Jan. 3, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA: Kansas State Wildcats offensive lineman Cornelius Lucas (78) against the Oregon Ducks during the 2013 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Oregon defeated Kansas State 35-17. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown - Cornelius Lucas, OT Kansas State

Kansas State has been back on the map ever since the return of Bill Snyder.  Not only have they been much better on the playing field and in the standings but the Wildcats have put some extremely talented players into the NFL Draft.  This year, they have a couple of talented prospects but the best of the bunch is likely going to be their massive left tackle, Cornelius Lucas.

In somewhat of a juxtaposition of styles, Lucas has some troubles in run blocking in a system that runs the ball a ton and used the pass almost as a last resort.  On the other hand, Lucas is a terrific pass blocker who uses his length and feet to really shut down opponents.  In addition to trying to work to improve how well he can bend and gain leverage as a run blocker so he does not have to work so hard, he just needs to work to maximize his hand technique to keep opponents out of his body to really make himself into an elite tackle.  Because of his incredible talent as a pass blocker and the fact he looks like he can step in and play now, Lucas projects as a first round pick and if he can continue to refine his game and improve, he could end up leapfrogging some household names before all is said and done.

Vitals & Build

Lucas is listed at 6’9” 328lbs and is just an enormous human being.  He looks great, carries the weight extremely well, and is just a remarkable athlete.  Lucas has good strength but can have difficulty showing it because he will have trouble getting leverage.  He has great feet and moves well, whether going laterally or moving up the field.  While Lucas is going to continue gaining strength, he may want to try to avoid adding much more weight.  The main focus for Lucas in addition to just improving his body composition is working to get better and quicker when it comes to bending and getting low.

Run Blocking

Lucas has a difficult time when it comes to run blocking.  For all of the benefits that come with being 6’9” for the offensive tackle position, it is difficult for Lucas to get behind his pads and get low.  Because of his length, when he goes forward, it takes time for him to get low and he makes contact before he is able to get in a position of power.  He just takes up a ton of space.  In many respects, Lucas is the blocking sled when it comes to run blocking.  Opponents are able to get under his pads and cause him problems.  Lucas is at his best when he can slide into place and wall off defenders as opposed to trying to launch forward, lock on and drive.

The way Kansas State runs their blocking scheme, there are a lot of times when Lucas bypasses the defensive line and goes right to backer to make his first block.  This makes sense from a design point of view because Lucas can easily take on and make blocks at the second level and if the play works as designed, they have a natural lane and a way to get from the second level to the third.

Having said that, there are times when Lucas is simply too big and too strong regardless of his leverage and can overpower opponents.  And the times he is able to get leverage, he can really create space in a hurry.  The concern with Lucas is not speed, but rather power and opponents who can create momentum quickly.  Nothing would make Lucas happier than an opponent trying to beat him with speed, but when he is tall and gets caught in his body, he can be driven back or knocked off balance.  In addition on just trying to do everything he can to improve how well and how quickly he can bend, he just needs to do everything in his power to make sure he can get those long arms on the opponent first.

Along with that, Lucas can move well and he gets to the second level easily and effectively.  There are times when he is extremely awkward and seeing someone his size lunge at a linebacker or defensive back and miss is one of the most unathletic looking plays that can happen on a football field.  When a player is that size, they just need to get in the way.  Lucas is able to help with a double team and land a second block.

Lucas can work to improve how well and quickly he can bend to help him gain leverage so he does not have to use so much strength to dig opponents out, but this is probably always going to be an area where Lucas has difficulty because he is so big.  Going to the NFL may actually help him in some respects because in large part, opponents are going to be slightly taller, if he cannot improve how well he can bend, he is going to have to work to overpower opponents quite a bit.  Lucas does not play with much of a mean streak and seems satisfied that he has done his job rather than really trying to dominate an opponent and put them into the ground.

Pass Protection

This is where Lucas’s size and length helps him.  Lucas is a fantastic pass blocker who slides well and is simply too big for opponents to beat him.  He really handles speed rushers well and is extremely comfortable taking away the outside lane, while being light enough on his feet to counter and shut down inside moves.  He is extremely light on his feet for his size and while he does not have elite feet, Lucas has feet that are quick and quick enough for his size that he is able to get as far out as needed.

