If the thought of drafting another FCS offensive lineman early in the draft makes you squeamish, then you might have a difficult time making it through the analysis of today's feature prospect. Honestly, I'll be the first to admit that I am one of those people. In fact, shouldn't we all be skeptical about such a proposition?
Who among us can defend the 2012 second round selection of OG Amini Silatolu with reasonable conviction at this juncture? His rookie season was certainly valuable because it gave the former small school standout some time to get used to the speed and strength of the NFL, but he struggled mightily. Entering his second season, he had a great deal to prove and seemed to be turning the corner a bit only to take a step back by tearing his ACL only four games in. This was a heavy blow for a team who had already placed another FCS product(2013 rookie OG Edmund Kugbila) on injured reserve before the season even started.
Am I trying to say that it's time to give up on these two guys? Of course not. I will remain hopeful that both of them can earn meaningful starting roles moving forward. With that being said, it wouldn't surprise me if the Carolina Panthers have an eye on another FCS talent. His name is Billy Turner and you should get to know him.
When you turn on the tape, the former North Dakota State left tackle looks very much like Silatolu and Kugbila in that they all dominated their competition. Men among boys, as it were. One of the things I like most about Turner is that he plays with a mean streak. His motor runs extremely high and as a result, he's always looking to finish defenders all the way through the whistle.
The Minnesota native regularly displays a near perfect ninety degree stance and explodes well off the line with heavy hands(10-Inch) that enable him to execute a powerful punch when run blocking. Oftentimes, he simply rag dolled his competition. Once Turner gets locked on, he is difficult to move as he sinks his hips and anchors down. He is a good athlete for a man who stands 6-Foot-5 and weighs 314-Pounds. This is clearly evident when you watch him quickly get to the second level in order to lock onto a linebacker or defensive back. His speed also came in handy when he was occasionally asked to move down the line when performing pull blocks. Indeed, Turner's run blocking abilities were an integral part of a rushing attack that had two 1,000 yard rushers in each of their final three seasons at North Dakota State. It was also instrumental in their three straight FCS Championships during the same time span. But the two time All-American isn't just a one trick pony.
When pass blocking, Turner is also very effective. He uses his fairly smooth lateral movement to mirror pass rushers with outstanding effectiveness. There may be some scouts who believe Turner projects better as a guard, but his agile feet and lengthy 34-Inch arms are more than enough to tell me that he has what it takes to operate on an island in the NFL. Did he face inferior competition? Certainly. But when he did face better athletes at the FBS level(see tape below), he shined. In fact, I don't believe that the Bisons would have upset Kansas State last year had it not been for Turner's dominance. During the game, he performed 10 knockdowns and graded out at an astounding 96% of his assignments.
Is he the perfect prospect? Of course he isn't. But who is? Like many developing tackles, he tends to bend at the waist more than you would like to see. His initial pass protection stance looks respectable, but he unfortunately has a habit of remaining upright throughout his engagement with the defender and consequently loses that all important leverage battle. As we all know, a tackle especially can't afford to be knocked off balance. Even though Turner was and is far from mastering the technical aspects of the tackle position, he still managed to pass his college tests with flying colors. But this won't fly so well in the NFL. He does, however, appear to have the work ethic it takes to improve his weaknesses.
So far, I've been encouraged to see Turner thrive with each step he's climbed this offseason. It began when he stood out at the East-West Shrine bowl enough to be called up to the Senior Bowl, where he continued to progress against his FBS colleagues. If the Panthers walk away with Turner as one of their picks, then it only makes sense that they believe he has the potential to start at some point. Keep in mind that there will certainly be growing pains. Realistically, he is a project on many levels who will have to negotiate the jump in competition while working to correct his own deficiencies.
Ultimately, I won't be surprised if someone takes him before the Panthers' fourth round selection. But if he is still available, they might just pounce. Be sure to watch the video below before you share your opinions and don't forget to check out my latest mock draft at the very bottom of the page.
2014 Carolina Panthers Mock Draft 7.0
|1st||DE Kony Ealy||6' 5"||276||Missouri|
|2nd||WR Jarred Abbrederis||6' 1||195||Wisconsin|
|3rd||CB Keith McGill||6' 3"||214||Utah|
|4th||OT Billy Turner||6' 5"||314||North Dakota St.|
|5th||OG Brandon Linder||6' 6"||311||Miami|
|6th||ILB Devekeyan Lattimore||6' 0"||237||South Florida|
|7th||FS Jemea Thomas||5' 10||190||Georgia Tech|