Bears Draft Prospects: Center

C Peter Konz (Jeff Hanisch/USP)

Chicago may turn to the draft to find an eventual replacement for 33-year-old Roberto Garza. Here is the short list of center prospects likely to be selected later this month.

Last season, Chicago Bears center Roberto Garza was named a Pro Bowl alternate. It was a surprising feat for a player that had never suited up as a center in any of his previous 10 NFL seasons.

Yet it's even more surprising because the tape shows Garza may not have lived up to the honor.

The veteran lineman provides experience and leadership in the middle, two valued traits in an NFL center, yet his production in 2011 was subpar. More often than not, the film shows Garza getting worked over by defensive linemen.

Pro Football Focus ranked Garza's performance last season the second worst of any center in the league. In essence, he provides more value in the locker room than he does on the field. That was enough for the club to sign him to a two-year extension last season.

But the tape doesn't lie. Garza is in the twilight of his career. At 33 years old, he only has one or two more serviceable seasons left.

The Bears also have Chris Spencer on the roster, a natural center that is three years younger than Garza. Yet Spencer will become a free agent after this year and at 30 years old, he's no spring chicken.

Chicago GM Phil Emery would be wise to use this year's draft to find a long-term answer at the center position.

Here is the short list of draft-worthy prospects available in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Peter Konz, Wisconsin (6-5, 314)
Konze is taller than the typical center but plays with good knee bend and pad level. He was a productive collegiate player that started three years in Madison, earning All-American and All-Big Ten honors, and being named a Rimington Trophy finalist last year. His blitz and stunt pick up is top-tier. Konz's size often hurts him and allows defenders to gain leverage and drive him backward. He missed half of last season with an ankle injury that still isn't fully healed. He participated in only the bench press at the combine and put up a paltry 18 reps. Strength and durability are concerns.
Projected: 2nd round


C Ben Jones
Kim Klement/US Presswire

Ben Jones, Georgia (6-3, 303)
Jones is a four-year starter with experience making all the line calls. A leader on the field, he was a Rimington Trophy finalist as a senior. He didn't stand out at the combine and lacks superb athleticism – yet his 29 bench reps were still 11 more than Konz. Jones is a savvy player who relies on angles and technique more than brute strength. He's not going to blow defensive linemen out of the hole but he uses good leverage and understands how to keep himself between defenders and the ball carrier. His footwork needs to improve and he struggles at times in the open field. His lack of explosiveness will hurt him in the pros.
Projected: 3rd round

Michael Brewster, Ohio State (6-4, 312)
Brewster is another four-year starter and on-field leader. His experience and competitiveness will make him a quality backup coming into the league and a starter down the line. He has a solid base and can handle bigger nose tackles. Quicker defenders give him trouble, as his in-line footwork needs a lot of work. At the second level, he's very good at tracking and engaging linebackers.
Projected: 3rd-4th round

Philip Blake, Baylor (6-2, 311)
Blake did not start playing football until his senior year in high school. He lacks experience and is still a project. Yet he has good size and steadily improved each year at Baylor. Blake is a powerful blocker that can move big defensive linemen. If he learns to play with a consistent base, he'll be a mauler. He's also good at mirroring defenders in pass protection. Blake is raw but has a lot of upside.
Projected: 4th round

David Molk, Michigan (6-1, 298)
Molk was the winner of the Rimington Award last season. He's a four-year starter that can make all the up-front calls. Due to a foot injury, he only participated in one event at the combine, the bench press. His 41 reps were second best amongst all players and by far the best of any offensive lineman. As far as strength is concerned, Molk is top tier. He's quick off the line and can drive defenders back. He lacks ideal technique and needs to work on finishing his blocks. There are concerns he was an overachiever in college and his game may not translate well to the pros.
Projected: 5th round

Quentin Saulsberry, Mississippi St. (6-2, 304)
Quentin is a four-year starter who has experience at guard, center and right tackle. He has good footwork and is quick off the ball. He's fluid in his pass sets. Quentin lacks ideal strength and is often pushed around inside. He'll struggle against bigger defenders. Yet his versatility makes him a solid third-day selection.
Projected: 5th round

Garth Gerhart, Arizona St. (6-1, 305)
Gerhart is a throwback player that lacks athleticism but is willing to do whatever it takes to get the guy across from him blocked. He's a high-effort center with experience at guard. He doesn't stand out on paper but he makes up for it with his football savvy. Gerhart brings it each and every play. Some technique work could turn him into an NFL starter down the line.
Projected: 7th round

BEAR REPORT PICK

The Bears aren't desperate at the center position. There are a number of other more-pressing needs on the roster. Which is why it makes sense for the club to wait until the middle rounds to select a center.

There isn't a single player on this list that is overly impressive. All have question marks and no one truly stands out.

The most-attractive player is Blake, who still has room to improve. The rest of the players appear to have hit their ceiling. What you see is what you get. Yet Blake could develop into a top-line starter at the next level. He could learn behind Garza and Spencer for a couple of seasons, rounding out his game in the process, and then take over in the middle once both players move on.

As a seventh-round selection, I really like Gerhart. He's not a big-time athlete but he reminds me of Olin Kreutz in his nastiness and desire to take any road necessary at making a block. He appears to be a great teammate and a potential steal in the last round of the draft.

Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

BearReport.com Recommended Stories