to his advantage. He always finishes plays and shows nastiness and aggression. His skill set would fit very well in a zone-blocking scheme.
In pass protection, Richburg is solid. He sinks his hips well and has a strong punch. He uses a wide stance and good balance to keep from getting pushed backward. He showed good awareness against the blitz and an ability to peel off block to block.
Richburg is not a powerful player off the snap. With a head of steam he can roll a defender but he's not going to push back many NFL defensive tackles out of his stance. He also tends to lean too much as a run blocker, allowing defenders to rip past him. He has great agility at the second level but he tends to give up on downfield blocks too early.
Richburg lunges in pass protection at times, which leads to some ugly missed blocks. He struggles against powerful blitzers in one-on-one situations, as he typically can't match their strength.
Richburg's ability to move was his most impressive on-field trait during Senior Bowl week. He's technically sound with his first few steps and can quickly get out of his stance and down the line. He was also outstanding adjusting to defenders in space. He would be a perfect fit for the Bears' zone-blocking system.
He's even better in pass protection, where his good balance and quick feet serve him well. Richburg also brings durability and experience – he started 49 consecutive games in four seasons for the Rams – two very valuable traits for an NFL center. From what we've seen in person and on film, he appears to be a Day 1 starter at the next level.
Richburg's stock went up at the Senior Bowl. He's no worse than a third round pick at this point and could jump into the late second round if he also tests well at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, where his athleticism will be on display.
Even if Garza returns for one more season, the Bears should still give Richburg strong consideration if he's available in the third round. He's a seasoned pivot man who should be able to step in and produce right away.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is entering his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.