|Class:||RS Junior||40 time:||N/A|
Last season, Alabama left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio came into the national spotlight with some big blocks in the BCS National Championship Game. Seeing as many schools give their left tackle position to their most talented lineman, regardless of their experience at the spot, it was a pretty impressive feat for Kouandjio, just 19 years old at the time, to be the starting left tackle on a line that featured three players who were selected in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Make no mistake, Kouandjio could go on to have the best career of any offensive lineman who enters the 2014 draft. He fits the description of an ideal left tackle to a T; he has the perfect size to where he is big enough to overwhelm defenders, but isn’t so monstrous that he has difficulty bending down or running to get to the second level. He’s extremely athletic and still has plenty of room to develop.
That being said, Kouandjio isn’t necessarily deserving of being a first-rounder in 2014. Tackle is not a position where an inexperienced player can just be plugged in and told to fend for themselves. Teams need intelligent and confident players who are fully developed, and those are not necessarily qualities that Kouandjio embodies right now. Meanwhile, Michigan‘s Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M‘s Jake Matthews are just about as ready-to-go as college tackles can be and would each be much safer picks. 22 offensive tackles have been taken in the first two rounds of the last three NFL drafts, including five in the first round in 2013, so it’s not like there will be a load of teams with glaring needs at the position.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both have him in their top five players for 2014, but Kouanjio still needs to show improvement this year if he wants to be a high pick. He has some high-quality competition, so he will need to effectively anchor his line in the absence of his departed teammates.
- As close to prototypical left tackle size as one can get (6-foot-6, 310 pounds)
- Quick and athletic
- As a sophomore, played the most important position on an offensive line that included 2013 NFL first-rounders Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker and fourth-rounder Barrett Jones
- Overwhelmingly powerful in goal-line and short-yardage situations
- Obviously has a great amount of strength, though he doesn’t always know how to use it
- Does not back down on pass blocks
- Good at getting to the second level
- Very effective with his cut blocks, defenders almost always go to the ground with him
- Has the ability to get low and drive
- Does a great job of kicking defenders out of the play when they gain leverage in passing situations
- Lots of experience playing out of a three-point stance in a pro-style offense
- Extremely young and inexperienced and has plenty of room to improve; won’t even turn 21 years old until July 21 of next year
- Very inconsistent, can look great in some games and very lacking in others; had some really bad plays in loss to Texas A&M and in National Championship Game vs. Notre Dame
- Doesn’t exert his physicality very much, rarely squares up on defenders, has difficulty sustaining blocks to the whistle
- Too often lets pass rushers get by and has to chase them from behind
- Footwork on pass blocks is a little bit too timid
- Left guard Chance Warmack is much stronger and physical than Kouandjio and executes his assignments much better, which makes Kouandjio look worse on tape
- Seems to lose focus at times, one notable example was against Texas A&M when he stopped in the middle of a play to re-adjust his helmet, which resulted in a costly sack
Kouandjio will need to hold down the fort on a more inexperienced line that will lack the superior NFL talent it had last season. As always, he will be facing elite competition each week while playing in the SEC, and he must be more consistent than he was last year in his first season as a starter. Kouandjio must learn how to make better use of his body if he wants to ease concerns about his ability.
2014 Draft Projection: 2nd round