A Tale of Two Tackles

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Arguably evenly rated just six weeks ago, the draft prospects of these two players has gone in opposite directions since.

In many mock draft scenarios these two players are off the board before #28 in the draft. After Panther LT Jordan Gross retired in February the mock draft lobby responded by mocking one of two big OTs to the Panthers. One had a winning pedigree and the other off-the-field red flags. Yet when the combine came around one players stock began to tank while the other improved. Alabama LT Cyrus Kouandjio was a mid-first round prospect until failing his combine physical due to what is being described as an arthritic knee condition.

Cyrus Kouandjio 2014 NFL Draft scouting report - SBNation.com
Strength - Strength shouldn't be an issue for Kouandjio when transitioning to the NFL. He's well-built throughout his lower and upper half and has the prototypical size and strength of an NFL offensive tackle. When using proper technique, Kouandjio's long arms are an asset in pass protection, where he shows off a ton of strength. Watching him anchor against bull rushers should ease any strength concerns about Kouandjio.

Technique - As mentioned above, Kouandjio has a few technical flaws in his game that could make his transition to the NFL a tough one. He needs to work on both his kick slide and punch to be a bit more consistent in pass protection. The hope with Kouandjio has to be that his technique becomes more smooth with a healthy knee. But again, his knee may be his biggest question mark at this point.

Final word - In a vacuum, Kouandjio grades out as a first-round pick. However, the issue of his knee will continue to come up between now and the draft.

That was a very kind analysis of him. Here's one that is not so kind:

WalterFootball.com: 2014 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackle Rankings
3/16/14: Kouandjio had a terrible performance at the Combine and didn't look like he prepared well. Kouandjio ran much slower than expected while looking tight and slow footed in the field drills. There are also teams that are worried about a knee injury. He looks likely to fall to the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft.

A lot depends on how each team's doctor evaluates his physical from the combine. All it takes is for one team to think the knee is no problem and he could sneak back into the first round. In my opinion I see him falling to the 3rd round where teams are investing a little less in a player with a significant injury risk.

Taylor Lewan on the other hand went into the combine looking to show he has what it takes to be an elite OT prospect and he did not disappoint.

3/16/14: Lewan gave NFL teams something to think about with an impressive Combine performance. He blazed a fast 40 and looked good in the field drills. Some teams could prefer Lewan over Matthews.

The big question mark for Lewan was how he would handle the interviews and the questions about this off the field red flag:

Former Michigan OT Taylor Lewan charged with assault - SBNation.com

Police have refused to discuss details of the investigation, but more information should become available after Lewan's April 8 arraignment. No one was arrested on the scene and Lewan has previously denied the allegations and stated that he was trying to break up a fight. "I wasn't in any fight. I didn't hit anybody," Lewan told The Detroit News at the NFL Combine. "I was really just trying to help out a situation and break up something. I really can't go into any more details than that. "I didn't hit anybody or do anything like that, so my focus has been here (preparing for the bowl). I'm sure the truth will come out, and it will all work out."

If Lewan said the right things and took some of the worry about his conduct away then he's a top 15 pick, if not earlier. That's my prediction anyway, that he goes top 15. So I predict neither of these two players will be drafted by the Panthers in the 1st round for two very different reasons.

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