The Saints shocked the masses last night with the #24 overall selection of Michigan’s OL Cesar Ruiz. Not the splash pick many were hoping for such as a Patrick Queen or Kristian Fulton who were both on the board. But this pick does carry quite a bit of impact, both now and for the future. Taking a look at the winners and losers of the trade puts it all in perspective.
Winner: New Orleans Saints Quarterbacks
For Drew Brees in 2020, he gets very reliable depth along the interior that had been such a pest for him over the last few playoff runs. Ruiz can play both guard and center having spent 26 games as the snapper and five at right guard while at Michigan. The Saints have been very openly down on current Saints right guard Larry Warford because of his struggles at a apparent decline at a position that has become quite the thorn in Brees’ side as of late. Now, if center Erik McCoy and Cesar Ruiz end up taking the helm at the interior beside Andrus Peat, Brees has a foundation on the inside with which he is more comfortable.
As for the position post-Brees, Sean Payton complimented Ruiz on his intelligence saying that it was a large factor in their evaluation of the player. That feels like a nod to Ruiz as the potential starting center which would kick McCoy to right guard, an idea that is not foreign as it has been discussed over the last few months. If that happens and Ruiz maintains his on-field IQ in his transition to the next level of the game, that can be of huge benefit to the Saints’ future signal-caller, Taysom Hill or otherwise. Not having Brees around to call the protections means you are in need of a center of Max Unger-esque intellect to spearhead your offensive line.
Loser: Larry Warford
A sheer “yikes” moment in regards to Warford when the Saints not only selected a player that contributes to his seemingly inevitable departure. That departure could be soon, if the Saints decide he has a trade market worth taking advantage of during the draft, or may draw out as long as the 2020 season when his contract expires. Then, after that, Coach Payton tells New Orleans media that the team “didn’t draft [Ruiz] to be a backup” and called Ruiz “one of the better interior offensive lineman” he had seen in some time. Adding on top of all that, a public call that Warford would have to compete. Suffice to say, it feels like Warford can compete all he wants but, at the longest it will be at the top of next season, at the soonest by the end of the draft’s second day, it seems like he will be in a new uniform eventually.
Will be interesting to see if it is Ruiz he has to compete against, or Erik McCoy who the Saints have acknowledged is a possibility to move to guard.
Don’t discount the possibility of moving 2019 second-round center Erik McCoy to guard, either. - Larry Holder
Winner: Alvin Kamara
With all of the fan talk about trading Kamara still floating about, this exercise will work out if no trade comes to fruition, which seems likely. Ruiz is still developing as a run blocker and has some work to do in that department. However, what he has shown while at Michigan is pretty impressive. According to Nick Underhill, the former Wolverine nailed 99% of his offense’s pass and run calls over the last two seasons. His IQ, ability as a pulling guard, mobility, and drive could be a big benefit of Alvin Kamara.
While he may not be traded this offseason, he will still look for a new contract in 2021. With Ruiz in the facility, there is less of a chance that Kamara’s contract year gets spoiled due to injuries along the interior offensive line. He instead should have a healthy stable of guards and centers ahead of him or potentially a new and shiny front altogether. Either way, Kamara gets to line up with some pretty good guys ahead of him to help raise his stock during a contract year if no extension has been reached. If one has been reach, still good news for Kamara as his production will be influenced by a successful offensive line.
Loser: LSU-Saints Fans
This one, undeniably, hurt. So much talent from the LSU Tiger roster, potential selections at several positions of need could have been had by the Saints in the first round. So much so, that it seemed to transcend fandom and just make sense. That selection would have marked the first ever LSU Tiger selected by New Orleans in the first round. But instead, Patrick Queen was left on the board to be selected four picks later by our next winners and Cesar Ruiz became the Saints’ first ever first-round selection from Michigan.
Winner: Patrick Queen and the Baltimore Ravens
Not only did the Ravens get their guy, but it sounds like Queen went where he wanted to be. Queen will be a fantastic fit in Martindale’s defense and on John Harbaugh’s team. Not to mention he gets to hang out with former Saints Mark Ingram, who over course went to collegiate rival Alabama. Those two are sure to have a good time, the Ravens get a good one, and Queen finds a very nice fit on a Super Bowl contender.
Not to mention that the opportunities could continue for Baltimore who need some help along the interior offensive line. Now that Larry Warford might be available and the Saints reportedly looking to move into the second round, the Ravens could profit further from the Saints’ spoils. The Ravens hold the 55th and 60th selections in the second round. While that is a bit later in the second than the Saints are apparently looking, could still be a solid option. Ravens also hold a third-round pick at 92 overall if the Saints have to ship out #88 to get into the second.
Loser: The NFC South Defenses
Atlanta did a good job exposing New Orleans up the middle in their surprising victory in the Super Dome last season. Now that the Saints have the depth they have, and potential new starting power, that might not be so easy to replicate in the future. Additionally, the Panthers passed on playmaker and downright extraterrestrial Isaiah Simmons in favor of selecting Derrick Brown, DT from Auburn. The Saints happened to counter that interior talent with a boost to their own with Ruiz.
Loser: Mock Drafts