NFL Draft scouting profile: Kirk Ferentz on Iowa OL Tristan Wirfs
Jan 31, 2020, 4:11 PM
(Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
Save for quarterback and maybe running back, the Arizona Cardinals could use an immediate upgrade at most every position group.
Sitting eighth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft will give them the opportunity to plug one hole with a ready-to-go player, and general manager Steve Keim will have a wide range of directions to go.
Focusing more on positions of dire need, both lines could use talent, and few universities are going to tout multiple first-round draft prospects like Iowa. That’s why Doug & Wolf of 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station asked Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz to join them Friday.
Iowa has two potential first-round picks for the 2020 draft in offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs and defensive end A.J. Epenesa, both early-entry players who are 21 years old.
Here are a few of Ferentz’s key points on Wirfs.
OL Tristan Wirfs, 21, 6-foot-5, 320 pounds
Wirfs is a physical anomaly who was No. 1 on Bruce Feldman’s annual “Freaks List” published every offseason on The Athletic. Watch Wirfs throw up 450 pounds like this, and it’s clear why NFL scouts love his raw potential.
Just a light 450 for Tristan Wirfs 😅 (via @HawkeyeFootball) pic.twitter.com/46fx3HaPNv
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) March 15, 2019
It might be a red-flag that he played mostly as a right tackle as a junior for the Hawkeyes this past season.
Ferentz said Iowa only played Wirfs there because left tackle Alaric Jackson was the first to earn a starting role. The head coach also pointed out Wirfs has slid to left tackle when Jackson has been out.
“He can do both,” Ferentz said. “It’s really not a big issue and the only reason he was our right tackle is Jackson made our lineup first and we just kind of filled in from there.”
Wirfs is viewed by some as an NFL tackle but by others as a guard prospect because of his pure bull-rushing ability. Notably, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah projected the Cardinals to go after Wirfs, even though he believes the lineman should move inside to guard.
Wirfs has hand mechanics to clean up and improve upon, according to The Draft Network’s Joe Marino. Maybe that might not fit an Arizona run game that requires athletic linemen to work blocks down the field against linebackers and the like.
(He) has some issues with tardy punches in pass pro that opens up his chest for opponents to work into and force him to work overtime sinking his anchor. In the run game, Wirfs has a tendency to get a bit top heavy with his weight too far forward which causes him to fall off some blocks when combined with his aggressive tenacity to get after people. Can be more deliberate about continuing to work his hand fits when run blocking.
Ferentz admits Wirfs could be a dominant guard based on his skillset and raw power, but adds that with further development Wirfs should project as a tackle.
“I think you could play him probably anywhere but center, and he probably could do that if you gave him some time. You play a guy like that inside, he’s basically going to kill guys. He’s a dominant player that way,” the Iowa coach said.
“Me personally, I would play him at tackle if I was still in the NFL. Maybe that’s why I’m not. But anyway, that’s where I’d play him. Tackles are such a valuable commodity in the NFL — any level.”
Six mocks counted by our Arizona Sports Mock Draft Tracker have the Cardinals drafting Wirfs at No. 8.