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Is Cesar Ruiz A First Round NFL Draft Pick? Mel Kiper, Others Think So

ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper is arguably the best in the business at what he does, and raised a few eyebrows yesterday when he projected a Michigan Wolverines football player to go in the first round of this year's NFL draft.

Kiper pegged center Cesar Ruiz as the No. 32 overall pick to the Kansas City Chiefs in a mock draft he released yesterday, despite the fact that most had viewed the center as anywhere from a second to fourth round pick ever since he declared early.

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Michigan Wolverines football coach Jim Harbaugh (left) and Cesar Ruiz
Former Michigan Wolverines football player Cesar Ruiz was rated as the top center in the country out of high school in 2017. (AP Images)

"I really like Ruiz's film from last season, and I have a higher grade on him now than I did on the 2019 class' top center Garrett Bradbury [of the Minnesota Vikings] last year," Kiper wrote.

"It's just tough to project where centers will land because few teams actually need them.

"Ruiz, who also started a few games at guard in college, is an outstanding pass-blocker. The Chiefs could upgrade at center over Austin Reiter or put Ruiz at guard in place of veteran Stefen Wisniewski, who is a free agent.

"Both had tough games in the Super Bowl win against a spectacular 49ers defensive line.

"Edge-rusher and cornerback are other possibilities here."

Kiper wasn't the only NFL draft predictor who projected Ruiz to go in the first round this April, however, with Dane Brugler of The Athletic forecasting the former U-M center to go in nearly an identical spot.

Brugler projected Ruiz to come off the board at No. 31 overall to the San Francisco 49ers.

"[San Francisco center] Weston Richburg is coming off a torn patellar tendon," he began.

"[Center] Ben Garland and [guard] Mike Person performed above expectations in 2019, but both turn 32 years old this offseason and the 49ers could look to get younger and healthier on the interior.

"Ruiz is an athletic mover with experience at both center and guard."

Pro Football Focus (PFF) also had high praise for Ruiz at season's end, declaring him the best pass blocking center in the nation in 2019.

He received 447 snaps in pass protection and only allowed eight pressures this past season, including none over Michigan's final five games against Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State and Alabama.

The next step in the draft process for Ruiz will be to shine at next week's NFL combine in Indianapolis, an event that 11 Wolverine players received invites to.

"Athletic and tenacious with the combination of skills and technique to fit into a variety of blocking schemes on the next level," NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote while describing Ruiz's draft profile.

"Ruiz wins early with initial quickness and fast hands into first contact. He works to convert early advantages into wins.

"He's consistent in securing down-blocks and has the athletic traits to become a second-level factor.

"He'll give some ground to power rushers and needs help against wide-bodies, but the tape checks out.

"Ruiz has early starting potential and should develop into a good pro with guard/center flexibility."

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