Breaking Down the Saints’ Selection of Cesar Ruiz at No. 24

Breaking Down the Saints’ Selection of Cesar Ruiz at No. 24

by April 24, 2020 0 comments

With the 24th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints selected Michigan center, Cesar Ruiz.

The Saints’ brain trust shocked many fans across the country with their first-round selection in the 2020 draft. With fan-favorite Patrick Queen still on the board, the Saints decided to add depth to their offensive line. With no glaring weaknesses on the team, the Saints made a very unexciting, but smart pick by giving Drew Brees more protection for the final season of his career.

The 20-year-old junior stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs in at 307 pounds. Throughout his career at Michigan, Ruiz started in 31 games, including 26 starts at center and five starts at right guard.

Ruiz performed very well in the combine, running a 5.08-second 40-yard dash, bench pressing 28 reps, and ranking in the top 10 in the majority of the other drills for offensive linemen.

In his collegiate career, Ruiz proved to be the anchor for the Wolverine’s offensive line and almost an immovable force. His lower half is thick, but he moves extremely well for his frame. In the running game, he gets to the second level easily and opens up big holes for his backs.

The one big knock on Ruiz is his lack of elite length. Though this may be an issue, he’s shown the ability to mask this problem with quick hands and excellent footwork to stay in front of the defender. Coming from an offense in college that put a huge emphasis on the run will help him on a Saints team that will most likely rely on the running game with Drew Brees nearing the end of his career.

The thing that makes this selection interesting is that the Saints already have one of the top offensive lines in the league. On the exterior, they have elite tackles in Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk. On the interior, they have veterans Larry Warford and Andrus Peat, who recently signed a five-year, $57.5 million contract, at the guard positions, and 2019 second-round pick Erik McCoy at center.

Adding Ruiz to this elite group, the Saints have a clear goal in mind: give Brees time and keep him upright.

There are a few routes the Saints can go after picking Ruiz. One option would be to move McCoy to the right guard position, where he has some experience from his days at Texas A&M. With McCoy moving over to Warford’s spot, they can stick Ruiz at his natural position at center. The idea behind this move stems from the Saints’ playoff loss to the Vikings. Warford struggled to protect Brees all game, as he was sacked three times and hit seven times. With Warford entering the last year of his contract, he could serve as a key backup for an offensive line that struggles to stay healthy.

Another option the Saints would be to keep their current offensive line intact while utilizing Ruiz as a versatile backup. In his career at Michigan, Ruiz showed his versatility by making starts at center and guard. As previously mentioned, the Saints’ offensive line struggles to stay healthy, so having Ruiz as a backup for any interior position would be beneficial should a starter go down or begins to struggle.

The first option is more likely, as the Saints are in win-now mode and would not use a first-round pick on someone who couldn’t help the team win immediately.

The pick immediately received an overwhelming “meh” from Saints fans. An offensive lineman in the first round is not an exciting pick, but it has worked out for the Saints in the past. Ramczyk and Peat were the last two offensive linemen the Saints drafted in the first round, and both are key contributors to a Super Bowl contending team.

With his tragic backstory, Ruiz is an easy kid to root for, and the New Orleans atmosphere makes the Saints a fantastic place for him to land.

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