Thursday, April 25, 2013

Draft Profile: Star Lotulelei - DT - Utah

The following is the 9th in a series of draft profiles for the 1st round pick for the Dallas Cowboys. These profiles are put together with the specific needs of the Cowboys in mind, and is an attempt to examine their resumes and game tape to get an idea of who might fit in best with Dallas come draft day.  Surely, circumstances will dictate what actually happens on that day, but we will profile the 8-10 most likely candidates and try to kick the tires on each and every scenario an how it relates to the Cowboys in 2013 and beyond.

I thought I was done, but in the last 24 hours there has been a hint of possibility that Star Lotulelei gets in the Cowboys range.  So, on this, draft day 2013, I scramble to get one more profile out (fully realizing that no matter how many I do, the Cowboys will do something off that board if Morris Claiborne is any indication).

Star Lotulelei
Defensive Tackle
6'2, 311
40 time: 5.31    Bench Press: 38 Reps (Both totals from his pro day)

Born: December 20, 1989 (Age 23)

Preparing for the number of possibilities on draft day always means casting your nets further out than you think you will need to when the moment comes.  2013 is maybe the best example of this ever as we get to the morning of the draft with a feeling that the top 2 teams will take the top 2 tackles on the board.  After that, you can honestly make a case for the next 15 players or so being anywhere in that range up and down the next 15 picks.  Add to that the possibility that someone will get antsy and insert a QB or two into the equation and we are at a spot where we must be ready for anything.

And Star Lotulelei represents that exercise.

3 months ago, you would seldom have a draft discussion without this man being in the top 3.  He is a huge specimen that combines strength with a surprising amount of quickness in tight spaces to make him a candidate to be the top DT in the draft.  There is some question where his very best fit might be on the defensive line - as Utah used him in various gaps up and down the line - but at the NFL level, he sure has the look of a classic 1-technique in the 4-3, the DT that shades the center's shoulder and gets in the A-Gap opposite the 3-technique DT.

He can occupy both the center and the guard and while his production is solid with 22.5 Tackles for Loss and 7 sacks as a 2-year starter in the Pac-12.  But, what makes that production very easy to enjoy is the opportunities that exist because he can both occupy multiple blockers on multiple plays, but he can also stand his ground against these double teams and not be moved.  He is both a speed bump and a guy who can get in your backfield for sacks, tackles for loss, and even the occasional blocked kick with his notable penetration skills.  He is a very impressive prospect.

What makes him more appealing to me than Sharrif Floyd and Sheldon Richardson, in particular (the other 2 of the consensus "Top 3 DTs") is that he appears to be both fish and fowl.  He can handle the run game in a dominating way, but can also do just fine as a pass rusher.  In one estimation, he combines the run stuff of Jesse Williams from Alabama (maybe slightly less) and while not possessing quite the interior quickness of Richardson and Floyd, he can certainly beat guys one on one and cause all manner of chaos on pass downs.  His best move right now is the bull rush (what more would you expect from a player built like he is), but there is belief that he can develop beyond that quickly.

As for intangibles, he had a medical scare that turned out to be cleared later which certainly did not help his draft season buzz and did not work out at the Combine because of this.  You never want to hear about a possible heart abnormality, but when the medical experts give him a clean bill of health, then it seems silly for draft nerds to spend much time second guessing that.

He is already married and with 2 daughters and appears to be settled in his private life, so when targeting players that don't generally keep you up worried at night, Star seems rather safe.

Why would he be available at #18?  He likely won't be.  But if he is, there will be whispers of a motor that doesn't always hit the red line each and every day.  I have watched enough of Star to say that doesn't bother me that much because you will be hard-pressed to find any DT who is constantly doubled that doesn't wear down over the course of a game.  Lotulelei can play every snap, I believe, and his motor checks out just fine.

Here are some youtube cut-ups for your own personal eye-ball test.  Find the DT who wears #92 and watch:

Vs USC (check 5:05)

Vs Arizona

The Case For Dallas Taking Star Lotulelei at #18:  Honestly, if some how Lotulelei doesn't go in the Top 10 picks, I would count it a major upset.  But, even if he does, odds are very high that he would still go before #18 (including the major issue of Pittsburgh at #17).  But, if somehow he is available, I believe I would take him before anyone on the board besides Cooper and Warmack.  And, even in those cases, I could definitely make a case that he could be used as badly as those two guards are.  Like the guards, I would strongly advise getting carried away with trading up and sacrificing additional picks to get him.  But, if he does fall to you, run to the podium.  I cannot think of many better scenarios.

The Case Against Dallas Taking Star Lotulelei at #18:  If I am going to argue so strenuously for him, then clearly I don't have a good case against him.  Again, this team is badly in need of young, physical bullies on the offensive and defensive lines.  If, for some reason, they choose to place a bully on the OL instead of one on the DL, that is acceptable.  But, the DL needs reinforcements in a hurry as DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff are getting up there in age, and Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher are free agents-to-be.  Behind them right now it is a thin group of situational rotation players like Sean Lissemore and Tyrone Crawford.  They could really use a stud.  So, this isn't really a case against him, is it?

I know this is late, but placing Star high on this list is easy, I would list the nine players I have profiled in this order of preference:

1. Chance Warmack - Report Here
2. Jonathan Cooper - Report Here
3. Star Lotulelei
4. Sheldon Richardson - Report Here
5. Sylvester Williams - Report Here
6. Tavon Austin - Report Here
7. Sharrif Floyd - Report Here
8. Kenny Vaccaro - Report Here
9. DJ Fluker - Report Here

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