As is my custom, I took in some sports radio as I drove home from work yesterday afternoon. On this particular day I was listening to two of my favorite WDFN personalities, Sean Baligian and Tom Kowalski. A number of fans called in to voice their opinion on what changes the Lions should make going forward. Not surprisingly, Dominic Raiola’s name came up.
It is safe to say that Lions center Dominic Raiola is a polarizing figure. Off-field antics aside, there are those that he should be replaced as soon as possible while others say that he is an above-average center and makes some of the best line calls in the game. Detractors point to Raiola’s perceived lack of size but Kowalski insisted that a number of other NFL centers are similarly sized.
This statement piqued my interest so I decided to dig into the numbers. The results? I’ll let you decide for yourself and give my thoughts later on. Here is the list of all 32 starting centers as listed by the depth charts on Yahoo! Sports sorted by weight:
As the eye test suggests, Raiola is one of the lightest centers in the game. He and Falcons center Todd McClure are the shortest centers at just 6′-1″. The compiled lists shows that the average NFL center is a shade over 6′-3″ and 305 pounds, that puts Raiola 2 3/16″ shorter and 10 pounds lighter than his average contemporary.
Kowalski may have had it wrong in insinuating that Raiola wasn’t far off from average size but he was right when he went on to say that Raiola’s size is not a prohibiting factor in his production (paraphrase). He brought up the names Dermonti Dawson and Kevin Mawae, two centers that can be considered the best of a generation. Dermonti Dawson’s NFL.com player page list him as 6′-2″ and 292 pounds while Kevin Mawae is listed at 6′-4″ but a comparatively light 289 pounds. Those guys more than got the job done despite a lack of “junk in the trunk”.
I also find it interesting to note some of the other teams that have centers listed under 300 pounds. Five of the nine centers under 3-bills will be playing in the playoffs. How is it that about 28% of NFL centers are under 300 pounds yet over 41% of the centers in this year’s playoffs will be under that mark if being “undersized” is such an issue?
You will find Jeff Saturday and Olin Kreutz near the bottom of the list but those guys have been mainstays on their respective offensive lines. I lived in Indianapolis, believe me, no one talked about Jeff Saturday being undersized when Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes were gashing the Bears defense in Super Bowl XLI.
While this probably sounds like a pro-Raiola post I am actually rather indifferent. Yes, Dominic Raiola is “undersized” but that should not be the reason to replace him. The Lions can probably do better than Dom but let’s not be blind to more pressing needs. You think Raiola is a problem rather than a solution? Fine, just be sure to bring a stronger argument than “he is undersized”.