There are more need positions on a team that finished 6-0 in the division than I thought. One position that most on this blog have begged for an upgrade ever since Barrett Robbins went on a drug-induced tirade before the Super Bowl is the center position. It was obvious as soon as we found out Jared Veldheer would be starting the season opener at Tennessee how big a need this was. It is possibly the second most important position after blindside tackle in the trenches and with the division boasting so many NTs it is a big a need as there is. Luckily here are a few young men that look to be up to the task of fulfilling our dreams of the next Jim Otto or at least Don Mosebar.
Stefen Wisniewski - Center Penn St.
The Wiz's nephew has been on many of the Raider Nation's radars well before the 2009 campaign came to a close. Not only because of his relation to Steven but he has been projected at the top of a true need position for quite some time. The young man is the best true center prospect coming out hands down based on all the snaps he took his junior and senior seasons, While some have questioned his ability to get around on pulling blocks because he lacks good quickness, the film shows otherwise. His ability to get to the second level on run and screens seems effortless and his pass protection technique to square up his man is incomparable to all other prospects in this class. What may get over-looked the most is his intelligence. He is the definition of a scholar-athlete with a 4.0 GPA which really helps the transition to NFL signal-caller that much easier. I wouldn't be surprised to see Oakland use a package of some sort to nab him early in round 2 if he falls out of the 1st.
Another case of pedigree making a prospect's value rise even higher. Pouncey was already a top guard prospect last year when his brother left for the NFL. This year starting at center along with his brother Maurkice's quick success in less than a full season makes him the top interior lineman prospect by far in the year's draft. His issues snapping the ball out of the shotgun this season shows he is not the versatile athlete that Wisniewski is. He is however the better guard prospect especially with his 6'5 310 pound frame. He has a quick jab move on pass protection that knocks opponents off-balance and his great technique on getting lower pad level on pull blocks makes him probably the best power blocking interior prospect in this year's class. He is in high demand by so many good teams just looking for offensive line depth that I don't see him dropping out of round 1.
Rodney Hudson - Guard Florida St.
A solid player in all facets of the game. He shows good footwork in pass protection helping out his co-horts at tackle when they are beat. Watching footage of a game versus UNC from 2009 is much more impressive than footage from 2010 since the Tarheels were missing five of their highly-touted starters on defense this season due to suspensions. The Seminoles run primarily power-based blocking and Hudson consistently dominated his man down after down in spite of the lack of talent surrounding him. He is a very solid guard prospect and while I haven't seen him play center his coaches stated he can play the position if asked.
Kristofer O'Dowd - Center Southern California
A great teammate since he makes up for what he lacks physically with 100% effort as no play is dead until well after the snap. He gets a great push right off the snap and shows perfect technique when leading on short yardage. He is a savvy player as well on screens as he shows great awareness. He was playing with a torn labrum last year which will definitely shy some teams away from him. He is by far the number two center prospect in this year's draft.
Alex Linnenkohl - Center Oregon St.
A mauler in the run game and the key member of the experience-laden Beaver front five. That sounds wrong. He was not as impressive on film as I might have hoped however that may have more to do with the TCU Wrecking Crew defense than the young man's talent. He does show good technique in pass protection mirroring his man and regularly showing good balance as well. He's projected anywhere between the 3rd-5th round.
Jake Kirkpatrick - Center TCU
The Remington Award winner which recognizes the nation's top center deserves notice. He was also the offensive line signal-caller of the undefeated Horned Frog's offense. He has great size which makes him a great match-up for all defenses especially with about half of the league using a variation of the 3-4 and the more athletic nose guards sprouting up everywhere. He rarely makes mistakes and held his own versus 1st-round prospect NT Stephen Pae' of Oregon St. With a great combine more scouts will start paying attention and he could rise up the draft boards quickly.
So now with all the meat potatoes on your plate which of these will satisfy your hunger for the next great Raider center? For any others you think might be worthy not on this list please submit your comment below.