Kansas State's Top Prospect: Lucas Or Zimmerman?
By Bill Lund
Bill Snyder has always been a man of few words. He goes about his coaching business allowing his team’s play to speak volumes with its on-field performance.
What he and his Wildcats have done is win consistently and produce quality NFL talent. Last season, Kansas State sent three draft picks -- Chris Harper, Arthur Brown and Braden Wilson -- to the NFL. The Wildcats could have that many if not more draft selections in 2014.
The two best prospects may be offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas and strong safety Ty Zimmerman, two potential first- or second-day picks. Considering Snyder’s track record, it won’t be a surprise to see either one picked on the first day of the 2014 draft.
But which one is the better NFL prospect?
Ty Zimmerman, SS
Zimmerman, a 6-foot-1, 204-pound safety, has been the heart of the Kansas State defense and is its primary play-caller on the back end. Zimmerman has impressive instincts, decent athleticism and ball skills. He shows tremendous football IQ and on-field awareness. He has shown good durability, having started 35 straight until missing the Baylor game last season.
He shows he can turn his hips and play man coverage. Though his clock speed is average at best, Zimmerman does play fast when he is on the field, utilizing his instincts to make up for his lack of foot speed. He has been predominately a two-deep safety, but Zimmerman is versatile enough in coverage to match up with receivers in space. He led the Big 12 with five interceptions in conference play in 2012. In their win against Oklahoma, Zimmerman showcased his ability to break on the football with an interception and some key pass deflections.
Zimmerman has all the intangibles you would want in a defensive player. He has been an All-Big 12 performer and consistent in his play, much like the team he represents. He has shown he can play at a high level, and though he may not have elite testing numbers, he will perform on game day.
Cornelius Lucas OT
Lucas is a monster with feet. At 6-9, 324 pounds Lucas dominated Kansas State’s left tackle position and flourished, helping the Wildcats allow only 14 sacks on the year and rush for nearly 200 yards per game. His play earned him first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2012.
Lucas gets a good drive off the line of scrimmage when run blocking, serving has a human road grader. He is also nimble enough to cut athletes in space on draw or screen plays. He does allow players to slip off, but this is correctable as he learns to utilize his hands more efficiently. He is raw in some of the technical positioning and learning to counter good pass rushers, but the more he plays, the better he will become.
In pass protection, he shows good feet and a strong punch. When he gets extension, Lucas wins with a great lockout and the strength to keep rushers at bay. He does react slowly off the snap at times and will get beat with speed, though this appears to be a focus issue rather than a physical one. He is impressive with his massive size and athleticism, and with continued improvement, Lucas will be in the discussion of the best left tackle prospects in the draft.
Who's the better prospect?
Both Zimmerman and Lucas are the leaders on their respective sides of the ball, but Lucas may be the best prospect coming out of Manhattan, possibly the whole Big 12. His size is what scouts covet, and he has the athletic ability to be a blind side protector in the NFL.