Cyrus Kouandjio | 6'5, 312 pounds | Offensive tackle | Alabama | Junior
It's been said that the 2012 version of Alabama's offensive line may have been better than some NFL lines. While that's a gross exaggeration, the Crimson Tide dominated the trenches last season. That makes it all the more impressive that Cyrus Kouandjio was trusted as the team's left tackle despite being just a sophomore.
Since being a heralded recruit out of high school, Kouandjio has dealt with lofty expectations. His massive frame and athletic ability are enough to put him on any NFL team's radar. But now the towering tackle will have to become a leader for Bama's offensive line after three of his linemates departed for the NFL. That transition will be accompanied by a need to refine his technique if he hopes to match the preseason hype he's generated.
What he does well
It's tough for a player to stand out on Alabama's offensive line, but Kouandjio does and it's because of his size. At 6-feet-6-inches tall and 312 pounds, Kouandijo is the prototypical size of an NFL tackle and he has the strength to match, often showing dominant leg drive in the running game and stonewalling pass rushers. He's a mauler in the running game, making it difficult for defenders to disengage once he's locked in.
But it takes more than just a massive body to play left tackle in the NFL, and Kouandijo also has the requisite athleticism and quickness to hold up against SEC defensive lines. His footwork is by no means a finished product, but he gets into his set quickly and manages to holds off edge rushers with regularity. Kouandjio can also handle getting to the next level of the defense and appears somewhat smooth in doing so. He also shows decent cut-blocking ability despite not being asked to do it that often.
Among other things, Kouandjio brings experience to the table as a tackle. He started 13 games as a sophomore after appearing in 8 as a redshirt freshman. He's shown development in the past and will need to continue to do so to maintain his high draft stock.
What he needs to improve on
Kouandijo lacks balance, and it causes a lot of problems both in pass protection and run blocking. The problem starts with his hands, as Kouandijo struggles to consistently get his hands up and generate punch to keep the pass rusher out of his chest. Once the pass rusher gains the hand placement on Kouandjio, his lack of balance is painfully apparent. Despite his size, Kouandjio was put on skates far too often, getting easily moved by defensive linemen. For instance, take a look at this play in which LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery essentially folds Kouandjio in half. Montgomery gets his hands in Kouandjio's chest and the offensive tackle is never able to regain his balance.
Another example of Kouandjio's poor balance comes in the form of waist bending. He often lunges at opponents and bends at the waist, which is a waste of length and size. This is a correctable flaw, which is the good news for him. Balance and coordination come with experience, and if he improves his initial punch, the rest of his flaws my start to correct themselves. Offensive line play is such an art form that when one piece of the puzzle is missing it can affect other areas of a player's game.
The beauty of evaluating a player like Kouandjio is we will get at least one more season of college games to look at before coming to a conclusion. If the draft were tomorrow, it might be tough to pull the trigger on him in the first half of round one. But the athletic upside helps him project as a first round pick in next year's draft. A few correctable flaws need to be ironed out and his evaluation will ultimately come down to how he performs as a junior. It's impossible to say how much he will improve as a junior, if it all. But that's why the final pages of this report can't be written.
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