Saturday, 27 February 2010

POTD: Mike Iupati, G, Idaho

By Kip Earlywine

Height: 6'5"
Weight: 331
Official 40: 5.26

(note, in this senior bowl video, Iupati plays both RG and LG. Look for the guy with the big hair)


  • Love his nastiness and intensity. He plays angry.
  • Very rare combination of size, power, athleticism, and effort
  • Is at times utterly dominating in the run game
  • Good angle blocker and could fit in both man and zone schemes
  • Still lots of room for improvement- all-pro potential
  • Long arms
  • Durable
  • No character concerns, seems like a very nice and humble guy

  • Stands straight up when blocking, has leverage issues; not a natural knee bender
  • Relies on upper body strength too much and often forgets to chop feet in stalemates
  • Hand use needs work
  • Not the quickest feet
  • Can be beaten in pass pro
  • Definitely not a left tackle but could be drafted as one (like Branden Albert was)
  • Didn't utterly dominate at Senior Bowl like he did against WAC competition

My thoughts:

I couldn't find a good compilation video to link, but some of you may have seen clips of Iupati on NFL network and ESPN. Against WAC competition, he's simply a man amongst boys. He tosses defensive linemen around like rag-dolls and he even has his moments against stronger competition (USC). Iupati is a relentless run-blocker. His passion for the game and intensity reminds me of Aaron Curry's. However, Iupati's success came against one of the weaker division I conferences, and because of that, the Senior Bowl was pretty huge for him. I know a lot of commentators raved about Iupati at the Senior Bowl, but I thought his performance was a bit of a mixed bag, personally. He gave up an easy sack and had an obvious hold that wasn't called on another play. In the running game, he was stonewalled on the majority of plays and while Iupati fights hard, he's not skilled at breaking stonewalls. He did have a couple pancakes though, which is pretty impressive given Senior Bowl competition.

Given how impressive Iupati can be at times, I was very surprised to see how poor his footwork and leverage are. He stands straight up in run blocking, and in pass blocking he only barely bends his knees. He has a nice nasty streak in the running game but I noticed he tends to use his arms to finish blocks instead of his legs. If he can be taught to play lower and rely on his lower body more, his potential in the running game is Hutch-like. Hutch however, was and is a first rate pass protector, and Iupati has some issues. In addition to the lack of knee bend, he doesn't move his feet enough and once a defender manages a swim on him, he's in trouble. Anyone that thinks Iupati is an NFL left tackle probably doesn't know what they are talking about.

I think Iupati is ideal as a RG in the NFL. His pass protection isn't terrible, but his skillset is clearly more run oriented, and the right side of the line tends to be side teams place the tight end most plays and its considered the running side of an offensive line. This coincides with a need by Seattle. The zone scheme running game lives off of runs up the middle, and a Iupati/Spencer (or Unger)/Sims interior would be elite in the running game. Seattle really doesn't have a right guard at the moment, though finding an adequate one shouldn't be hard for Gibbs. If Iupati falls to #40 (doubtful), he should be considered and would provide a huge boost to the running game. I probably wouldn't take him at #14 though, I think that would be a bit of a reach, and there are other areas of bigger need with players of greater value that should be expected to be there.


Jon said...

Iupati would be an ideal pick in the late first(if the Hawks traded back somehow).

2 questions:

What do you think about taking Brown at #6 if it looks like he might be gone by #14? Crazy talk right now but things are changing, might be a consideration down the road.

Have you run Sergio Kindle up the POTD flagpole yet? Seems a nice fit for the Elephant position.

Kip Earlywine said...

I don't think Brown will be taken in the top 13 picks. The only team in that runs zone and needs a pass pro specialist in that range is Washington, and no way would they take him at #4. The Seahawks don't need to strain themselves for a tackle anyway. I don't think we'll see the first wave of tackles dry up until the mid-late 20's, so we could probably trade down and still get a good prospect. Even if we trade down too far and miss out, we have Gibbs which affords us some insurance. He could take a Fox or Capers in the mid-rounds and make a serviceable left tackle out of them. I think there are a lot of good options for Gibbs in this draft and while Brown is one of my favorites, there's no need to lock into one guy early on. I hope the Seahawks FO feels similarly and keeps an open mind so as to avoid reaching.

Regarding Kindle- I doubt it. We already have two elephant LB candidates in house (Tapp, Curry), and if we did draft one, it would probably be Brandon Graham as he's an excellent rush 4-3 DE with great upside as an elephant. Kindle strikes me as a player that will be targeted exclusively by 3-4 teams.

Jon said...

I'm full of questions today. You know who #56 was in that clip at the end who beat Iupati for the sack?

Jon said...

Tapp and Curry will get plugged into that Elephant role this year for sure but the jury's still out on Curry as a pass rusher and it's put up or shut up time for Tapp. From what I can tell the Elephant is a pass rushing LB, Kindle just seems to be the best pass rushing linebacker in this draft.

Like you say, he'll be targeted by 3-4 teams but if Kindle is a natural fit in that Elephant he should be considered. Pass rush is still a huge need, we can't hold our breath on Tapp.

But it's kinda moot, Kindle's a late 1st guy and as of now we're picking in the front half.

Ben said...

Brandon Graham wore 55 and he seems to have abused Iupati when he was playing the RT.

On the elephant: There's no way that we'll draft a 3-4 LB in the first round specifically to play the elephant LB. The elephant LB position was introduced to fit the talent to the scheme, not the opposite. We've already got a bunch of guys who can probably play the position (Tapp, Curry, Reed) and too many other wholes to fill to think about getting a guy like that anywhere in the top half of the draft.

Jon said...

Reed in the Elephant. Wow, could happen but I'd think Hawthorne would get a shot before Reed. Heater had 4 sacks last year.

Kip Earlywine said...

Keep in mind, we don't even know if the elephant LB will be a major fixture for Carroll in Seattle. He used it only as a sort of experiment at USC (mostly in 2006), and I think we'll see it on a trial basis in 2010 here in Seattle, just like Knapp's Senecat plays last year. And given the needs of the team, I find it doubtful that they would invest one of those top 40 picks on a elephant specialist.

They might select Graham or JPP because they have the ability to be elephants while also being starting capable 4-3 DEs, but they won't draft a guy who is only an elephant specialist I don't think.

Also, I have no clue who #56 is.

Paul said...

Mike Iupati is the guy to pick! I don't care zone blocking scheme or not, this is our guy! Mike Iupati will make everyone forget about the Ruskell/Hutchinson debacle. Mike Iupati can succeed in any scheme known to man. He is worth a #14 pick and I'll debate that til draft day.

Jon said...

Obviously a guy like Iupati will have Hawk fans in a tizzy, wanting to replace Ruskell's divot from the Hutch debacle. I'd just like to know how far apart they are based on where Hutch was being evaluated up to his being drafted.

Hutch was the 17th pick in 2001. Alan Faneca was 26th overall in 1998 so if Iupati goes in the first round those'll be the guys he's compared to. Is he that good?

Kip Earlywine said...

I think Iupati will probably go to Dallas. However, it wouldn't totally shock me if he falls to round 2. Only 3 guards have been taken in the 1st round since 2006.