Lucas can occasionally have some trouble with power if he gets caught playing too tall, but he does show a good base and he can re-anchor effectively to shut down power moves.  When he adjusts his feet and gets low, he is incredibly difficult to move off of his spot.  Defenders need to be able to get under his pads and knock him off balance and beat him before he can recover, which is much easier said than done.

In terms of his ability to pass block, Lucas looks ready to go and like he could protect an NFL quarterback’s blindside this coming Sunday if they needed him to do it.  He just needs to work to cut down the times where he gets caught under his pads with power and gets knocked off balance.  Beyond that, Lucas really makes pass blocking look easy and covers a ton of ground.  Short of an overload blitz, his quarterback does not need to worry about pressure getting through Lucas.  He just seems to be the type of player that frustrates opponents to no end, because even when he appears to be beaten, he is not.  He recovers well and shuts down the play.

Technique

This is the area where Lucas probably needs the most focus of his game when it comes to technique.  It is not a matter of him necessarily doing it poorly, but rather it being of such massive importance for him to be successful.  As long as he uses his hands well and gets to the opponent before they get to him, he is going to be incredibly difficult to beat.  He has only shown vulnerability really when opponents get into his hands, so if he can work to reduce it as much as possible, he will win virtually every matchup he is up against.

Footwork

Lucas’s footwork is great.  There will be players with better feet, quicker feet, but for what Lucas needs with his size and length, they are fantastic.  He mirrors well and is able to stay under control and balanced easily.  In terms of the running game, he is able to attack forward easily and get to the second level without issue.  He has not been asked to pull or kick out and lead a toss much, but there is no reason he could not.  Those are areas where his leverage will be compromised but he will be able to run a guy over with his momentum.

System Fit

Lucas can play in any system, really, but he might not be perfectly suited for a power team.  He is certainly capable of doing it, but he has some trouble generating power quickly at times.  Other than that, the system that Lucas fits is the one that needs a blind side protector, which is all of them.  His run blocking and finding ways to maximize his ability in that respect are going to be a work in progress but there is little to suggest that he cannot be a plug and play left tackle at the next level because of how well he pass blocks.

Schedule

Fri, Aug. 30 vs. North Dakota State
Sat, Sept. 7 vs. LA-Lafayette
Sat, Sept. 14 vs. Massachusetts
Sat, Sept. 21 at Texas
Sat, Oct. 5 at Oklahoma State
Sat, Oct. 12 vs. Baylor
Sat, Oct. 26 vs. West Virginia
Sat, Nov. 2 vs. Iowa State
Sat, Nov. 9 at Texas Tech
Sat, Nov. 16 vs. TCU
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. Oklahoma
Sat, Nov. 30 at Kansas

Notable Games

The first big matchup for Lucas could come when the Wildcats go to Austin to play the Texas Longhorns.  The Longhorns defense features a talented legacy in Jackson Jeffcoat who lost part of his year to a shoulder injury.  Both seniors could figure extremely highly in the NFL Draft.  One of the great, underrated matchups of the season could be when Lucas goes up against Davonte Fields of TCU.  Fields has been a revelation in his young career and by November, he could be a household name, making that a must watch game.  The following week, Kansas State hosts Oklahoma and they always have a few talented defensive linemen they can use to test Lucas.

NFL Comparison

Lucas is not at the same level of talent to this point, but his game is similar to that of Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden.  Ogden, like Lucas was practically 6’10” at UCLA and like Lucas, was a wall as a pass protector.  Ogden was a more accomplished run blocker but much of that came in the NFL when he was with the Baltimore Ravens.  They both have incredible athleticism and both face the same issues going into the NFL.  This does not mean Lucas will be a Hall of Fame player like Ogden was, but they do have the same type of game.  That said, Lucas does possess an awful lot of talent.

Draft Projection

Finding blind side protectors is always a huge priority in the NFL Draft and teams will take a mediocre run blocker if it means getting someone who keeps their quarterback clean.  Lucas is an average run blocker who can get better but he is terrific in pass pro, so it is difficult to imagine him getting out of the first round unless something unforeseen arises.  If he can work to improve in run blocking as well as really putting the finishing touches for his ability in pass protection, he could go from being a first round pick to competing for a spot at the top of the board.

Tags: 2014 Mock Draft 2014 NFL Draft Cornelius Lucas Kansas State Wildcats Football

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