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In early mock drafts, Wisconsin center Peter Konz was a popular pick for the Ravens at No. 29.
About a month later, with the combine come and gone, not much has changed.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both released new mock drafts on Wednesday, and each pointed to Konz as the Ravens’ next first-round pick. They aren’t alone.
As the start of the draft on April 26 draws closer, it appears that the media is locking in on the big-bodied center.
“I’d say he makes a lot of sense there,” Kiper said during a media conference call Thursday.
“We saw how [problems at center] showed up in the playoffs. Matt Birk [has] one more year maybe, and that’s it.”
The Ravens may have a glaring need at center if they don’t re-sign Birk, who reportedly told his agent that he wants to return and would prefer to play with Baltimore.
The Ravens could also be looking for a starting left guard if they can’t re-sign Ben Grubbs. Kiper believes that Konz (6-foot-5, 314 pounds) has the size and movement to be able to help at guard, even though he hasn’t played there before.
If that proves true, it would be a reason for the Ravens to still potentially draft Konz, even if they were to keep Birk for another year or so.
While Konz would fill a need, Kiper feels he wouldn’t be a reach for the Ravens, who are known for taking the best player available.
“I think you grade everybody individually. If he wasn’t that good you’d put him in the second or third round,” Kiper said. “Peter Konz is a late [first-round pick]. You’re not going to get him at the end of the second. If you don’t take him at the end of the first, he’s going to be gone early to mid-second.”
Kiper compared picking Konz to the Browns taking center Alex Mack with the 21st-overall pick in 2009. Mack went to the Pro Bowl in his sophomore season and has been an integral part of Cleveland’s offense. The Steelers took Maurkice Pouncey with the 18th-overall pick in 2010 and he has been voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons.
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Kiper likes what he sees of Konz on tape, but he also feels there are still questions. Konz only put up 18 bench-press reps at the combine and didn’t participate in other drills because he’s coming back from a dislocated ankle.
“[Wisconsin] utilized his athletic ability a lot; he pulled a lot in that offensive line structure,” Kiper said. “He’s a kid who has to get a little stronger in the weight room. You’ve got to work on that.
“I think the top concern is durability. He missed multiple games each of the last three seasons. If he can stay healthy and out there each week – which you need your center to be that staple, that constant on your offensive line – then I think he can be a great either heir apparent to Matt Birk or a guy that comes in and plays as a rookie.”