There was some talk that in the 2014 NFL Draft, the New York Giants should select the best tackle available at the time. One of the names thrown around was Cyrus Kouandjio, a junior left tackle from the University of Alabama.
Kouandjio entered the Sugar Bowl on Thursday night as a player with tremendous upside, but a limited football background. The limited background showed, as Kouandjio was beaten repeatedly by speedy outside linebacker Eric Striker of Oklahoma. The back breaker came with a minute left in the game and Alabama down just a touchdown. Kouandjio was beaten off the edge by Striker, who forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown to seal the Oklahoma victory.
Kouandjio took it in stride, saying that his struggles won't break him and he is ready to learn from them:
"I say this not out of pity for myself, but I say this because I can take it," he said. "I'm still going to be the beast I know I can be. There's a beast inside of me, and it's going to come out. Nobody's going to stop me."
Kouandjio's struggles last night are worrisome, however. He played great against some very good defenses in his career, so what led to him being completely dominated by an average Oklahoma defense? Was it nerves? Did he go into the game underestimating Oklahoma's pass rush? It was not just the missed blocks, Kouandjio committed a number of bad penalties that hurt Alabama's offense. Last night was a big red flag for teams thinking of drafting him in the early parts of the first round.
After Kouandjio's poor performance last night he probably should return to Alabama for his senior season, in order to polish his skills. He will face a lot better speed rushers in the NFL than Striker, which would prevent him from making an impact early on. For a team whose championship window is closing, it would be smart for the Giants to pass on Kouandjio if he does enter the draft. They need offensive lineman who can contribute right away, and having to develop Kouandjio for a year wouldn't be worth the number twelve pick in this May's draft.
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