ESPN NFL college/draft analyst Mel Kiper released version 2.0 of his 2020 mock draft on Tuesday, and at the coveted No. 32 position, Kiper sent an interior offensive lineman to the Kansas City Chiefs.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Cesar Ruiz, C/G, Michigan
KIPER: 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 last year. 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.
Andrew Wylie was the Chiefs’ left guard at the beginning of 2019, but injuries led the Chiefs to go with Martinas Rankin and later Stefen Wisniewski. Even when Wylie fully regained his health ahead of the playoffs, the Chiefs opted to go with the veteran Wisniewski.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was asked about the two players on January 20, the day after the team’s AFC championship victory.
“They’re both good,” said Reid of Wylie and Wisniewski. “They’re both good players. There’s nothing wrong with Wylie, it’s just you get in and get going and it’s working. So you stick to it and roll with it. It doesn’t mean Wylie can’t. We do a good job with him in there also. Wiz has experience and his strengths are that. He’s got experience, he’s dirty tough, he brings good energy and he’s brilliant. He’s up there with (Mitchell) Schwartz and Larry (Laurent Duvernay-Tardif).”
The Chiefs should have about $13 million worth of cap space when the league year begins in mid-March and will need to make room for quarterback Patrick Mahomes and potentially defensive tackle Chris Jones.
They could look to the offensive line to do so, meaning starting left tackle Eric Fisher ($6.3 million cap savings), center Austin Reiter ($3.4 million cap savings) and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif ($5 million cap savings) could all be vulnerable to cuts.
Wylie is currently under control as an exclusive rights free agent. Martinas Rankin, who started five games last season at left guard after being traded to the Chiefs by the Houston Texans, should be back for the third year of his rookie contract after losing his season to a Week 10 knee injury.
The answer for the Chiefs may be making some tough cuts along the line and drafting and interior offensive lineman like Ruiz — who, from Kiper’s description, could push to start immediately.