Drafting a lineman in the first round is something we can never put past the Eagles front office. Since 2000, the Eagles have used their first pick on a defensive or offensive lineman 13 times.
Building along the lines has always been Howie’s bread and butter. He believes having a strong front on both sides of the ball wins ball games, and I think most fans would tend to agree with him.
Offensively, the Eagles have had one of the best lines in football for the better part of this past decade. For as much slack as Howie gets for missing on draft picks, he’s rarely missed on offensive line prospects. Four of the five projected starters next season have all been drafted by the Eagles, Andre Dillard, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson.
While offensive line is clearly not a huge need for this team, if the right prospect is available at No. 21, I would not be surprised at all if Howie pulled the trigger on him.
That’s where Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz comes in.
The consensus No. 1 center entering this year’s draft, Philly has reportedly had their eye on Ruiz for awhile now. According to 6 ABC’s Jeff Skversky, Ruiz has met with team officials multiple times.
Ruiz also grew up right outside of Philly in Camden, New Jersey. He told Skversky that his mother “would lose it” if he got drafted by the Eagles.
But, this wouldn’t just be some feel good story if the Eagles brought Ruiz to town. He would be brought in with the hope that he could replace Kelce in the near future, as we know the All Pro center is playing on a year to year basis.
Out of the 31 games Ruiz started at Michigan, five of them came at guard, so he has some versatility. Scouts believe he could play any interior line position at the next level. So while Kelce finishes out his career, Ruiz could start next to him at left guard over Seumalo and really shore up the lone weakness of the Eagles o-line.
Ruiz brings the type of athleticism that o-line coach Jeff Stoutland covets in his lineman. At 6-foot-4 and weighing in at just under 320 pounds, Ruiz has surprising quickness for his size. His lateral movement is outstanding and he is very impressive when blocking in space. Ruiz also possesses great anticipation on pull blocks where he consistently connects with moving targets.
With the great lower body strength Ruiz has, coupled with his quick hands, he rarely gets beaten on bull rushes, which is usually a concern for centers coming out of college.
In the screen game, more often than not Ruiz is first lineman to reach the second level. He’s so quick for a man of his size. Michigan would routinely have him pulling as a center as well, which is something Kelce has popularized in the NFL.
Ruiz has that blend of quickness, size and power that the Eagles love to have in their offensive lineman. And at just 20-years-old, some of his raw traits, like his inconsistent pass pro, could be developed quickly with the right coaching, and Stoutland is one of the best in the business.
If the Eagles are sold on Ruiz in the first round, they could probably trade back into the 25-28 range and still snag him. Trading back would net the Birds an extra late round pick most likely, which would be a nice bonus on top of getting their center of the future.
Taking an offensive lineman in the first round in back-to-back drafts may not be overly exciting, but having a strong line in front of Carson Wentz is essential. Yes, finding a couple competent receivers is also a must in this draft, but I’d rather have my quarterback standing up right by the end of the season.
If Ruiz falls to the Eagles, which is more probable than not, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Howie snagged him.