David Yankey | 6'5, 311 pounds | Offensive tackle | Stanford | Senior
Over the past few seasons, few college football programs have been as efficient in producing NFL talent as Stanford has in recent years. Andrew Luck and Richard Sherman are the most recent starts to emerge from Stanford, but the Cardinal has 32 alumni currently playing in the NFL after three more players were drafted this spring.
Jim Harbough laid the groundwork for Stanford's re-birth with a few solid recruiting classes, but David Shaw has continued to build the Cardinal back to a perennial power in the Pac-12. Their crop of talent eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft may be the deepest they've had in years.
Among the best prospects Stanford will roll out on Saturdays this fall is offensive lineman David Yankey. Yankey has started 27 games in the last two seasons for Stanford, playing both guard and tackle. An All-American a year ago, Yankey is a preseason candidate for the Outland Trophy, awarded to the country's best offensive lineman.
But how well will his college pedigree translate to the NFL? His versatility is certainly a plus, but scouts will be looking to find Yankey a set position as a pro, and how he performs as a senior will dictate where on the line he ends up playing.
What he does well
Yankey is an experienced offensive lineman who has played a few different positions across Stanford's line. He fires off the ball well in the running game, driving defenders backwards with strong leg drive and consistent pad level. The tenacity he shows in the running game is impressive, as he consistently finishes his blocks. Yankey also moves well, getting to the second level quickly and showing the ability to pull efficiently when lined up at guard.
His footwork is clean for the most part. He gets decent depth in his kick slide and keeps a solid base. Yankey's hands are strong and he anchors well in pass protection. The strength in both his upper and lower body is what makes him an impact run blocker.
On a few occasions, Yankey showed some vicious cut-blocking skills, taking linemen out of the play with a purpose. He definitely has the mean streak teams look for on the offensive line. As an added bonus, Yankey has experience playing both guard and tackle during his college career.
What he needs to improve on
For a number of reasons, Yankey appears to be a better fit at guard. He doesn't appear comfortable naturally bending at the knees when dropping back in pass protection. Rather, he tends to bend at the waist and lunge at opponents. While he can pull effectively and get to the next level of the defense with ease, his tendency to lunge at defenders limits his ability to engage at the second level of the defense.
Yankey will reportedly slide back inside to guard this season for Stanford, which makes sense given his skill set and the talent the Cardinal has across the line. He's among the best draft-eligible guards for the 2014 draft but doesn't rank quite as favorably as a tackle. His versatility will appeal to some teams, but he's likely to exclusively play guard for whichever team drafts him. Yankey is not yet on the same level as the elite guards from the 2013 draft, and he might not even be the best guard in his class. But he is an intriguing, versatile offensive lineman with a chance to be drafted in the first round next April.
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