Billy Turner was inserted into the starting lineup almost immediately upon arriving at NDSU, starting twelve of the Bisons' thirteen games in 2010. The following season, he moved to left tackle, where remained entrenched, starting 44 straight contests for back-to-back-to-back FCS National Title teams (in total, Turner started in 56 of 58 possible games in his collegiate career). Not only was Turner a three-time national champion, but also twice took home First-team All-MVC and FCS All-American honors (in both 2012 and '13).
Although a small-school prospect, Turner looks every bit like an NFL lineman, boasting pro-caliber size and length. More importantly, he has top-flight athleticism, with good, light feet and natural body control. Lastly, he has a good bit of nasty in him, finishing plays and working opponents to the whistle.This is evident on tape; thanks to the Pashas of Pigskin at Draft Breakdown, cut-ups of four of the Bisons' games, all from 2013, are available to you. Watch him in action against the big boys, as NDSU upset Kansas State, thanks to a brilliant and inexorable final drive. Also, check out how he fared against league rival Delaware State.
What do our panelists think of Turner? A disparate set of opinions, indeed....
Dane Brugler (CBSSports.com): 9th-ranked OT; 76th overall
Strengths: Athletic with good shuffle to protect the edge, staying light on his feet to mirror. Good set up quickness, patience and reflexes with body coordination and bend. Strong at the point of attack with powerful initial jolt, generating power from his built upper body and long arms. Doesn't slow at contact, showing latch-and-drive quickness and fight through the whistle. Good vision at the second level and the open field to come off initial block and eliminate the LB/DB ? looks natural on combo blocks. Has the frame to get stronger. Looks to punish and plays with a mean, nasty temperament. Easy to appreciate his on-field demeanor. Energetic finisher and plays through the whistle. Football bloodlines as his father played RB at Utah State and was drafted by Minnesota Vikings (1983), brother played LB at BYU and was drafted by NY Giants (2008). Four-year starter with time at both left and right tackle (56 career starts: 44 left tackle, 12 right tackle); two-time consensus All-American (2012-13) and part of three straight FCS National Championships.
Weaknesses: High cut body type with leaner-than-ideal lower body. Needs to keep his belt and butt low to stay balanced and win with leverage. Needs to keep his pad level low and dig his cleats in the ground, can be knocked off balance in space. Bad habit of lunging and allowing his upper half to be overextended. Needs to stay under control on the move to better break down. Late to protect the edge at times and looks more comfortable when not asked to cover a large area. Needs to do a better job with hand placement to better redirect rushers and keep defenders from attacking his body. Level of competition is a question mark; didn't face top-flight talent week-to-week in college. All of his experience is at tackle, not inside at guard.
Gary Horton (ESPN.com): 12th-ranked OT; 137th overall
Run Blocking: Above average power and can move defenders off the ball when stays low. Quick getting up to second level and knocks linebackers off course with punch. Pads rise too much though and can get stood up at point. Adequate foot speed and can seal edge when footwork is sound but inconsistent and not ideal fit for zone heavy scheme.
Awareness: Above average recognizing and picking up pressure off edge in pass pro. Keeps head on a swivel but late seeing some line stunts. Ducks head and below average locating linebacker on combination blocks. Adequate locating assignment when pulls.
Toughness: Got some mean in him. Can put assignment on ground and not let him up. Above average initial aggressiveness but doesn't always block to and through the whistle. Content to get into position and wall off assignment at times.
Intangibles: Son of Maurice and Keren Johnson Turner. Father played running back at Utah State. Minnesota drafted father in 1983 and he played for three teams during five-year career. Brother Bryan Kehl played linebacker at BYU. Giants selected Kehl in the fourth round of the 2008 draft and he played for Washington last year. Brother Maurice Turner played receiver at Northern Iowa. Major is communications.
