With the 2010 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Before the 2011 scouting combine begins on February 24, we'll be taking a closer look at the 40 draft-eligible players who may be the biggest difference-makers when all is said and done.
We continue our series with Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi. The 6-foot-7, 315-pound Carimi was the linchpin for the only NCAA team in 2010 to have three different running backs with at least 800 yards on the ground. His 2010 Outland Trophy and multiple All-Big Ten and academic awards speak to his sense of discipline and accountability on and off the field. That said, Carimi's far from a talent-lean Boy Scout on the field - he is a physical and aggressive player with 48 collegiate starts to his name and a great deal of natural and acquired talent.
Pros: Rises up off the snap as quickly as any tackle in this class (especially out of a three-point stance) and engages aggressively with his hands right away. His use of hands is one of his best attributes, whether he's punching a defender off the line or chipping to hit the second level. In pass protection, he keeps a wide base and fans out very well to deal with edge rushers trying to turn the corner. Less polished tackles will give ground on the back half of the edge, but Carimi keeps his position tight all the way back to behind the pocket.
Felt a real need to prove himself at the Senior Bowl and did so with a solid week of practice (sliding inside to guard at times) before missing the game with an ankle injury. Probably won't be asked to play guard at his height, but ability to adjust well speaks to his adaptability and coachability.
Cons: Surprisingly for a player who has shown a great deal of technical development, Carimi doesn't consistently hit the second level as you'd like. His footwork in space will need refinement, and he does a lot of lunging when he's blocking linebackers and defensive backs out of the box. Shows a lot more power coming up out of a three-point stance than he does standing up - that will be an advantage with more traditional blocking teams, but it's something he might want to work on before the combine, as more and more NFL teams are putting two-point tackles on the line right out of the box. At times, he'll line up too high or lapse when he should be bending his knees pre-snap, and that's when he loses the leverage battle.
Conclusion: Carimi had a tough row to hoe when he replaced the legendary Joe Thomas(notes) at Wisconsin, and though he won't make anyone forget Thomas at either the collegiate or NFL level anytime soon, he's got the potential to be an excellent starting left tackle. There isn't a tackle in this draft class who doesn't need refinement of some sort, and while Carimi's got his own technical issues to deal with on the field, he may very well be the closest to NFL success at his position.
More Shutdown 40
#40 -- Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State | #39 - Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee
| #38 - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor | #37 - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas | #36 -- Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami | #35 -- Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor | #34 - Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State | #33 -- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State | #32 - Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida | #31 - Nate Solder, OT, Colorado | #30 - Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame | #29 - Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois | #28 - Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State | #27 - Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA | #26 - Brandon Harris, CB, Miami