Obviously talent and depth in the trenches is a luxury for any team but its time the New York Giants add elite, young pieces on their offensive line. We’ve talked about this talent-ridden offensive tackle class a lot and whilst talent on the outside is pressing, the interior offensive line has not been touched on enough. First up, Michigan Center Cesar Ruiz stands out. Let’s discuss him! With Jon Halapio on the open market as he heals from an Achilles injury and veteran Spencer Pulley under contract for two more years its an appropriate time for the Giants to invest capital at the position for a potential starter.
Days at the Big House
Cesar Ruiz hails from Camden, New Jersey. He attended the local high school until moving onto IMG Academy in Florida for more exposure. Ruiz left as the highest rated center prospect in the U.S and soon joined the Michigan Wolverines for the next step of his journey. As a true freshman Ruiz started 5 games at right guard and got playing time in the trenches in 10 total games. Building on this, in his sophomore season, he earned third-team All Big-10 honors as well as an all-conference nod in 2019, after 13 games starting at center.
The quarterback play at Michigan has been murky, most notably with Shea Patterson, who was inconsistent. With that being said Ruiz remained rather consistent, showing good work ethic and skills as a Wolverine. For example, he impressed in a high snap-count outing against Maryland in 2017 as a freshman. On that note, let’s discuss his positives, negatives, and his outlook as an NFL starter.
Ruiz fits that bill as a prospect with a thick frame. He gets to his assignment well with good hand placement and strength. His fluid combination of power and mobility makes up most of his game. Similar to Mekhi Becton, Ruiz’s size and speed is surprising but will no doubt help him at the next level. He’s versatile in both the sense that he can take snaps at center or right guard (starting 26 out of his 31 games at center and 5 at right guard) as well as his mobility allowing him to play in both gap and zone blocking schemes.
It’s obviously dependent on personnel as to what the Giants will run in terms of blocking schemes but Jason Garrett has a history of running zone and getting Zeke open space at the second and third levels. With the current make-up of the Giants offensive line, with the hypothetical additions of Becton/Wirfs/Wills and Cesar Ruiz there is enough mobility to employ movement down the line and full protection sets to continue that trend with Saquon Barkley. Ruiz will be an immediate starter at the center position, can fill in at right guard and has the potential to be a Jason Kelce type player for a long time in this league.
With any NFL prospect comes cons. With his style and his frame, he can afford to shave off 10-15 pounds, get in the 300-305 lbs range and gain mobility and play into the quick interior offensive lineman archetype. Additionally, he had trouble in some spots communicating with his guards at Michigan to pick up pass rushing assignments, mostly on stunts. This could pose a problem at the next level as there’s a lot of that going on in the NFL, especially in zone blocking schemes. In pass protection, Ruiz can be energetic and twitchy, sometimes to his detriment. He pushes up on his opponent’s pads too soon, losing leverage. These are fixable problems, as most are when discussing prospects at this level, but still, tiny ones to note.
Cesar Ruiz would be a welcome addition on the Giants, but that reality becomes less likely as the days go by. Ruiz has a multitude of suitors that could select him in the middle to late first round on Thursday. First, the Dallas Cowboys who have the 17th pick. This would be seen as a reach by many but Ruiz’s strength and mobility would give them a plus-side replacement for the retired Travis Frederick. Some other options are the Dolphins at the 26th and the Bengals at the 33rd pick, who both need to protect prospective quarterback investments and have abundant draft picks. Do not overlook the Chiefs at 32 either.
That puts the Giants in a situation where they’d have to trade up for their guy. They have plenty of choices at the end of the 1st round and one that sticks out to me is the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens possess the 28th selection and could seek to move down if one of Patrick Queen, Kenneth Murray, or a high-level wide-out is off the board. What do you see happening on draft night?