by David Syvertsen
The most intriguing one on one matchup in the trenches this week is one I’ve been waiting for since the start of the season. Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan (6’8/309) is a redshirt junior for the Wolverines. I think he will enter the 2013 draft, as he will likely receive a top 20 grade. He is one of the guys in the running for being the top offensive tackle in this class. Huge, dominating road grader that will remind some of Jake Long. He’s at his best when told to go after a down lineman in front of him, and take him out of a play. There have been a couple times this year however where any lateral movement has really hurt him. He has a hard time maintaining the balance when going east/west and where there is a lack of balance, the power game disappears. His ability to protect the passer shows promise. I think he can hack it on the left side in the NFL. His feet are good enough, and his reach is tremendous. Long athlete with a strong pair of hands. That translates well to the next level.
The challenge will be one of my favorite defensive ends in the country. Illinois senior Michael Buchanan (6’6/250) has put together some noteworthy games together on tape. He is extremely long with plenty of room for more bulk. The flexibility is what sets him apart from other tall, lean defensive ends in college. He can get low and maintain his balance, power, and speed. I want to see more variety with his pass rush moves however. Running by offensive tackles will work against some teams, but not Michigan. I remember watching these two go at it last year and I thought it was a pretty even result. Buchanan was able to use his agility to avoid Lewan’s lock. However Lewan impressed in space, keeping himself between the quarterback and Buchanan. Both of these guys are going to be first round picks. This is a huge game for both of them.
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The senior cornerback I’ve had a hard time getting a read on this year is Washington’s Desmond Trufant. Initially I love what I see. Good size, physical player, has a good understanding of the game. But the more tape I watch, the more red flags pop up. I can see the straight line speed, but I question how well he can hang with the faster receivers out there. I simply don’t trust him on an island. I also see him get away with a ton of contact down field. It is easier to do that in college than on Sundays in the NFL. Tomorrow he faces off against arguably the top two receivers he’ll face all season in USC’s Robert Woods and Marquis Lee. If Trufant does have a lack of in game speed downfield, it will be exposed here. I want to see him press there guys at the point of attack too. He is a fringe first round prospect in my eyes, this game can change that perception.
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Iowa State is not exactly home to a crop of NFL prospects each year. This season however, they have two blue collar senior linebackers that I think have NFL futures. Outside linebacker Jake Knott (6’3/252) is a productive player and a team leader. I’ve seen him play once this year, and saw 2 of his games in 2011. Very consistent, physical presence that has a nice comprehension of the playing defense. Knott is trusted in space against wide receivers. Rare to see a player his size matched up out there.
The better of the two co-captains is the man in the middle AJ Klein (6’2/248). Klein is a great athlete. Very quick in short space, has some nice lateral range to him as well. He is one of the few linebackers that flows to the action before it is actually heading there. Smart player, knows how to finish. Plays with a lot of attitude. Simply put, he has the kind of mindset you want from a guy in the middle of a defense. I want to see him get off blocks quicker though. Some of the better run blockers can get inside position on him and its over. I understand the talent in front of him is an enormous disadvantage. However if he wants to be a top 100 pick, which I think is very possible, he knows to show that functional upper body strength. These guys will be tested at Kansas State, one of the toughest teams in football when it comes to the ground game. Really looking forward to this battle.