Draft 2001: Centers Analysis



The Vikings have been able to find most of their great centers in the late rounds of the draft, including Mick Tingelhoff, Jeff Christy and Matt Birk. This year should be no exception, since the only center likely to go in the first two rounds is Nebraska’s Dominic Raiola, who could go anywhere from late in the first round to midway through the second round. Aside from him, there is an outside chance that no other centers will be picked on the first day of the draft.

DOMINIC RAIOLA, Nebraska, 6-2, 308 —
Fourth-year junior...Two-year starter...All-Big 12 last two years, All-America last year and 2000 Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy finalist last year...Compared to former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, who was taken in the first round by the Bengals in 1983...Incredible weight room man, who benches 500 pounds...Calls the plays for the offensive line with excellent grades from scouts...Has a lot of fire and a nasty temperament on the field...Can play guard as well as center and has experience long snapping...A little shorter than most NFL centers...Ran a 5.09 40 at the Combine, as well as doing 29 reps with 225 pounds and a 33 inch vertical jump.
PROJECTION: Will likely go in the second round, but some project him going to the Ravens with the last pick of the first round.

ROBERT GARZA, Texas A & M-Kingsville, 6-2, 300 —
Fourth-year senior...All-Lone Star Conference the last three years...Also competed in the shot put and discus on the track team, throwing the shot in excess of 60 feet...Made himself a lot of money in the postseason all-star games...Team captain last two years...Has shown the ability to handle the best defensive tackles in college, even though he played for a D-II school...Has good quickness for a 300-pounder...A little shorter than most people want — like Raiola...Playing Division II opposition may scare away some teams...Ran an impressive 4.96 40 at the Combine, as well as doing 37 reps and a 32-1/2 vertical jump.
PROJECTION: Look at the Combine numbers — he rates with anyone. But, because of the lack of week-in, week-out competition, he will likely fall into the third round of the draft.

BEN HAMILTON, Minnesota, 6-5, 304 —
Comes from a good NFL bloodline — his father Wes played for the Vikings for almost a decade...A fifth-year senior...Gained 80 pounds while at college, which has some questioning how that was naturally possible...Four-year starter...Has the advantage of playing against some of the NFL’s most sought-after defensive tackles in the Big Ten the last four years and was never truly dominated...Very intelligent player who has a non-stop motor...A Lombardi Award finalist last year...Played through injuries without missing time on the field...Biggest drawback is his dramatic weight gain — he isn’t a natural 300-pounder like most offensive linemen...Is viewed as a player who will have to go to right team — like Denver — where lighter offensive linemen with great moves are more appreciated...Ran a 5.23 40 at the Combine, but did just 17 reps along with a 33-1/2 inch vertical jump.
PROJECTION: Looks almost locked in as a third-round pick.

CASEY RABACH, Wisconsin, 6-4, 294 —
A fifth-year senior...Four-year starter...All-Big Ten the last two years — at center in 1999 and at guard in 2000...Started 48 games in his college career...A team captain, he was a team leader at all times...Not strong as far as the weight room is concerned...Excellent game strength and flexibility...Played a lot of strong DT’s and was among the conference leaders in least penalties thrown his way...An excellent shotgun center — a rarity among most pure centers joining the NFL...Viewed by some as a pigeonholed deep snapper, but he has more ability than a lot of scouts give him credit for...Didn’t run or jump at the Combine and did only 19 reps, which didn’t improve his stock.
PROJECTION: He’s proved his worth at the Big Ten level, which is usually a benchmark for the pros. He won’t step in as an immediate starter, but has the ability to be a solid pro, so he’ll likely go late in the third round or early in the fourth.

Bernard Robertson, Tulane, 6-3, 302
Jeff McCurley, Pittsburgh, 6-4, 285
Bruce Wiggins, Arizona, 6-2, 285
Chukky Okobi, Purdue, 6-1, 315
David Brandt, Michigan, 6-4, 295
Louis Williams, LSU, 6-4, 300
Brad Harms, Northern Iowa, 6-2, 295

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