Draft 2002: Looking at the centers

<P><STRONG>Andre Gurode, Colorado </STRONG>(6-4, 316 lbs., 5.34) -- Gurode is an overpowering run blocker with long arms and a wide base. He is capable of starting at center or guard during his rookie campaign, but occasionally has trouble moving in space and cutting off quick interior pass rushers.

Despite his average 40-time he has good footwork and can be an impressive pulling guard.

Gurode plays with a lot of strength and leverage, which allows him to get underneath defenders pads and drive them off the line of scrimmage. He also has quite a mean streak on the field that aids him in pancake blocking foes.

Gurode's consistency and versatility will allow him to be one of the first interior lineman chosen.

LeCharles Bentley, Ohio State (6-2, 299 lbs., 5.21) -- Bentley is a very technically sound center that plays the position with great confidence. He has some trouble with faster defenders, but always gets into correct position and does a good job shielding off opponents.

His 38 reps of 225 pounds during his Pro Day is tops among offensive lineman available this year. He won the Dave Rimington Trophy, given to college football's top center. Bentley played all three line positions in college, but the pivot spot is where he will earn his keep in the pros. His work ethic, tenacity and ability to take control in the huddle will all help him become a solid starting center in the NFL.

Melvin Fowler, Maryland (6-3, 306 lbs., 5.36) -- Fowler is a terrific technician that plays with a mean streak and controlled the line of scrimmage for the Terrapins offense. He has matured into a 300-pound blocker, but lacks the growth potential of several other prospects at this position. After several off-season shoulder surgeries he has finally been able to hit the weight room with authority and recorded 32 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine.

He has good footwork and moves much better than his 40-time might indicate, but he is subject to the bull rush and will need help when facing certain defenders. Fowler is clearly the best center that Maryland has produced since former Detroit All-Pro Kevin Glover. A good comparison to Fowler in today's game would be Tim Ruddy (Dolphins).

Seth McKinney, Texas A&M (6-3, 300 lbs., 4.98) -- McKinney is a solid all-around athlete. He has excellent size and strength, while also blocking equally as well against both the pass and run. His added work in the weight room has now made him better equipped to handle the 330-plus pound defenders that roam the interior of many NFL defensive lines. McKinney also played some guard during the Senior Bowl practice week and took turns as his team's deep snapper. He is a smart, active blocker that should easily be taken on the first day.

Scott Peters, Arizona State (6-3, 300 lbs., 5.07) -- Peters is a solid run blocker, but lacks the ideal footwork needed to handle quicker defenders. He can play either center or guard and showed excellent weight room strength by doing 36 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine. His blue-collar work ethic and leadership skills tend to rub off on the rest of the lineman he plays with, which more than makes up for his limited athleticism and upside. Peters would be a solid fit for teams that are in need of interior linemen that are close to being ready for action like Oakland, NY Giants, New Orleans and Buffalo.

 "Sleeper" -- Kurt Anderson, Michigan (6-4, 302 lbs., 5.21) -- Anderson earned All-Big Ten honors, won the Hugh Rader Award, which is given annually to Michigan's Most Valuable Offensive Lineman and did not allow a single sack this season. That's right -- Anderson faced Wisconsin's Wendell Bryant, Tennessee's combo of John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth and Washington's Larry Tripplett without allowing one sack. His ability to go from exchange to engagement is impressive -- he is an equally strong pass/run blocker, but really shows a solid base at the point of attack and finishes off his blocks with regularity.

He is also a very bright, high character player that has his priorities straight and possesses the type of leadership skills that will one day make him the go-to guy in the huddle, which is key for being a successful NFL center.

John Murphy, is the editor of www.draft2002.com and Director of Scouting and Evaluation for NL Sports. Be sure to check out the most in-depth, up-to-the-minute 2002 NFL Draft website and you can also email your draft questions to John from the www.draft2002.com website.

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