Unless you'd been following CSR, or are a serious draftnik- it's likely the first time you heard the name 'Amini Silatolu' was when Mike Rucker butchered it on stage in New York (FYI, it's pronounced AH-min-ee si-LAH-to-loo). On its surface it's a hard pick to swallow. When it comes to players who aren't skills position players or pass rushers, football fans tend to evaluate players under two criteria: "Have I heard of him?" and "Did he play in a big conference?"- thus, when someone like Silatolu is selected the knee-jerk reaction is to label it a 'reach' and immediately dismiss the player as a wasted pick.
Leading up to the draft I wrote draft profiles for SB Nation- Atlanta on almost every 2nd, 3rd and 4th round offensive linemen. This was a need the Falcons had, so I covered it from that angle. When the process was done I saw a lot of good players, but nobody who leapt off the screen like Amini Silatolu; questionable competition or not, you saw a dynamic, fleet-footed and above all nasty offensive lineman who I thought early on would be Ron Rivera's 'type of guy'.
2011 AP Little All American First Team
2011 AFCA Division II All American First Team
2011 Lone Star Conference Lineman of the Year
2011 All-Lone Star Conference First Team
Strengths: Silatolu has a rare mixture of speed and size that you rarely see in an offensive lineman. His numbers at the combine don't leap off the page, but on film he plays with a great deal of quickness. Amini has a natural ability to identify defensive linemen rushing, engage them quickly, and demolish them. Much has been made of his nastiness, and it's true- he plays with more meanness than any offensive linemen the Carolina Panthers have ever had. You see him demolish his first block, then move quickly and engage a second player- especially when he pulls in the run game. More than anything else he has heart, and a near unquenchable desire to play football.
More after the jump
Weaknesses: In pass protection Silatolu still has a ways to go before he can be considered elite. Despite playing left tackle at Midwestern State, he does not have the ability to play the position in the NFL year one, lest he gets demolished. He did well containing rushers, but you saw him too hesitant out of his stance to deal with elite NFL edge rushers.
Value of the pick: After looking back on the draft and listening to other organization's beat-writers it's clear we can thank Seattle, Chicago, Cincinatti and Minnesota for us getting Silatolu. They all took players projected to go later than they were selected, which caused BPA teams like Pittsburgh, Baltimore and New England to get players they didn't think would be available. Most pegged Silatolu to be a selection in the mid-late twenties, so for Carolina to get him at #40 they got good value.
Fit in the Depth Chart: Out of the gate I think Silatolu will start at LG for the Carolina Panthers. His deficiencies in pass protection will get masked when he's sandwiched between Jordan Gross and Ryan Kalil, and playing at that position will let him get free release as a pulling guard on running plays.
Highlight Reel: I've watched it probably 50 times, and it doesn't get any less enjoyable.