2020 NFL Draft Scouting Report


Tristan Wirfs

July 5, 2019 1:00 AM EST


Tristan Wirfs Scouting Report picture

School: Iowa

Height: 6'5"

Weight: 322

Eligibility: JR

Uniform: #74

Position: OT


Evaluated by: Austin Smith
smith.austinj14@gmail.com
July 5, 2019

Prospect Overview

Wirfs was about as interesting a study as I've had thus far this off-season. His first few tapes from his sophomore campaign were a struggle that made me wonder if I was jumping the gun on evaluating him for the 2020 class. After starting eight games in 2017, Wirfs became the first true freshman to start at the tackle position for Kirk Ferentz. Because of that, I expected to be impressed. Despite the early struggles, I kept watching him, and by the end of the season, he was putting together tape that displayed the prospect I was hoping to see. As a freshman, Wirfs started his first game against Illinois, in which he helped pave the way for the offense to rush for 191 yards. In his eight starts, the Hawkeyes rushed for 1,169 yards, winning five games in the process.


Tristan Wirfs Scouting Report image 1

As a sophomore, Wirfs started 12 of 13 games, sitting out one due to a suspension for an OWI in the summer. In those 12 starts, Iowa rushed for 1,720 yards and only failed to surpass the century mark twice (Northwestern, Mississippi State). All of his starts came at right tackle, and that is likely where Wirfs will play in the NFL. That will give his draft stock a slightly lower ceiling, but there is still plenty of upside. In addition to competing on the gridiron in high school, Wirfs was also a state champion wrestler, as well as one of only four Iowa male athletes to ever win consecutive state titles in the discus (three times) and shotput (twice). He is also breaking records in Iowa's weight room, and with a resume like that, there will likely be plenty of teams interested in Wirfs' services whenever he chooses to enter the draft.

Positives

In his first few tapes, it was difficult to find things that impressed me on a consistent basis, but as the season went on, he started to excel as a run blocker. As a former wrestler, I figured Wirfs would have a natural ability to play with leverage. While that wasn't always the case in the open field, I thought he did an excellent job of playing low when firing off against defensive linemen. Wirfs really showed an ability to drives guys off the line, and as the season went on, Iowa really focused on running to his side where he could do just that. Another area where Wirfs was really having success late in the year was getting to the second level following double teams. With his strength, the combination of he and a teammate would overwhelm defensive linemen to the point they were getting driven into the linebacker's lap. That made it easy for Wirfs to peel off and engage with the linebacker or defensive back.

Tristan Wirfs Scouting Report image 2

The other area that is very impressive with Wirfs is his size. There are plenty of linemen across college football that check this box, but with Wirfs' adequate athleticism, it makes him a very difficult player to get around. His biggest challenge was against Montez Sweat in the Outback Bowl. Sweat is one of the most incredible athletes college football has ever seen, and I expected Wirfs to have his issues. Sweat did get the best of him a few times, but I have to say I came away impressed with how Wirfs held his own. Three of the four times Sweat beat him were on inside moves where Sweat was just too quick off the snap. However, Wirfs is still developing with his technique, and when his footwork improves, it's going to make his size that much more of an obstacle for his opponents.

Areas for Improvement

As I've mentioned with past prospects, there are a variety of paths to success for top recruits. Not everyone walks into college football and instantly excels. In Wirfs' case, his early tape was rough. Against Iowa State and Wisconsin, he struggled to sustain blocks, and there were a fair amount of snaps where he never touched a defender. I know Iowa likes to be diverse in their blocking schemes, but his athleticism is really a hindrance in the open field on zone plays and that had a lot to do with those issues. I also wondered about whether his awareness was part of the problem. It sometimes seemed as if he struggled to locate a target, and that issue showed up a few times in pass protection as well. To be fair, these were the ninth and eleventh starts of his career, but it was tough to watch.


Tristan Wirfs Scouting Report image 3

I also worry about his conditioning because I noticed how much more often he lunges and bends at the waist in the second half. Wirfs also played high at times late in the game, and he seldom locked onto defenders when he had the opportunity, choosing instead, just to give them an initial shove. With his power, it's essential for Wirfs to get his hands inside and lock on to his opponent in order to make the most of it. He might need to dedicate himself to remaking his body to shed some unnecessary weight in order to stay fresh later into games. There is also a noticeable drop in effort when the ball is run away from him. Wirfs just doesn't play with the same intensity, and he often attempts to cut-block his opponent. That's not a bad strategy on the backside, but I have yet to see him successfully take a defender out of the play with a cut-block.

I've already talked about some of his struggles in the open field, but he also has them in pass protection, and his footwork has a lot to do with the problem. Just because he's not the same athlete as a guy like Andrew Thomas of Georgia, doesn't mean he can't have success in space. He just needs to shorten up his strides and slide his feet as opposed to stepping. The problems with his footwork put him off balance far too often, negating his power. Wirfs also has to get more depth on his kick slide in pass protection. If his feet clearly weren't quick enough, I wouldn't call this an area of improvement, but rather a limitation. Wirfs does show flashes where his footwork is precise and quick, leading me to believe he can improve to be more consistent in this area.


