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Safe Pick: From Cushenberry to Ruiz, your team is likely getting a starter if it drafts a center

Centers Lamont Gaillard and Javon Patterson didn’t start any games last year as late-round draft picks.

If recent history is any indication, their time is coming.

Out of the 32 centers who were drafted between 2015 to 2019, a whopping 27 have started at least two games. That’s an incredible hit-rate of 84 percent.

And if your team needs a starting center? Most of the centers have been drafted on Day 2 or 3 the past five years.

Are you listening, Dallas Cowboys?

All-Pro center Travis Frederick, a first-round pick in 2013, recently announced his retirement. He’s expected to be replaced by veteran Joe Looney, who was resigned in free agency, or last year’s third-round pick Connor McGovern, who missed last season with injury but can play either center or guard.

So it’s unlikely the team would consider drafting a center, especially in the early rounds.

But if they do …

“(The) second-round is probably the sweet spot for centers for the Cowboys,” NFL Draft analyst Marcus Mosher of USA Today said in an interview with Fanspeak. “Michigan’s Ceaser Ruiz would make a lot of sense, assuming he falls to No. 51. Dallas could also look at … Lloyd Cushenberry from LSU.

“But don’t expect them to reach on the position.”

Indeed, there’s no need to, given the success of the position in the later rounds.

Some of the top centers in the 2020 draft include Cushenberry, Ruiz, Temple’s Matt Hennessy, Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz, Washington’s Nick Harris and San Diego State’s Keith Ismael.

It’s possible that those six are the only centers drafted – and it’s also possible that none of them are taken before the third round.

However, if recent history holds true, most – if not all of them – will eventually find their way to the starting lineup. That’s because a team is almost guaranteed of getting, at the very least, a part-time starter at center, regardless of the round they’re drafted in.

And that’s what makes all six centers a “safe pick.”


Jake Rigdon (jake@sydwriting.com) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.

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