Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ravens trade for center A.Q. Shipley

Ozzie Newsome does a lot of things that confuse the hell out of me.  This trade isn't one of them.  It was just reported on PFT that the Ravens have traded a conditional 2014 draft pick to the Colts for center A.Q. Shipley.  Here is why this is a very interesting move, even if it requires admitting that drafting Gino Gradkowski last year was probably stupid.

The strongest indicator I have found for success at the center position is dominance in the short shuttle drill.  Hopefullym the player would also have a good Vertical Kangaroo Score, but that is a secondary concern.  You can look at what I wrote regarding Eric Kush, or my post on the short shuttle times of starting NFL centers,  to see a rather extensive list of well known centers that illustrate this trend.  Here is how Mr. Shipley compares with Gino Gradkowski, and Eric Kush.

Player                              Short Shuttle Score    Vert. Kang. Score         3-Cone Score
A.Q. Shipley 1.698 0.450 1.121
Eric Kush 1.943 0.154 1.334
Gino Gradkowski -0.164 -0.400 0.095

Shipley is very comparable to Kush, who I consider to be the physical model of what a center should be.  Shipley appears to be a wee bit more explosive, while Kush is a tad more nimble.  All in all, it balances out fairly evenly between the two of them.  Shipley had a better bench press, at 33 repetitions, than Kush's 25, though the value of this is debatable.  Kush has a 33 3/8" inch arm length (which is average to above average), while Shipley's are reportedly rather short (supposedly 29.75").  Gradkowski, at least on paper, appears to be in the mediocrity/bozo category. 

On the one hand I think this is probably a very good move by the Ravens.  Still, I always have to nitpick.  If they wanted a center, they could have had Kush for a mere 6th round draft pick this year.  Kush has the advantage of being younger than the 26 year old Shipley, and not needing to be signed to a new contract for at least 4 years.  Shipley would be in line for a new contract after the 2014 season.  I don't know how things will play out, but it will be interesting to see which player emerges as the superior talent, though I expect Kush might need a year or two to adapt to the level of competition.

The bigger concern, from my perspective, is what this means about Gino Gradkowski.  I thought he was a stupid pick the second the Ravens turned in the draft card with his name on it.  So, at the very least, the Ravens will have squandered that fourth round pick, if he is already being replaced.  I suppose that part of the story will get lost in the shuffle, as long as Shipley turns out to be decent, though it probably shouldn't.

Still, this could be one of the best moves that the Ravens have made this offseason.  I'd put it right up there with the Brandon Williams draft pick, which I also loved.  Some people are saying that Shipley is just there for depth, but I obviously think he will become the starter, and possibly a good one at that.  Well done, Ozzie.

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