2014 NFL Draft Preview: Cyrus Kouandjio

2014 NFL Draft, Cyrus Kouandjio
Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (71) on the line of scrimmage during the second quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Cowboys Stadium. Alabama beat Michigan 41-14. Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 NFL draft class is chock full of offensive tackles, and with depth being so prevalent a team can find a future mainstay at left tackle later than usual.

Of the top 30 prospects, about five or six are offensive tackles. One of those highly touted prospects is Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio.

Kouandjio played for the Crimson Tide as a true freshman, then started all 14 games at left tackle the next season, including an impressive outing during the 2012 BCS Championship game against Notre Dame in which he helped pave running lanes in Alabama’s national championship victory. This past season Kouandjio earned first-team All-SEC honors.

Now, Kouandjio is expected to follow in the footsteps of Andre Smith and D.J. Fluker, former Alabama standouts under Nick Saban who were nabbed in the first round of the draft.

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Kouandjio is considered a raw talent when it comes to the tackle position. He has the size, power, arm length and adequate footwork necessary to be an NFL left tackle, and he excels as a run-blocker, but he does have his work cut out for him. Scouts agree Kouandjio needs to be a more consistent player, eliminating the mental mistakes and improving his play against speed-rushers who have been able to beat him off the line.

Scouts have likened Kouandjio to Fluker, his former teammate who was taken 11th overall in the 2013 Draft by the San Diego Chargers. Fluker has flourished in the NFL and sured up the Bolts’ offensive line, and Kouandjio is believed to have an even higher ceiling. Kouandjio has also drawn comparisons to Tyron Smith of the Dallas Cowboys, a Pro-Bowl caliber left tackle.

There’s no question that Kouandjio is a player worthy of being selected in the first round. He’s ranked No. 21 overall by ESPN Scouts Inc., No. 19 by Mel Kiper Jr. and No. 7 by CBS Sports, and trails only Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson and Taylor Lewan in terms of rankings at the position.

Given the amount of teams that could elect to go offensive tackle with their first-round pick, Kouandjio could fall as early as No. 10 to the Tennessee Titans. New coach Ken Whisenhunt may look to strengthen his team from the inside out, beginning with a new franchise tackle.

Should Tennessee go quarterback or in another direction at No. 10, perhaps Kouandjio could fall to the St. Louis Rams at No. 13. If the Rams don’t trade away the No. 2 overall pick, they have the luxury of addressing two needs in the first 13 picks, or if they do swap positions they could grab Kouandjio at No. 13 and address other areas later in the round.

The next logical landing spot is No. 19 to the Miami Dolphins or at worst, No. 20 to the Arizona Cardinals. The Dolphins obviously endured their fair share of off-the-field drama between a pair of tackles, Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. Perhaps starting fresh with Kouandjio is the way to go.

The Cards also have a need at tackle, especially with Eric Winston set to become a free agent this offseason.

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