In 2017, the Baltimore Ravens saw a heavy amount of changes to their offensive line. Before the season began, starting center Jeremy Zuttah was cut. After being considered for a starting role at center, John Urschel would retire to pursue other endeavors. Then, Matt Skura and Ryan Jensen were left as the final two centers on the roster.
Starting guards Alex Lewis (shoulder) and Marshal Yanda (ankle) were lost with season-ending injuries, along with rookie offensive lineman Nico Siragusa, who was supposed to provide depth for the unit.
The Ravens signed Austin Howard before the 2017 season to replace the injured Lewis, sliding James Hurst to left guard. Baltimore would acquire Tony Bergstrom and Luke Bowanko, who both could play center and guard. Jensen would become the starting center, with Skura as his backup. Baltimore would eventually have Skura start in place of the injured Yanda at right guard, where he started 12 games.
Since the offseason began, Jensen signed a four-year, $42 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Ravens re-signed James Hurst to a four-year deal. Subsequently, Baltimore released Howard, meaning Hurst would most likely start at right tackle, if Baltimore doesn’t draft one later this month.
Now, with Lewis and Yanda returning, left tackle, left guard and right guard are all set. Is Skura ready for the task as the starting center?
As the right guard last season, Skura ranked as the 72nd-best guard according to Pro Football Focus, grading at a 37.3 rating. That rating is considered poor. On the other hand, Jensen was rated as the ninth-best center, graded at a 74.9 rating. That is average.
Obviously, Baltimore needs to get serious about keeping a strong offensive line if they want to compete in 2018. To do this, Baltimore could draft a center in one of the mid-to-late rounds as they have done with other offensive linemen in the past. Jensen was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
One player that stands out to me is Mason Cole from Michigan, and the interesting thing about him is his comparison to Jensen. According to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, Cole can be a starting center in the NFL.
“Consistent center prospect with some position flex and incredible durability dating all the way back to his high school days,” Zierlein wrote of Cole. “Cole relies on athleticism over power and will have to improve his hand usage and balance in order to match up against the talent he will see on the next level. While he has two years of starting experience at tackle, he’s too inconsistent in protection to hold up there for very long. Cole could become an early starter, but his ceiling might not be higher than average starter.”
Baltimore should attempt to draft Cole as a replacement for Jensen. If they can get a center who is more built for the position, who will be surrounded by talent with the return of Lewis and Yanda, as well as Ronnie Stanley manning the left tackle position, he could end up being a great fit for Baltimore.