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NFL Draft Rumors: Centers could go higher than expected

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The Rams may have to move up if they want one of the top ranked interior linemen

NCAA Football: Michigan at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

I seem to remember there being some thought that Michigan center Cesar Ruiz could be available to the LA Rams in the second round at some point. As we have gotten closer to that draft that seems less and less likely for the draft’s top-rated center, and he may not be the only one. Among those rumored to be valued higher by the league than the media are Ruiz and fellow center Matt Hennessy, according to Jordan Raanan.

On Tuesday, I wrote about Hennessy as a potential draft riser.

One of the reasons I believe centers will go earlier than expected is that the league seems to be catching onto the fact that they’re undervalued quicker than most in the media have. Over the last two years, seven centers have been drafted in the first two rounds compared to eight centers in the previous seven drafts combined. Teams may be catching onto the fact that Super Bowl participants seem to more consistently have great centers than they do have great quarterbacks.

This does not mean that centers are more valuable than quarterbacks, but it could be a signal that we haven’t really given the guy snapping the ball to the QB enough credit yet. I’ve also noticed that “center upgrades” have followed Super Bowl teams:

  • 2019 was the first year for Austin Reiter as the Chiefs starting center
  • Weston Richburg was signed to upgrade the 49ers center position in 2018
  • David Andrews came from nowhere as a UDFA in 2015 to start 57 games for the Patriots over the next four years, making three Super Bowls; there was plenty “off” for New England in 2019, but among those issues was the loss of Andrews before the season
  • The Rams signed John Sullivan in 2017, turning around their offense instantly behind him and Andrew Whitworth. Without Sullivan in 2019, center was a disaster and the offense was less potent, to some degree influenced by worse play on the offensive line
  • The Eagles had Jason Kelce in 2017
  • The Falcons signed Alex Mack in 2016 and Matt Ryan won MVP on the way to the Super Bowl
  • The Broncos started playing Matt Paradis at center in 2015, winning the Super Bowl. They beat the Panthers, who had All-Pro Ryan Kalil
  • The Seahawks had Max Unger during their 2013 and 2014 Super Bowl seasons, then traded him to the Saints for Jimmy Graham. They haven’t been the same rushing team since and overall are significantly less dangerous
  • The 2012 Ravens had potential Hall of Famer Matt Birk
  • The 2012 49ers had added former Pro Bowl center Jonathan Goodwin in 2011

Those are just some of the reasons that I think NFL teams are valuing centers more than the average fan or the media and why Ruiz could be a first round lock, while Hennessy may not get out of the top 45 despite being viewed as a day three pick when the offseason started. Lloyd Cushenberry, Tyler Biadasz, and Nick Harris may also have a good day two and that’s something the Rams are going to have to continue monitoring through Friday night.

Others Raanan mentioned going up boards:

K’Lavon Chaisson

Isaiah Wilson, who I mocked to the Rams at 57 yesterday

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a potential running back target

A.J. Terrell, who may interest LA if he was available in the late second round or third round, but seems to be getting closer to round one?