After a redshirt year in 2011, Trai Turner played in a dozen games in 2012, with seven starts, all at right guard. Keeping the symmetry going, he started all thirteen contests in 2013, helping to pave the way for Jeremy Hill's 1,400 yard season as part of a Tiger rushing attack that registered a school-record 37 rushing touchdowns. For his play, Turner earned Second Team All-SEC honors. Rather than return to build upon his success, however, Turner made the somewhat surprising decision to forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the 2014 draft.
Turner is a powerful drive blocker who can dominate in small spaces. He boasts NFL size for the position and, unlike many players at his position (may of whom have had to kick inside because of short arms), the arm length to engage and redirect interior rushers, making him difficult to get around in pass protection. On the other hand, he's not the most agile man, and has experienced a bit of difficulty against quickness. Sadly, the Saviors of Scouting at Draft Breakdown have only two of Turner's games cut up for our perusal. Happily, they are against good SEC competition; watch him in action against Arkansas and Texas A&M, both from 2013.
What does our fabulous fivesome think of Turner and his game? Let's take a gander, why don't we?
Rob Rang (CBSSports.com): 8th-ranked OG; 150th overall
Strengths: Naturally large man with a square frame and long arms. Possesses good initial quickness off the snap for a man of his size, showing the ability to pull as well as release to find linebackers at the second level. Latches on to his opponent with strong hands and can be overpowering, driving defenders backward and occasionally to the turf for the emphatic pancake block. Shows some lateral agility when he keeps his shoulders square, mirroring defenders in pass protection. Some coachable flaws to his game which could be improved upon, giving him some legitimate developmental upside.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal lateral agility, too often giving up penetration to quick defensive tackles. Panics when this occurs, turning his shoulders and reaching out in a failing attempt to grab hold of opponents and slow them down. Carries too much weight around his middle, making him a bit top-heavy and off-balance. While surprisingly quick off the ball given his size, Turner struggles changing directions and defenders too often can elude him in space.
Compares To: Ronald Leary, Dallas Cowboys - Powerful run blocking will get Turner a chance in the NFL, but like Leary (who signed with Dallas an undrafted free agent) struggles in pass protection may make Turner's conversion to the quickness and precision of the NFL difficult.
Gary Horton (ESPN.com): 5th-ranked OG; 93rd overall
Pass Protection: Raw but possesses above-average physical tools to work with. Adequate foot speed, short-area quickness and possesses a very strong anchor. Powerful upper body. Heavy hands and can jar blockers with punch. Needs a lot of coaching with technique particularly with footwork. Lunges and does not always bring feet when redirecting to stay in front of rushers. Will often lose balance vs effective counter punchers.
Run Blocking: Excellent overall power and has strong inline capabilities. However, must be more consistent with initial angles and learn to play with eyes more. Also can improve balance to sustain blocks. Lunges too much. Adequate agility and climbs well to second level. Better initially working forward than having to move laterally and best fit will be in a power run game scheme.
Awareness: Lacks ideal experience but shows adequate overall FBI's. Identifies targets quickly at second level and when executing short-pull. Can learn to keep his head on swivel more in pass pro. Will be a quarter count late recognizing defensive line stunts at times. Should improve in this area with more experience.
Toughness: Excellent strength and toughness. Does not back down. Battles at the point of attack. Flashes finishing strength and looks to bury defenders when given the opportunity. Can improve effort and hustle chasing the play downfield.
Intangibles: Respectable individual and well-like by teammates and coaches. Has been accountable. Solid overall work ethic. No off the field red flags. Son of Barry and Capacine Turner.
Dan Shonka (Ourlads): 3rd-ranked OG; 45th overall
Two-year starter. A stout and athletic right guard after a redshirt year in 2011. Thick upper and lower body. Explosive and powerful knee bender with long arms (34") and strong hands. Athletic in his movements when pulling and folding around to seal the edge. Works to finish his blocks. Will lock on and drive the defender over the pile. Plays square and with good balance in pass protection. Keeps his hands inside the defender's frame and flashes an explosive punch. Effective cutting off backside pursuit on the second level. Physical player on line and on the second level. May struggle with inside pressure at times. Good lateral quickness to cut off movement and penetration. A guard only type player who plays with a good base and balance. More of a smash mouth run blocker at this point than a pass protector, but has all the tools - base, balance, and knee bend. Lacks the length to play outside at tackle.
Long Ball (Drafttek.com): 6th-ranked OG; 88th overall
Long arms for a guard, but he squares up well and has the quickness to get to the second level (plus, hell on wheels when he's pulling). Another "breakfast blocker", as he enjoys his pancakes and has strong hands on the end of those long arms to latch on and drive his opponents. His lateral agility is not up to par with the other prospects we have discussed and quick DTs can give him trouble in pass protection. Although he normally squares up well, if he's beat to the gap he will turn his shoulders and lose the leverage battle. Might be a bit top-heavy which causes him to lose balance. Another prospect who could re-shape his body in an NFL weight room and work on technique.
Nolan Nawrocki (NFL.com): 3rd-ranked OG; no overall grade
Strengths: Good overall body mass. Walls off defenders and generates movement in the run game. Can latch on and keep defenders at bay. Has experience locking horns with NFL-caliber defensive tackles, both in SEC games and practice. Will be a 21-year-old rookie. Registered the best 10-yard split (1.73 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.44 seconds) and the only sub-5-flat 40 time of all guards at the combine.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal length. Has thick hips and a fleshy midsection, which affects his ability to maneuver, position and fit. Ordinary hip snap. Has balance issues. Tends to bend at the waist and let his weight drift over his toes. Body control wanes the farther he travels. Technique needs work.
Draft Projection: Rounds 2-3
Bottom Line: Turner is a squarely built interior blocker built for road grading, though he has not demonstrated the ability to dominate as a third-year sophomore draft entrant. Could obviously have used another year of college experience, but has size and run-blocking potential in a power-running scheme. Could prove to be a better center than guard and offers swing interior versatility.
Most of our scouts have Turner graded as a second (Shonka, 45th overall) to late third (Horton, 93rd overall) round prospect. The outlier here is Rang, who sees Turner as a Ron Leary type. I think Turner's a better prospect than Leary, to whom the Cowboys gave a fifth round grade in 2012, and that's without considering the chronic knee problems that caused Leary's tumble to UDFA status. Consequently, I'm going to slot Turner in the third round on my "little board."
An article featured in O.C.C.'s morning news post offers, among various tidbits about the Patriots, some thumbnail assessments of this year's defensive line class. The short version is that teams will need to get their defensive linemen early or they won't get them at all. I believe strongly that Dallas wants to get a two good young D-linemen in the first two rounds if at all possible. Therefore, if the draft breaks the Cowboys' way, they won't be looking for an offensive guard until the third or fourth round, which means Zack Martin and Gabe Jackson will probably go to other teams - but sets them up nicely for a guy like Turner.
That's actually good news to me because, to my mind, he presents the best combination of power, explosion, athleticism, upside and (this is key) value of all the interior line candidates who we are profiling. Because of that, if the Cowboys are able to secure two dynamic defensive linemen (since were dreaming here, let's say Anthony Barr and then Dominique Easley) and then pick up Turner in the middle of round three? Well, that would be a golden draft, and you might just see me dancing down Broadway, drunken and pants-less, at the conclusion of day two...
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 former Tiger.
Tomorrow: Baylor OG Cyril Richardson