At center, Stefen Wisniewski can have a big impact on the play of the entire offensive line. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
When the Raiders selected Stefen Wisniewski in Round 2 of the 2011 NFL Draft, he immediately made an impact at left guard as a rookie.
The former Penn State standout was a big reason running back Darren McFadden got off to a great start running the ball that year. In Week 3 of that 2011 season, in fact, Wisniewski earned NFL Rookie of the Week honors for his blocking against the New York Jets, when Oakland rushed for 234 yards. And, after the season, Wisniewski was named to some All-Rookie teams for his contributions to an offensive line that helped the Raiders' seventh-ranked rushing offense.
But in 2012, Wisniewski was moved back to center, the position he mostly played at Penn State, and he’s been anchored in the middle of the Raiders offensive line ever since.
But as Oakland moves forward, might the Raiders move Wisniewski back to left guard, where he had so much success as a rookie?
It certainly wouldn’t be an idea without merit. With plenty of draft picks coming up in this year’s early-May draft, Oakland could select a young center such as Arkansas’ Travis Swanson, a 6-foot-4, 305-pounder; Bryan Stork of Florida State (6-4, 312); or Oregon’s Hironiss Grasu (6-3, 294). Those three are considered at the top of the draft list. Or, the Raiders could go into free agency to bring in a veteran, such as Cleveland’s Alex Mack, considered the best likely free agent.
Potentially, if the Raiders were to re-sign Jared Veldheer at left tackle, that would give Oakland a strong lineup of Veldheer and Wisniewski on the left side, with a talented prospect or veteran in the middle.
But based on what Wisniewski and offensive line coach Tony Sparano have said, it seems Oakland is content to leave Wisniewski at center and build around him.
Sparano, who has been re-signed to a two-year deal, thinks highly of Wisniewski at center. During the 2013 season, Sparano called Wisniewski “a brilliant kid,” and noted how crucial he is to the play of the offensive line.
At center, Wisniewski is responsible for calling out blocking assignments to his linemates. When he was out of the lineup with injuries this past season, the offensive line play sometimes deteriorated.
Head coach Dennis Allen welcomed Wisniewski back from a two-game absence early in the season, saying communication along the line was critical against blitzing opponents, and that “Wiz has done a great job of doing that for us all year long, so it’s good to have him back out there.”
Wisniewski, too, says he prefers staying at center. And staying put might be best for the Raiders in the long run, even though Wisniewski’s blocking at left guard certainly made an impact in his rookie season.
“I don’t think I’ll be switching anytime soon,” said Wisniewski this past season. “I think center is my best position and I really like being there.”