2014 Sleeper Interior Linemen: Matt Paradis
By Ken Scudero
With the exception of kickers and punters, interior offensive linemen are probably the position least thought of in the NFL Draft. Centers and guards are just as important to an offense as the tackles, but they are the least-drafted position (not counting the specialists). When you look at how valuable it is to have a center who can snap the ball accurately and consistently while also blocking exceptionally, you better make sure your team has one who can do all those things. If not, you look to the draft and free agency.
In this year's draft, there are less than ten centers and guards who will be selected in the first four rounds; beyond that, it's questionable as to how many more will be selected. When looking at underrated interior linemen, Matt Paradis of Boise State is my sleeper.
Paradis started 27 games at Boise State and played in eight others. Almost all of Paradis' starts were at center but he's also had to play guard on occasion. At 6-foot-3, 306 pounds, Paradis has decent size and although he may be overmatched at times in the NFL, he has the strength to make up for it. Paradis originally was a defensive lineman but was converted during his freshman year. He was a second-team All-Mountain West selection this past season and first-team All-MWC for his play in the 2012 season. Paradis was part of a Boise State offensive line which ranked sixth in FBS in sacks allowed in 2013; the year before, Paradis' line was first in FBS in sacks allowed.
Paradis' strengths are his quick feet after the snap. He moves defenders backward in the run game and is excellent in short yardage runs. Paradis is a tough player who grinds out every play. He's the type of leader you want on your offensive line -- an intangibles type of player. Paradis works harder than anyone on the field and has great football IQ. He recognizes blitz packages before the snap and is great at anticipating where to be before the play even develops.
The only thing that hurts Paradis' draft stock is his size and his lack of athleticism. He isn't going to blow scouts away with his hip movement and speed. At 306 pounds, he can't get much bigger for his height. He's built well but may struggle against bigger linemen.
The bottom line is: Matt Paradis is a leader and a hard-working lineman with great intangible qualities. He snaps the ball well and engages quickly with defenders. Paradis is consistent and most importantly, he's reliable. We saw in the Super Bowl how important a center is (see the Broncos' first play from scrimmage). Paradis is definitely a last-day draft pick but he's going to be a starter in this league. Look for him to go in the 6th round.