Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
The biggest question in the pre-draft process has been defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who could be the first overall pick, or be available for the Panthers.
Utah hold their pro day tomorrow, and the performance of defensive tackle Star Lolulelei had draft-altering implications. The league will not only be watching his workout, but closely monitoring his updated medical records.
The most important aspect to the NFL Combine isn't the 40-yard dash, or their verticals -- it's the medical evaluations that occur behind closed doors. Sure, players make move around a little based on their athleticism, but nothing can more greatly influence a player's position than their physicals. Such is the case for Star Lolulelei, who was downgraded to a mid-first round pick following the news in Indianapolis that he might have a heart condition.
It wouldn't be the first time a player took a precipitous tumble due to a bad diagnosis. In 2011 defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, widely regarded as a top-five pick, found himself on the board in the second round. A result of a discovered knee problem. Bowers has been available in 26 of a potential 32 games in his first two seasons. Here in Carolina, Frank Alexander suffered a similar problem to Lotulelei -- a diagnosed heart problem was ultimately a false-positive, but didn't prevent a player regarded as a second round talent to be available in the forth.
Falling somewhere between Bowers and Alexander, nobody believes Lotulelei will make it out of the first round -- even as bad as the diagnosis could be. There's a point where talent overwhelms potential risk, and that's the cross-section. Rumors arose over the weekend that 'several teams' were scared off by the diagnosis, and while this is true, it could equally be talented teams looking to capitalize by creating an air of doubt surrounding one of the draft's most talented defensive players.
Lotulelei has the versatility to excel in almost any defensive front. In Carolina he would play nose tackle; securing the point of attack, and adding great push up the middle -- he could also play in the middle of a 3-4 in a pinch, at least in the few occasions the Panthers look to use a 3-4.
Recent mock drafts have made him a favorite to land in Charlotte, but a solid workout tomorrow paired with a clean bill of health would destroy that opportunity, and put Star into legitimate discussion for the #1 overall pick.