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If there’s been one prospect most linked to the Ravens at pick No. 29, it’s Wisconsin center Peter Konz.
Even after the Ravens re-signed Matt Birk to a three-year deal, many pundits still feel Baltimore will snatch up the best center in the draft.
It’s easy to see why. Konz has the intangibles and the talent to be an immediate impact player.
That’s why ESPN’s Mel Kiper, CBSSports.com’s Chad Reuter and NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks all see Konz heading to Baltimore in their recent mock drafts.
“The Ravens must address their interior offensive line with Ben Grubbs departing and Matt Birk nearing the end of his career,” Brooks wrote. “Konz is capable of playing offensive guard or center, and his rugged style is an ideal fit in Baltimore’s power-based offense.”
Konz isn’t widely viewed as an elite athlete, as opposed to the Pouncey twins, Maurkice and Mike, who were drafted in the first round the past two years by Pittsburgh and Miami, respectively.
But Konz’s outstanding size, understanding of the game and physical play make him a top prospect.
He is 6-foot-5 and tips the scales at 315 pounds. That’s massive for an NFL center, whose average height is about two inches shorter.
Konz also comes from a long lineage of top Wisconsin linemen that not only put the pressure on him to live up to the Badger reputation, but taught him the game. He played with tackle Gabe Carimi (Chicago) and guard John Moffitt (Seattle). Badgers guard Kevin Zeitler is also expected to be a high draft pick.
“[Konz] is very intelligent,” Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said at the combine. “You see him on tape pointing things out, picking things up really quick. He works really well in tandem with the guards.”
But there are two major questions regarding the Wisconsin center.
Is he injury prone? And can he really play guard?
Konz suffered a blood clot in both lungs in 2009, a sprained ankle in 2010 and a dislocated ankle that forced him to miss the final few games of 2011. The ankle injury forced him to sit out at the combine and he did not do any drills at his pro day.
Konz told reporters at his pro day that he is about 90 percent back from his ankle injury. He reportedly came to Baltimore for an official visit, which would have allowed the Ravens more time to medically examine him and perhaps see more movements.
“He actually played in his bowl game coming off a dislocated ankle, which shows a lot of toughness,” Hortiz said. “He just gutted it out, wanted to play.”
With Birk returning, pundits have simply penciled Konz in as a possibility at guard. While Konz said he felt he could do it, he also admitted he has never played guard in his life.
NFL Network analyst and former general manager Charley Casserly feels Konz is a good enough athlete to make the switch.
The Ravens have a history of moving young offensive linemen around on the line. Jonathan Ogden played guard for a season before going to tackle. Marshal Yanda shifted from a college tackle to guard. Jah Reid is in position to do the same this offseason.
“I’d put Konz in there and make him prove he can’t do it,” Casserly said. “I rated this guy in the top 20, so I don’t see any reason why he can’t play guard. He’s a good player.”