Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei could potentially be one of the first picks of the 2013 NFL Draft, but many NFL experts don't see him being selected in the top 10.
In this column, five of the top draft experts on the web will be featured:
- Mel Kiper, Jr. (ESPN Insider protected)
- Todd McShay's Scouts Inc.
- NFL.com's Mike Mayock
- CBSSports.com's Rob Rang
- Bleacher Report's Matt Miller
Interestingly enough, these same experts have Lotulelei rated as a top prospect on their big boards.
Should Lotulelei be drafted in the top 10?
Lotulelei was a phenomenal defensive tackle at Utah. At 6'2" and 311 pounds, he eats up blockers with the best of them and possesses elite strength (38 reps of 225 pounds on the bench at his pro day) with which to dominate opposing offensive linemen.
He projects as a potential star in any scheme—defensive tackle in a 4-3 or a defensive end in a 3-4—and will be a plug-and-play starter from the first day of training camp.
Perhaps the thing holding this big man down at this point in the evaluation process is that he's not a particularly good pass-rusher inside—a trait teams like to see from elite defensive tackles.
Here's where Lotulelei is projected to land by the top experts on the web.
Matt Miller and Rob Rang: San Diego Chargers (No. 11)
New general manager Tom Telesco will be thrilled to see Lotulelei on the board here at No. 11, and he'll likely take him if the three top offensive tackles have already been selected.
Lotulelei's potential as a dominant 3-4 defensive end or nose tackle would serve San Diego well. Adding him to the starting lineup with Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes would give the Chargers one of the top young defensive fronts in the NFL.
Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei may be too good to pass up. He would be a true "best player available" pick, but he would also help fill a need on a talented young defensive line. Lotulelei can play nose tackle in a three-man front, and in passing situations he's able to kick down to a 3-technique and rush the quarterback.
Rang writes: "It would be difficult to look past Lotulelei, a potentially dominant piece in John Pagano's 3-4 defense, for any interior offensive lineman."
With so much talent up front, San Diego's pass-rushers would inevitably see more one-on-one opportunities to rush the passer on the edge, giving the Chargers a formidable front seven.
Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay: Carolina Panthers (No. 14)
There's no doubt Carolina is in need of a strong defensive tackle up front. This team ranked in the middle of the pack last year against the run, allowing 4.2 yards per carry. They need an upgrade over Dwan Edwards and Sione Fua, and Lotulelei would certainly provide a big lift.
Lotulelei can occupy blocks given his initial burst and his ability to read, identify and make tackles against the run himself. The Panthers need to come out of this draft with some help for the interior of their D-line.
Adding Lotulelei to plug up the middle would help the Panthers on defense in a couple of different ways:
First, his ability to occupy multiple blockers up front would allow Luke Kuechly to flow to the ball unimpeded. Secondly, the same ability would allow Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy more one-on-one opportunities to rush the passer from their defensive end position.
Mike Mayock: Dallas Cowboys (No. 18)
If Lotultlei somehow plummets to the Cowboys at No. 18, he'll fall no further.
I think the value for Star Lotulelei is too much for Dallas to pass up. They were No. 22 against the run a year ago. You plug him in with Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher, who are both in their 30s, and you're a better defense on Day 1.
Dallas allowed more than 2,000 yards to opposing running backs last year, ranking No. 22 in the NFL. New defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is changing things up, and the Cowboys will feature a 4-3 defensive front for the first time in years.
Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher are not the long-term answer for the Cowboys, and adding Lotulelei to play inside would give Kiffin's linebackers a big assist when attacking the run.
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