Chip off the 'ol blockCompared to past years, the senior class of centers and guards moving toward the 2011 NFL Draft looks rather solid according to the grades handed out by National.  There’s a good mix of big bodied maulers as well as nimble, athletic blockers.  Included are a large number of small school prospects.  Here is the breakdown at each position.

Centers

1) Steve Wisniewski/Penn State: A chip off the old block, Wisniewski is by far the highest rated member of this group with a grade of 6.4.  2nd/3rd Round

2) Rodney Hudson/Florida State: The Seminoles starting guard is rated as a center, likely because of his small frame (6024/279lbs, verified) and poor playing strength.  His grade of 6.1 is solid. 2nd/3rd Round

3) James Pouncey/Florida: Another college guard projected to center, this Pouncey is not as talented as his brother, selected in the first round last April, yet still a solid prospect. 3rd/4th Round

4) Kevin Kowalski/Toledo: Kowalski’s grade of 5.5 was surprisingly high in our opinion. 3rd/4th Round

5) Alex Linnenkohl/Oregon state: Linnenkohl has been durable and dependable on the college level. 5th/7th Round

6) Kris O’Dowd/USC: Many will argue O’Dowd should be rated higher on this list but we agree with his present grade. 5th/7th Round

7) Ryan Bartholomew/Syracuse: Grade, 5.2 5th/7th Round

8) Brandon Fusco/Slippery Rock: Grade, 5.1 5th/7th Round

9) Russell Nenon/Wake Forest: Nenon’s grade of 5.0 is the lowest given for a prospect perceived as draftable.  As a college player we like him; his tenacity, smarts and toughness but feel he does have a limited upside. 5th/7th Round

Notes: Ryan Pugh/Auburn was graded as a priority free agent but we feel he deserved better.  Ditto of John Gianninoto of UNLV, who we think is a much better NFL prospect than his former Rebel teammate John Hawley, drafted in the fourth round in April by the Atlanta Falcons.

How does this compare to last year?  Just five centers were handed draftable grades one year ago and they were all centers in college- not guards who projected to center.  Three (J.D. Walton, Matt Tennant, Ted Larsen) were drafted.  Walton and Tennant both entered the season with grades of 5.7.  The other two (Kenny Alfred, Kyle Mutcher) were not selected.  Eric Olson, selected in the sixth round by the Broncos, was graded as a priority free agent guard.

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Guards

1) Clint Boling/Georgia: The Bulldogs offensive tackle is a technical blocker who struggles in anything other than a small area.  3rd/4th Round

2) Dan Watkins/Baylor: Watkins has the perfect build and playing style for guard.  3rd/4th Round

3) William Rackley/Lehigh: Rackley is a mechanically sound small school blocker we feel was given a higher grade than his talents warrant.  3rd/4th Round

4) Marcus Cannon/TCU: At a verified 6053/363, Cannon is the biggest of the top rated guards.  His forty time of 5.36 is solid for a lineman his size. 3rd/4th Round

5) James Carpenter/Alabama: We are surprised Bama’s left tackle is rated with the guards. Our opinion is he should be graded at his college position. 3rd/4th Round

6) Andrew Jackson/Fresno State: Grade, 5.5. 3rd/4th Round

7) Jarve Dean/Houston: Grade, 5.4 5th/7th Round

8) David Arkin/Missouri State: Grade, 5.4 5th/7th Round

9) John Moffit/Wisconsin: Moffitt, who gave serious consideration to entering last April’s draft, is sized well and can play center.  He has a shoulder issue that must be checked out. 5th/7th Round

10) Brad Thorson/Kansas: Grade, 5.3 5th/7th Round

11) Steve Schilling/Michigan: Schilling was a prospect we put on our radar screen after his freshman season when he started at tackle for the Wolverines.  Like many recent NFL prospects from the Michigan program, his game has leveled off the past two seasons. 5th/7th Round

12) Christopher Stewart/Notre Dame: Stewart is a large lineman (6042/354lbs verified) but a marginal blocker. 5th/7th Round

13) Bryant Browning/Ohio State: Browning has the athletic skills to make a move up boards.  He’s sized well and is very effective in motion. 5th/7th Round

14) Zach Williams/Washington State: Grade, 5.3 5th/7th Round

15) Ray Dominguez/Arkansas: Another college tackle, Dominguez is massive (334lbs) but must really improve his blocking balance.  5th/7th Round

16) Zach Hurd/UConn: Hurd is another massive lineman.  His verified computer numbers are impressive (6067/324lbs/5.14-forty) yet he lumbers around the field and is only effective in a small area.

17) Corey O’Daniel/Gardner-Webb: Grade, 5.2 5th/7th Round

18) Randall Hunt/Illinois: Grade, 5.2 5th/7th Round

19) Keith Williams/Nebraska:  Grade, 5.2 5th/7th Round

20) Jason Kelce/Cincinnati: We concur on the grade given Kelce, 5.1, but many scouts are of the opinion he’s one of the best senior guards in the nation. 5th/7th Round

21) Richard Henry/Nebraska: Grade, 5.1 5th/7th Round

22) Justin Walker/Bloomsburg: Grade, 5.0 5th/7th Round

23) Chris Olson/Texas Tech: Grade, 5.0 5th/7th Round

Notes: Joel Figueroa/Miami, Maurice Hurt/Florida, Laupepa Letuli/Hawaii, Alan Pelc/North Carolina, Dom Alford/Minnesota and Carl Johnson/Florida were all listed as priority free agents.  Letuli, who missed time with a knee injury last season and was recently granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA, has an enormous upside.  We cannot stress how off we think the grade given to Thomas Claiborne of Boston College was.  Claiborne was given a 4.1, the equivalent of being a camp guy.  We think he’s a legit mid-round choice.  Claiborne is slated to take over the center duties from Matt Tennant this season.  A good campaign will only affirm our opinion.

How does this compare to last year?  Only fourteen senior guards were stamped with draftable grades last year, and the top players (Mike Iupati/6.2, Jon Asamoah/6.1, Mitch Petrus/5.8, Mike Johnson/5.6) were all college guards.  Vladimir Duccasse, the second round choice, was the fifth lineman on the list with a 5.5, just below the 5.6 grade given to Rackley of Lehigh.