Cowboys ‘Love’ Top Lineman, Could Make Draft-Day Trade: Report

Cesar Ruiz

Getty Cesar Ruiz

Travis Frederick’s sudden retirement created a massive void along the Dallas Cowboys‘ offensive line, which they may fill with an incoming rookie they’re reportedly smitten by.

In his latest column for NBC Sports, longtime NFL writer Peter King passed along hearsay from a source who indicated the Cowboys “love” Michigan center Cesar Ruiz as a first-round prospect in next week’s draft.

“’It’s too high for a center, but they love the Michigan center (Cesar Ruiz), and they could trade down a few spots and still be sure of getting him,’” King was told. “Interesting: a plug-and-play heir to Travis Frederick.”

Arguably the second-best C in this year’s class, Ruiz is an athletically sound, versatile blocker capable of manning multiple spots across the trenches. He started five games at right guard for the 2017 Wolverines as a true freshman and all 13 games at the pivot over the past two seasons, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2019.

Well-built at 6-foot-3, 307 pounds with 33 1/8-inch arms, Ruiz put up 28 bench press reps during February’s Scouting Combine and established himself as a borderline Day 1 talent. draft analyst Lance Zierlein compares Ruiz to Chicago Bears C James Daniels, a 2018 second-round selection.

“Athletic and tenacious with the combination of skills and technique to fit into a variety of blocking schemes on the next level,” Zierlein wrote in his scouting 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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An Option for Dallas?

It’s a weird spot, as No. 17 overall is too early to take Ruiz, yet he likely won’t last until the Cowboys’ second-round pick (No. 51). An ideal scenario, as King laid out, involves the club dropping down into the mid-20s, netting additional capital, and grabbing Ruiz at a better value.

There’s no denying, however, that Ruiz would fit seamlessly into Dallas’ operation. He’d represent an immediate replacement for Frederick and pet project for new offensive line coach Joe Philbin, solidifying the team’s biggest collective strength.

The Cowboys did not speak with a center at the Scouting Combine and have yet to virtually interview OL prospects, which could provide a clue about their interest in Ruiz. Then again, the Combine took place prior to Frederick’s retirement and Dallas has other needs on all sides of the ball.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL

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