2012: Rodney Hudson, Ryan Lilja, Bryan Mattison
2013: Rodney Hudson, Eric Kush, Tommie Draheim
*Update: I forgot Eric Kush, the Chiefs rookie. Sorry, Eric!
Yes, the Kansas City Chiefs DID improve at the center position from 2012 to 2013. Of course, that's simply because Rodney Hudson is now healthy. But roster-wise, did they get better? Is this group better than last year's? With the loss of Ryan Lilja as a valuable back-up, I can not say 2013 is better than 2012 in this case.
Hudson, the KC Chiefs center, went down with a season-ending knee injury early last season. His injury caused a real stir around among the offensive line, shifting Lilja to center and Jeff Allen to guard. Considering the circumstances, Lilja did an excellent job filling in at center. I, for one, had no idea he was capable of performing competently as a center. Who knew the emergency back-ups were actually used?
So Lilja was fine last year but a 31-year old former guard is not the future of the Chiefs center position. That would be Rodney Hudson, a 2011 second round pick who somehow has very little experience. He was a highly decorated lineman coming out of Florida State, with an excellent make-up and picked high in the draft. Those types of players often don't bust and they often play right away.
In Hudson's case, it's year three and he has exactly four games of experience. He sat his first year behind Casey Wiegmann then was hurt by Week 3 last year.
Everything about Hudson and his college career suggests to us that he should be a solid center in the NFL. Two years later, I'm still operating off that assumption, and I still think that's fair.
I'm optimistic that Hudson becomes an above average starter in the NFL, but I can not say this position group as a whole is in better shape than it was last year. Lilja proved to be an extremely valuable back-up at center. Lilja is now retired. I don't know if there is a new Lilja, the guy who can step in and start for 13 games if need be.
On paper, Hudson is a better starting option than Lilja. But it's the back-up experience that Lilja provided that has me giving the nod to 2012 on this one.
So, in your opinion, are the Chiefs better or worse at center this year?