Tristan Wirfs Scouting Report image 4

Draft Stock

Right now, the package is better than the production on the field. He is a big guy at six feet, five inches, and 322 pounds, but his footwork, balance, awareness, and conditioning need to improve before I can see him earning a first-round grade. In fact, it will likely take a major jump in his development for him to make the kind of improvements he needs to earn that kind of evaluation, leading me to believe he could return as a senior. Still, the final three games I watched of him were much more impressive than the first few, and if he does continue that improvement, the hype will follow. Listening to Wirfs give interviews, he clearly appears to be a well-mannered young man, but he has had some issues. As I mentioned, he was suspended in for the first game of his sophomore year after being charged with an OWI, in which he blew a .129.

Now, Wirfs may face another suspension after being cited for being in a bar under the age of 21, which is against the law in Iowa. However, there were no reports that he'd been drinking in the bar. Teams are going to want to get to the bottom of this and see if this is just a kid enjoying college, or someone with a genuine problem. Overall, the sufficient athleticism and size will be an intriguing combination at right tackle, but 2019 will help us get a bigger picture of whether it would even be wise for him to declare following his junior season.

Player Comparison

It's tough to compare him to Cam Robinson, but the build is very similar. Robinson had immediate success as a freshman, and overall may be slightly more athletic. Still, the power in which Wirfs plays with is also something that reminds me of Robinson. Much like the former-Alabama standout, when Wirfs fires off the line and plays with good leverage, the defender is going for a ride. Also, Robinson was destined to play for a power-heavy blocking scheme, and Wirfs will likely be targeted by a team with a similar system.

Games Evaluated

vs. Iowa State (9-8-18)
vs. Wisconsin (9-22-18)
vs. Maryland (10-20-18)
vs. Penn State (10-27-18)
vs. Nebraska (11-23-18)
vs. Mississippi State (1-1-19)

Notes from Film

  • Don't know if it's the number 74 that is reminding me of Cam Robinson or the build, but that's my initial comparison. Got a wide chest, long arms and legs, and huge feet and hands like Robinson.
  • Early in his tape, I am noticing he isn't getting locked onto opponents at all. For being a massive player, he is giving a guy an initial punch or a shove as they run by, but he isn't getting a two-hand punch to their frame and latching on to the breast plates. As soon as I say that, he locks onto a linebacker and drives them seven yards backward before putting him on his back. Still, those occasions are few and far between.
  • Balance is all over the place against Iowa State. Particularly in open space.
  • Not a great athlete but good enough to stay on the edge at the next level on the right side, and there are flashes where his footwork is very clean to get the most out of his athleticism.
  • When he plays with good leverage, the power is clearly there. Unfortunately, he plays too high, too often.
  • Got to do a better job of bending his knees. There are too many instances where he bends at the waist, and it negates his power, which is his premier trait.
  • Noticeable difference in effort when he is on the play side compared to the back side. As a backside blocker, he shuts down when defender crosses his face as opposed to locating another. A lot of snaps where he just dives at the player's legs, and it's rarely effective.
  • Not sure if there was a mistake on Wirfs' part or in the pre-snap slide call but on more than one occasion I've seen him slide in, leaving the defensive end to the running back on a three-man rush. How in the world five offensive linemen are facing off against three rushers with one of them being left for the running back is beyond me.
  • Awareness and/or communication have been off on several blitzes as well.
  • Through two tapes, he has had minimal success at the second level.
  • While he is pretty raw as a prospect overall, he is less polished in the passing game than the run. He doesn't get much depth on his kick slide, which makes his athleticism that much more of an issue.
  • I will give him this in pass protection, he is not an easy player to get around because of his size and arms. Even with a poor kick slide and sloppy footwork, guys struggle to get the edge on him.
  • Iowa runs a diverse run-blocking scheme, but when they give him in a power-blocking assignment where he can fire off the line and block the man across from him, he is most effective.
  • Listening to him speak, he is a well-mannered, respectful young man which is a positive, but I wish he had a nasty side to him on the field. Not very much desire to manhandle or pancake his opponent.
  • Penn State was the turning point for him. Starting with that game, he's consistently driving players off the ball and playing with good leverage.
  • Love the effort on a second-quarter interception against Penn State where he hustled in pursuit and ended up shoving defender out of bounds at the two
  • yard line
  • Best snap I've seen from him was in the fourth quarter of the Nebraska game. On a run to the edge to his side, he used good footwork to put himself in position to pin the defensive end inside. He then worked his way up to the second level and took out the backside linebacker as well. He execution opened up a perfect run lane that the back hit for 32 yards.
  • His athleticism is not a strength, but I think he can succeed at right tackle against NFL competition. I expected Montez Sweat to really give him problems in the Outback Bowl, and while Sweat beat him a few times, I thought Wirfs really held his own. Sweat got a couple of hurries against him, one of which I think he was able to hit the quarterback's arm. He also bested him with twice on run snaps where Wirfs wasn't able to handle his quickness on inside moves. He gave up a third pressure up to Kobe Jones on an inside move.


Scouting Video Courtesy of DeludedYinzer




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