Updated Apr 23, 2013 - 8:34 am
NFL Draft: Breaking down DT Star Lotulelei
Three more prospects that could hear their named called when the Cardinals walk up to pick on April 25, and the most interesting name to Cardinals fans I would assume is Star Lotulelei. Why would the Cardinals be interested in the mammoth Utah defensive tackle?
The Cardinals must be sending out a lot of signals. Heard these names in last 24 hours: Lotulelei, Warmack and Fluker. #ThatTimeOfYear— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 17, 2013
Dominant at the Point of Attack
Whether it's pushing his blocker into the backfield or holding up a double team and then getting off the blocks and making a play, Lotulelei is a special player along the defensive line.
Standing in at 6-foot-2 and 311 pounds, Lotulelei has one of the quickest "get offs" in all of the draft, as he has the quickness to get into the interior offensive linemen as soon as the ball is snapped and disrupt a play early in its development.
When he is playing as a two-gap defender, he is able to hold up against the double team and allow his teammates to make plays because he holds the defenders up. He can also seek out the ball, shed the block and get to the play.
Lotulelei does a great job holding up against combo blocks and allows his linebackers to scrape cleanly into the play without having to take a blocker head on.
Lotulelei does an excellent job of sniffing out screen plays, stopping and finding the targeted receiver, and changing his route direction and going to make a play.
He shows versatility by moving into a one-gap type player who causes pressure in pass rushing situations when needed.
Lotulelei has an incredible blend of size, strength and short-area quickness to make disruptive plays consistently at the next level.
I'll address the elephant in the room in the next section, but Lotulelei had some questions about his conditioning before word of the heart ailment came out.
He tended to wear down as the game went along, but in his defense, he played in an extremely high number of snaps for a defensive tackle.
Lotulelei played in over 90 percent of his team's snaps a game, a number that is really mind-boggling when you look at NFL numbers for similar defensive tackles. For instance, the highest number Haloti Ngata saw in 2012 was 94 percent, and that was in one game. He did it every week.
Lotulelei can struggle to break down and make tackles in the open field or when in one-on-one situations with running backs or quarterbacks.
He can also leave himself open to cut blocks too often, as he doesn't fight blockers off from his ankles with his hands, and instead backs away and then recovers, which he does pretty well at this point.
He's been cleared, but all fans, and I am sure teams, will always be concerned about the player's heart condition.
He's been given a clean bill of health by numerous team doctors, and you can't pass on a guy of his talent levels because of fear that he may be only a three-year impact type player. But, it has to be something teams think about.
From a pure analyst perspective, Star Lotulelei is my number one overall prospect. He is a game changer at the defensive tackle position, a player that can man multiple positions in multiple defensive fronts and win.
He would be a dream for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles because of his ability to line up and take on double teams as a two-gap nose tackle or kick out to a defensive end position to spell Darnell Dockett or Calais Campbell.
He is equally effective as a pass rusher or run stopper, and has shown that he can play an inordinate amount of snaps and still be effective.
Lotulelei would come in and immediately push Dan Williams and Darnell Dockett for playing time, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him play the nose in the Cardinals' base 3-4 scheme and kick outside if the Cardinals are struggling to stop the run and go with a lineup of Campbell/Williams/Lotulelei in order to get the most effective run defense on the field.
Lotulelei would absolutely be a luxury pick in the sense of need, but he would fit the mantra of best player available to a tee, and show that Keim and Arians are serious about that.
Seth Cox/The Sports Headquarters, Editor-in-chief of The Sports Headquarters
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