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Draft Wish List: An interior lineman for each day of the draft

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 19 Michigan at Penn State Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The plan for the interior of the Seahawks’ offensive line remains a little unclear, following free agency. Seattle signed B.J. Finney to a multi-year deal, adding a player with experience at both guard and center. The incumbent starter at center, Justin Britt, was a presumptive cap casualty until he wasn’t. Though Mike Iupati’s absence frees up a starting spot at left guard, it’s not yet certain who will be starting at any of the three spots, and all three could do with a long-term starter acquired in the draft.

The Seahawks can find talent and much-needed youth along the interior, and potentially on all three days.

Day 1: Cesar Ruiz

One of the prospects more often connected to Seattle, Ruiz’s fit with the Seahawks is obvious. A steady, tidy player at center, Ruiz could realistically be the center to see Russell Wilson through the back half of his career. A high intelligence player, Ruiz started as a freshman and made the calls for Jim Harbaugh’s offense—what would traditionally be considered a pro-style offense.

Concerns around Ruiz’s physique and athleticism were put to rest at the Scouting Combine, where the former Wolverine checked in with the requisite arm length, mobility, and explosiveness for the Seahawks. Though some projected Ruiz to play guard at the next level, he is best suited for center and would thrive there in Seattle. There are very few faults in Ruiz’s game, however, one is a lack of strength against defensive tackles in one-on-ones. Playing center would largely mask those deficiencies while allowing his numerous strengths to shine.

Day 2: Robert Hunt

Another player often connected to the Seahawks during the pre-draft process, Hunt was a player whose draft position could be harmed by the cancellation of pro days. Nursing a groin injury, Hunt was unable to participate in the Scouting Combine and couldn’t make it up at the Ragin’ Cajuns pro day. That further muddies the water for a player who, despite playing the last two seasons at tackle, is reportedly favored at guard by some teams (where he began his collegiate career). In Seattle, Hunt would surely slide inside, where his length and size is in line with the interior players who have come before him in Mike Solari’s system.

Playing on the outside, Hunt already proved to be a great run blocker and should only find greater success with a size advantage when shifted inside. Hunt does not push defenders off the ball, but rather maul them out of the play. While he would bring a different level of mobility to the Seahawks’ line, his ability and temperament would fit right in. Similar to Phil Haynes a year ago, Hunt will enter the NFL an above-average run blocker with the potential to round out his game and become a very steady starter.

Day 3: Shane Lemieux

A four-year starter for the Ducks at left guard, Lemieux is the typical early day three prospect who could surprise and win a starting job in his first training camp. Lemieux is a touch deficient in length by Seattle’s standards, checking in at 32 1/4”, but his makeup is entirely a fit for the Seahawks beyond that.

Lemieux consistently gets movement upfront in the running game, tidy in his movement and finishing his blocks with aggression. A considerable amount of Seattle’s explosive runs in 2019 came via Mike Iupati moving to the second level or into space, and Lemieux executed similar blocks with success at Oregon. Though he is not as talented of a prospect as Hunt, and with a lower ceiling, Lemieux could similarly enter the NFL as a plus-run blocker out of the gate. His size limitations could see him overwhelmed in pass protection, however, and he would need consistent help against the game’s best interior rushers. However, on day three, Lemieux could provide great value, particularly for a run-heavy offense like the Seahawks.

If Britt’s roster spot is indeed safe in Seattle for 2020, the pressing need along the interior is lessened. Regardless of where they end up playing, Britt, Finney, D.J. Fluker, and Haynes can provide the Seahawks with four options for three spots. However, only Haynes projects as a potential long-term answer. On all three days of the draft, Seattle will have the chance to inject youth into the position group.