2020 NFL Draft Prospect Preview: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Iowa is known for producing quality NFL lineman. Tristan Wirfs will be no exception. Of the Hawkeye linemen to be drafted in the past 20 years, Wirfs has the most potential by a fair margin. Natural ability is woven into his DNA, but can he put all the tools together this season?

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Tristan Wirfs has shown a great deal of talent already. He’s one of the elite tackles in the coming NFL Draft. His pass blocking is incredibly smooth and refined despite him being only 20 years old. He has incredible size and athletic ability that teams will covet, and he goes to a school that many refer to as OLU (Offensive-Line University). A combination of his physical gifts and excellent coaching will get Wirfs selected quickly in the NFL Draft, but how good he becomes in the NFL is entirely up to him and his mindset.

Despite all his natural ability, Wirfs lacks some of the more mental parts of the game. His technique is excellent and he responds to pass rush counters well. However, his mental issues go deeper than technique. The lack of a true mauler mentality, wanting to humiliate the man in front of him. This mentality is what separates the good from the great. There’s hope that the Iowa coaching staff can instill this mentality in him before he leaves for the NFL Draft. However, I remain skeptical. What else does Wirfs have to offer? What else can he improve on?

Pros

Pass-Set

The first thing I have to talk about if Wirfs’ pass-set. It was obvious from the first play I watched that Wirfs ability in pass protection would get him selected high in the NFL Draft. He’s incredibly smooth, and for someone his size to be so nimble is truly impressive. I raved about Cody Ford and his quick feet for his size last year; well, Wirfs has easily surpassed Ford at this stage.

To combine with his excellent feet, Wirfs is also adept at hand fighting. These two things are what I constantly preach as the most important traits to have in a successful pass blocker. Your feet keeps opponents in front of you and your hands keep them off of you. Wirfs showed in excellent ability to do both of these here:

Size / Athletic Ability

Wirfs stands at 6’5 and weighs in at 320 lbs. He carries his weight well and also shows a natural athleticism. He moves well in space and can get out in front of his back. He runs well in the screen game despite limited reps at Iowa. I have no problems with Wirfs playing in a zone scheme that gets him into space and lets him build some momentum.

Ceiling

Tristan Wirfs has shown flashes of being one of the best tackle prospects… maybe ever. While that sounds like an overreaction because it’s July, it’s not. The flashes Wirfs showed were truly incredible. Here, he shows a play against Iowa State that’s reminiscent of the “Blindside”.

Cons

Attitude / Consistency

Nastiness. The one thing you can always expect an Iowa lineman to have. Except Wirfs, who lacks it almost completely. Truly great lineman want to take the person in front of them and drive them into the ground. Embarrass them in front of the world. Wirfs lacks this almost entirely. He doesn’t take guys to the ground anywhere near as frequently as he should, and it can cause him to allow defenders to get out of his grip.

In the last video, you’ll notice Wirfs has this ability. So why doesn’t he use it more often? It flummoxes me and if this coming season, Wirfs finds a way to do that on a consistent basis, we’re talking about a tackle how could very well be the undisputed best player in this NFL Draft class.

NFL Draft Preview

Wirfs is well on his way to becoming a first-round NFL Draft pick. He’s shown all the physical aspects that lead to being one of the leagues premiere tackles. His blend of size and athleticism is rare and his pass-set is poetry in motion. He comes from a school known for producing some of the league’s best lineman. There’s no reason Wirfs shouldn’t find success this coming season.

However, if he plans to develop into a truly elite tackle, Wirfs must find a way to start finishing blocks and discover his nasty side. If he wants to survive in the brutal trenches of the NFL, he’ll need to show he’s got that alpha mentality. As of right now, I give Wirfs a late first-round grade. The skill is there and the potential is obvious, but I’m very skeptical as to whether or not it’s possible for him to ever develop a nasty mentality.

Matt Valdovinos is a writer for PFN covering the Big Ten and NFL Draft. You can follow him @MVScouting on Twitter. Our PFN All-Access Pass includes exclusive access to our featured sections such as fantasy football, gambling, film room, data lab, and more. Click here to sign up today for only $30/year.

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