Matt Paradis was selected in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. Competing behind two proven players—Manuel Ramirez and Will Montgomery—Paradis faced an uphill battle to crack the final roster as a rookie.
The Broncos waived him at the final roster cut-downs, but immediately signed him to the practice squad, where he continued to work within the organization. That year of NFL coaching and development, coupled with the Broncos move to a zone blocking scheme in 2015, has paid huge dividends for Paradis.
When the Broncos first depth chart was released a couple of weeks ago, somewhat surprisingly, Paradis found himself as the first-team center over Gino Gradkowski. The Broncos made a deal with Baltimore to bring Gradkowski to Denver about a month before the draft.
That gave them three centers on the roster, as the team chose not to bring back Montgomery. The competition thinned out some, when the Broncos shipped Ramirez to Detroit as part of the draft day trade that resulted in the selection of Shane Ray.
It would be Paradis vs. Gradkowski. The two players battled it out and when organized team activities concluded, head coach Gary Kubiak announced that Gradkowski would be the first-team center heading into training camp.
However, it didn't take long for the cream to rise to the top, as Paradis leapfrogged Gradkowski about ten days into camp. So far, Paradis has performed very well in the Broncos two preseason games and sits as Pro Football Focus' third-highest rated center, with a +3.3 cumulative grade.
Today, coach Kubiak talked about Paradis' progress and made it clear that the competition at center is far from settled.
“I think probably the thing that's very encouraging right now is that [C Matt] Paradis has become the leader of the group," Kubiak said. "He's got everybody on the same page. He's playing really well. That was an interesting battle between him and [C/G] Gino [Gradkowski] as they worked. I'm not saying it's over, by any means, but my point is I think Matt has proven himself to be a leader up front.”
At 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, Paradis is somewhat undersized compared to the prototypical NFL center. But in a zone blocking scheme, where football IQ, footwork, and the ability to get to the second level are paramount, he is a good fit. While with the Baltimore Ravens, Kubiak liked what he saw from Paradis at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.
“I watched some of his work, practice work and stuff from the past, just those type of things," Kubiak said. "Talking to some guys, just watching what he had done, he looked like our type of guy as far as his movement skills and being able to get to the second level. You never know until it's time to play, but I think he's gotten progressively better as a player.”
Paradis will now benefit from playing next to two All-Pros, as the Broncos agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Evan Mathis today, who will immediately step in at left guard. 2013 first-team All-Pro Louis Vasquez had been the leader and elder statesman of the group at right guard.
The battle isn't over for the first-year center. But his prospects just improved with the Mathis signing today.
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