Several analysts have projected Michigan center Cesar Ruiz to the Kansas City in recent mock drafts. How does he fit the Chiefs offensive line?
After winning the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years, the Kansas City Chiefs are preparing for next season in hopes of returning to the biggest stage in football. The 2020 offseason has been difficult for organizations to navigate with the global pandemic. Teams are unable to meet with free agents and draft prospects in person and perform their own medical checks.
While most franchises were looking for players who will get them over the hump in 2020, the Chiefs have worked hard to keep players from their Super Bowl roster. General manager Brett Veach has brought back key players including Bashaud Breeland, Mike Pennel, Demarcus Robinson, Chad Henne, and Chris Jones (via the franchise tag). A few players were able to find a new home in free agency, including Kendall Fuller and Stefen Wisniewski, who both were starters in the Super Bowl.
Given the current cap situation for the Chiefs, the only acquisitions in free agency were small ones. One position group that looks identical to the 2019 roster is the offensive line. Wisniewski decided to leave for Pittsburgh on a one-year deal, but the starting five from Week 1 remain intact. Kansas City is set at both tackle positions, but all three positions along the interior could use an upgrade.
With Mitch Morse leaving for Buffalo last offseason to receive a massive payday, the Chiefs elected to move backup Austin Reiter up to the starting role. Andrew Wylie, who played in the absence of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif during the 2018 season, moved over to left guard. Behind the starting three, the Chiefs have a few developmental projects awaiting an opportunity. Martinas Rankin was traded for at the end of the preseason last year from the Houston Texans. Ryan Hunter has been a frequent transaction from the practice squad to backup. There’s also 2019 seventh-round pick Nick Allegretti.
The 2019 season presented several injuries along the offensive line, and the Chiefs will have to decide how they feel about not only the starting cast but the backups. Duvernay-Tardif has the most starting experience along the interior, but his contract and injury history cannot go unnoticed. Kansas City showed interest in bringing back Wisniewski and attempted to sign New Orleans Saints free agent Andrus Peat. Failing to sign either means that the interior of the offensive line could be a point of emphasis for general manager Brett Veach in the 2020 NFL Draft.
By most statistical metrics, the Chiefs maintained good pass protection in 2019, despite the injuries. According to Football Outsiders, Kansas City ranked fourth in the NFL in adjusted sack rate. Where the Chiefs struggled up front was in run blocking, ranking 28th in adjusted line yards. Running backs were consistently met in the backfield with nowhere to run.
The offense could improve with an upgrade on the offensive line. One player that would be an upgrade at either guard or center is Michigan center, Cesar Ruiz. ESPN’s NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projected the Chiefs taking Ruiz in a recent mock draft at pick 32.