As some of you may know from my previous posts I really respect Pro Football Focus (PFF) stats. They do a great job of breaking down the performance of each player on each play. I know some of you do not like PFF stats and think they are a bunch of garbage. Here's a link to the page explaining how they grade the players for you skeptics.
Many of us, including myself, were ecstatic when the glorious news of Satele's release came out yesterday. I think this move shows that Ryan Grigson won't keep a crummy player just to satisfy his pride (as opposed to Bill Polian). Grigson seems to give players a fair amount of time to prove themselves and is not afraid to cut the tie if he feels they are hurting the team. I wouldn't be surprised to see Greg Toler in this situation next year if he doesn't get on the field and earn his money.
Now on to the centers. Alex Mack, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and Brian De La Puente are the three names Colts fans are putting at the top of the wish list for the center position. First of all let me say that I truly believe a good center can dramatically improve the play of an offense.
The Dallas Cowboys offense played significantly better in 2013 with more or less the same offensive line with the exception of Travis Fredrick whom they drafted in the 1st round of the 2013 draft. That one player dramatically improved their line play as well as offensive production. Dallas would've been a playoff team if not for their Larry Coyer-esque defense. So needless to say I am very much looking forward to watching our offense with an improved center.
I thought I'd take a look at the run blocking, pass blocking, and stats of the three centers we're thinking about.
Alex Mack had the highest grade of the three (4th overall): +17.8
Evan Dietrich-Smith was next (8th overall): +12.1
Brian De La Puente was last (16th overall): +4.0
Samson Satele (27th overall): -12.9
The overall score shows us that any of the three guys we are considering would be an upgrade compared to Satele. But let's break things down a little more.
Alex Mack: +10.0 (5th overall)
Evan Dietrich-Smith: +2.2 (13th overall)
Brian De La Puente : -3.7 (20th overall)
Samson Satele: -13.2 (29th overall, only 29 centers qualified for this so Satele was last in run blocking)
Evan Dietrich-Smith: +6.7 (4th overall) 5 sacks given up, 1 QB hit, 8 QB hurries (14 total pressures)
Alex Mack: +5.9 (5th overall) 2 sacks given up, 5 QB hits, 18 QB hurries (25 total pressures)
Brian De La Puente: +2.7 (13th overall) 3 sacks given up, 3 QB hits, 9 QB hurries (15 total pressures)
Samson Satele: -0.2 (18th overall) 1 sack given up, 8 QB hits, 9 QB hurries (15 total pressures)
As far as pass blocking goes I think it's important to note that the quarterback can play a big role in the amount of total pressures. Andrew Luck probably made Samson Satele's numbers look better than what they actually were. That also makes it somewhat understandable why Alex Mack gave up 25 total pressures. In my opinion, that number would drop significantly if he was snapping to Luck. Evan Dietrich-Smith had particularly impressive numbers considering Aaron Rogers was injured for a decent chunk of the season, when Rogers returned for the season finale Dietrich-Smith had his best game with a +3.9 overall score and a +2.1 score in the wild card game against San Francisco.
Andrew Luck is our future and he needs to be protected. An elite center would make Andrew Luck better but Andrew Luck will improve the center's statistics as the offense improves.
In my opinion, Evan Dietrich-Smith will provide the best value. Alex Mack may be the best center but he may command top shelf money. Evan Dietrich-Smith is one year younger than Mack and De La Puente as well so I believe he could potentially develop a Saturday-Manning relationship with Luck over the next five plus years.
Hopefully these numbers help you all put the center madness into perspective and GO COLTS!!!