When a team is picking third overall, it’s rare that they get the best player in the draft. Still, that’s exactly what happened to the Detroit Lion in the Pride of Detroit Community Mock draft when the Cincinnati Bengals took Joe Burrow first overall and the Washington Redskins surprisingly took Isaiah Simmons second. That left the Lions taking Chase Young, providing a boost to their pass rush that they haven’t seen from a draft pick since taking Ezekiel Ansah fifth overall in 2013, and arguably even longer.
As well as the first round went, the picks leading up the Detroit Lions second round selection went just as well, up to the team’s pick at 35, where there were several top options still available on the board. So with the 35th overall pick in the 2020 POD Community Mock draft, the Detroit Lions selected Cesar Ruiz, IOL, Michigan.
The Detroit Lions walked into the 2020 offseason with a probable hole at right guard. Having not only failed to secure an extension for long-time starter Graham Glasgow, the team seemed to have made the idea unappealing to him, thus making free agency a certainty. With his departure and the lack of durability and talent at the other guard position, the team faces uncertainty once again with their interior offensive line.
While the third round is normally the sweet spot for interior offensive linemen, this draft poses a unique challenge in that the volume of quality interior linemen is lacking. There are only three players that possess sure-fire, day-one starting ability in Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz, Temple’s Matt Hennessy, and LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry. Unfortunately for the pigeon hole folks, all three of those players are centers.
Fortunately for the Detroit Lions, versatility is king. The team drafted Graham Glasgow and played him at both guard positions before he settled in at center, finishing his time with the team starting at right guard. They drafted Frank Ragnow as a surprise pick in 2018 (when Glasgow was locked in at center), playing him at guard before settling him in at his natural position inside where he has thrived. I would suspect much of the same with an interior line pick for this offense in 2020, someone who can play multiple positions whether that’s a tackle who flips inside or a center who can move out.
Ruiz is one of the most physically-gifted interior offensive lineman in this draft class, with his lowest explosion drill (the 10 split) still posting over 87th percentile among guards. His other explosion drills rated in the 96th and 97th percentile for interior linemen. Athletic gifts aside, he is easily one of the best overall blockers in this draft class. Most consider him to be the best interior lineman for 2020, and the chances he’s picked before the Lions are on the clock at 35 are fairly good.
Selecting Ruiz would put an immediate starter for the Lions at right or left guard, providing a bridge on the right or an improvement on the left. With how well Ragnow played at center in 2019, I’m doubtful we see Ruiz eventually flip inside, but having started his Michigan career at right guard, that would be the best bet for his landing spot with the Lions.
With the team’s renewed focus (and, unlike previous years, actual success) at improving the run game, it makes sense that the team would try to invest further in their offensive line to try to build some momentum on the ground while keeping their quarterback upright.
Taking Ruiz with Lloyd Cushenberry on the board was fairly easy for me as Cushenberry was injured at the NFL Combine, and we don’t have reliable reports about the seriousness or his recovery.
I also left off one of the many talented wide receivers such as Brandon Aiyuk out of Arizona State or Laviska Shenault out of Colorado. While receiver is a big need for the team going forward, so is guard and the drop off from here to what the Lions could have in the third round is more significant than for WR.
I don’t consider drafting running back an option in the second round as this team made huge strides to improve the run game in 2019 despite playing backup quality backs like Bo Scarbrough, Tra Carson, and Wes Hills all last year, and with a RB pretty much guaranteed to never see a second contract, that didn’t seem like a good investment for a team with this many holes.
Corner was also considered, but the next best corner that fits this scheme is Bryce Hall and I wouldn’t consider him an option at 35. In the end, I think I landed the best player possible to improve the Detroit Lions in 2020 with this selection.
How would you grade the selection of Cesar Ruiz in the second round?
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