2014 Combine Preview: Center

Posted Feb 20, 2014

The Lions are still on the lookout for an eventual replacement at center for Dominic Raiola and might be able to get great value in a lot of different draft slots

The NFL Scouting Combine kicks off Thursday in Indianapolis and it'll give teams like the Detroit Lions a chance to get real measurables and medical reports on the more than 300 prospects expected to take part.

It's an opportunity for teams to get a lot of information for their draft boards and start to put names with needs.

We've already taken a look at the wide receiver, cornerback, safety, linebacker and the defensive end positions in the days leading up to the Combine.

We'll wrap up our look at some of the Lions' biggest needs this offseason, what prospects could fill those spots and what questions need to be answered in Indianapolis with a look at the center position.

Dominic RaiolaC Dominic Raiola (Photo: Gavin Smith)

Why do the Lions need another center?

The team signed veteran Dominic Raiola, 35, for another season at $1.5 million, and it was a justified raise for the way he played in his 13th season in 2013. He had his finest year as a professional and proved players can get better with age.

Raiola isn’t getting any younger, however, and the Lions don’t have long-term plan in place for the day Raiola isn’t putting on that No. 51 jersey anymore.

Where does the roster stand?

Raiola is on a one-year deal, and that’ll likely be the case the rest of his career.

The team likes youngster Rodney Austin, but they project him to be a better guard than they do center.

Veteran Dylan Gandy has played the backup center/swing guard role for the Lions for the last five seasons. He’s an unrestricted free agent, and could sign back, but he’ll be 32 in March, so he doesn’t seem a long-term option, either.

The team signed rookie Darren Keyton to a futures deal. He was in camp with the team last summer as an undrafted free agent but was released.

Who in the draft could fit?

There seems to be terrific value in this draft in a lot of different draft slots.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock recently released his top five players at every position and lists USC junior Marcus Martin (6-3, 310) as the top prospect at center.

Martin is a player who could slip into the second round. He’s not as polished as some of the more recent first-round draft picks and center isn’t considered a high-value position in the first round.

Teams will love the fact that the four players listed behind Martin on Mayock’s list are all seniors and all participated in the Senior Bowl. That means most of the teams have a pretty good evaluation of those players and have likely already talked to them.

Among them are: Colorado State’s Weston Richburg (6-3, 300), Arkansas’s Travis Swanson (6-5, 310), Florida State’s Bryan Stork (6-3, 306) and Oklahoma’s Gabe Ikard (6-3, 302).

A couple other names to consider in the mid rounds is North Carolina’s Russell Bodine (6-4, 210) and Temple’s James Stone (6-3, 307).

What questions do the Lions want answered in Indianapolis?

  • Where does the value best fit the drafting slot? Is it the second, third, fourth or later rounds?
  • Is there a more talented guard prospect with the ability to move inside and play center?
  • Is there a legitimate chance the center of the future is among this group? There's a good chance he is given the Lions current situation.