Dan Shonka (Ourlads): 13th -ranked OT; 116th overall
Four-year starter at left tackle. A physical player with good athletic ability. Good two-arm lock out extension and use of hands in pass protection. Aggressive run blocker. The Bison ran behind him on goal-line and short yardage plays. Mobile enough to pull and fold block the second level. Can play in space. Can gain and regain balance. Needs more core strength. Slender lower body. Will play high in both the pass and run games if he loses his knee bend. Narrows his power base at times.
Senior Bowl notes: played left tackle for the Bisons, but worked at right tackle in the Senior Bowl. Tall athletic frame with some softness but has big bone girth. Worked too high with inconsistent knee bend. Had significant problems with speed off the edge and redirecting quickly with double move pass rushers. Improved as the week went on. Has the body, functional foot mobility, and athletic agility for an NFL lineman. Will need to improve play strength and hand placement.
Long Ball (Drafttek.com): 8th-ranked OT; 69th overall
This is a guy who really grows on you. He is highly athletic, protects the edge well and keeps his feet moving. Quickly sets into position, displays appropriate bend and really fires into his opponent on pass protection, showing strength and leverage with his long arms. I would like to see him work on squats to further develop his lower body and keep his butt a little lower; this would only add to his power. On run blocking, he does not slow after initial contact and continues to drive his opponent (another prospect who displays some of that "Long Ball Nastiness" that I enjoy watching). He will lunge from time to time and can get over-extended, plus he needs to work on his hand placement technique. He got away with things at the lower college level that will eat him up at the next level, but give him a year in an NFL weight room and one-on-one coaching and he could be something special in years 2-3.
Nolan Nawrocki (NFL.com): 18th-ranked OT; no overall grade
Strengths: Big hands and nice length. Light on his feet. Flashes strength in his punch. Tries to run his feet on contact. Is athletic enough to fan the rush when all his moving parts are coordinated. Aware to handle stunts. Energetic playing temperament -- competes and blocks to the whistle. Four-year starter for the nation's preeminent I-AA program. Smart, hardworking and dependable. Has NFL bloodlines.
Weaknesses: Needs to improve his core strength and fortify his base. Plays too tall and narrow-based -- pad level fluctuates. Does not explode on contact. Footwork and technique need refinement. Carries his hands low. Tends to overextend and bend at the waist. Average contact balance and body control. Slides off blocks. Struggles to clear his feet as a puller. Inconsistent connecting and sustaining on the second level.
Draft Projection: Rounds 6-7
Bottom Line: Big-framed, raw, aggressive FCS standout who flashes a nice combination of foot quickness, punch strength and nastiness to warrant consideration as a project. Has a bit of a bull-in-a-china-shop element at this stage of his career, but has moldable tools and could develop into a swing backup.
Our panelists have Turner graded across a wide swath, from the 69th pick (top of round three) to the 137th selection (somewhere in the midst of round five); Nawrocki, as you can see right above, has him as a late-rounder. Given the premium placed on offensive linemen, particularly athletic ones in recent years, I'm inclined to move Turner closer to his highest grade than to his lowest one. With that in mind, I'll place him on my "little board" in round three, where Dallas currently holds the 78th pick.
If their Valley Ranch invites are any indication, the Cowboys appear to be interested in two different OL profiles: college offensive tackles, with the athleticism and nimble feet to pull and get to the second level, and guards with the strength and heft to stymie interior bull rushers and maintain the top of the pocket. Turner fits into the first category; while he certainly has some functional strength, his greatest asset appears to be his athleticism.
With some of the other O-line candidates, the plan appears to be to play them at guard, with the proviso that they can be moved to tackle if and when Doug Free leaves the team. As several of these scouts note, Turner isn't a "plug and play" type; he might not have the power to hold up in the interior in year one. That said, he has the tools to blossom in subsequent seasons. If the Cowboy end up drafting Turner, it would be unfair to expect a significant contribution until 2015.
Later today: Now that you've seen how the national draftniks rate Turner, stay tuned for our in-house scout, Joey Ickes, who will post a detailed film study of the NDSU star's game.
Tomorrow: LSU OG Trai Turner