The Senior Bowl has concluded, which means endless hours of tape study and research is the only thing on the to-do list until the Combine rolls around. Then, even more research goes into who will be the next great fit for your NFL team. With months still to go until the NFL Draft at the end of April, many opinions of players will begin to rise. One prospect I’ve had my eye on is West Virginia Mountaineers left tackle, Yodny Cajuste.
Yodny Cajuste, Offensive Tackle, West Virginia, 6’5″, 321 pounds
Cajuste is from Miami, FL where he played the offensive and defensive line in high school. He was also a basketball player. During his recruitment period, Cajuste was the 40th ranked offensive tackle nationally by 247Sports. He signed with West Virginia and red-shirted as a freshman.
During his redshirt freshman year, Cajuste appeared in seven games, six of which he started at left tackle until sustaining a knee injury against Baylor. He then returned for the Cactus Bowl that year. Unfortunately, his sophomore year was halted as he sustained another knee injury. This time it ended his season during the season-opening game against Missouri.
Cajuste bounced back during his junior year as he was named All-Big 12 Second Team by Coaches. Cajuste started 13 games at tackle that year. He was part of an offensive line that allowed just 4.1 tackles for a loss per game. That ranked atop the Big 12, and also ranked eighth overall in the nation. That offensive line also held opponents to just 1.5 sacks per game. The offensive line was stout that year with Cajuste, as they paved the way for a 1,000-yard rusher, 3,000-yard passer, and two 1,000-yard receivers.
Cajuste returned for his senior year, which only helped his draft stock. He racked up the awards, earning Big 12 Conference Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year, All-Big 12 Conference First Team from AP, Coaches, and Phil Steele. He also ended his college career starting in 30 of his 31 career games played. 11 of those games were started at left tackle. This year, he helped pave the way for the Mountaineers offense to an average of a whopping 512.3 yards of total offense per game. That sat at number 8 overall nationally.
There is no doubt that the stats and the accolades look outstanding for Cajuste. But what does the tape say? I’ve studied the tape for quite a while now and a lot has stood out. His technique in both the run and pass game is sound. He has tremendous footwork and his length gives him the ability to be a great blindside shield at the next level. I noticed his set points are just a bit off, which can lead to him being off balance at times. This is something that I believe he will be able to clean up with experience in the NFL. Cajuste has a solid anchor and is able to take on power rushers effectively. His adjustment to counter moves is NFL ready and can take on any type of rusher.
He’s a fraction of a second late on the edge at times, but this is something I am not concerned with going forward. His strength in the run game is superb. His ability to get defensive linemen out of their gap and create lanes is next level. One thing that really popped out at me was how easily he can get to the second level. Knowing his role and his sense of timing is something he seems to really pride himself on. Rarely was he ever late to his spot, and was also there for double teams when he was needed. Cajuste excelled at lead blocking when he was asked to do so. His hand technique is excellent. When he needs to improvise, he’s able to do so without missing his mark. When he’s aiming at a moving target, his placement is on the dot.
With this class being so deep at offensive lineman this year, Cajuste’s current draft projection is day two. Can he jump up into day one? Absolutely. I believe he possesses the necessary traits NFL general managers are looking for, and he has the versatility with his size and strength to play both the tackle position and in the interior of the line. With teams such as the Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, and the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the first round all in need of offensive lineman, it’s easy for me to project Cajuste landing somewhere at the end of day one.