04/30/2012 - A closer look at the Panthers' picks: Round 2/40 -- Amini Silatolu, OG, 6-4, 311, Midwestern State...A powerful blocker who will have to overcome level-of-competition concerns. With his strength and quickness, will have a chance to compete for the starting left guard job. - The Sports Xchange
Most Division II players are not considered potential top 100 prospects, especially not those projected to play inside at the next level. The strong and nimble Silatolu has intrigued scouts to the point where teams could push his way into the top half of the draft. The success of small-school linemen like Saints' Pro Bowler Jahri Evans (2006, fourth round, Bloomsburg) and Raiders' rookie starter Jared Veldheer (2010, third round, Hillsdale).
Silatolu started his collegiate career at San Joaquin Delta College in California, starting his first year on campus and then earning multiple All-California and All-American awards at left tackle after the 2009 season. He made an instant impact at Midwestern as a junior, starting at left tackle and garnering All-Lone Star Conference honors and making several All-American squads (including the prestigious Associated Press Little All-American squad for lower-division football).
Silatolu's athleticism and size make it difficult for defensive linemen from Division II schools (even in talent-rich Texas) to regularly challenge him.
But facing junior college and Lone Star opponents is not a great way to prepare for bigger, faster, and stronger NFL defenders.
The runner up as Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year to Wayne State OT Joe Long, Silatolu is one of the top eight offensive guard prospects and could be considered a top 75 pick.
Pass blocking: Not likely to stay at left tackle in the NFL, but shows better lateral agility than expected for his short, stocky build. Quick enough to help left guard with a punch on the tackle after the snap, yet make it outside to stop the end from reaching the pocket. Resets hands after initial contact to maintain distance, also extends his arms at the end of plays to finish. Anchors well against most defenders with low center of gravity and natural bend. Owns a strong punch that will knock rushers off their route. Takes ends around the pocket and blocks off inside lane against most tackles or twisting ends; NFL defenders will have the edge in quickness in those situations, however.
Run blocking: By no means a gentle giant, attacks defenders in the run game and will finish blocks. Plays with violent hands at the point of attack. Crashes down the edge, will take multiple defenders to the ground. Overextends trying to sustain or dominate blocks instead of simply walling off quicker defenders. Will let up on blocks on occasion when he thinks the play is away.
Pulling/trapping: Hustle and agility allow coaches to use him in front of bubble screens despite his thick, compact build and average long speed. Nimble and quick enough to trap inside or even pull around to the strong-side of the formation from his left tackle spot. Flattens small-college linebackers at the second level when coming straight-on. Flashes some flexibility to get a hand up against oncoming inside defenders, but must show he can make that block against speed of the pro game.
Initial Quickness: Rarely challenged off the snap by Division II defenders on run or pass plays, must ramp it up against NFL-caliber quickness. Gets into move blocks very quickly for his size. Lines up mostly in two-point stance at tackle, needs to show he can get into and out of his stance effectively inside with his hand on the ground.
Downfield: Size and a lack of long foot speed will limit his range, but his effort to help out running backs in the second level (and beyond) is impressive. Can hit multiple defenders if following or leading his back down the field, plays with the tenacity to push piles downfield for extra yardage.
Intangibles: Possesses on-field nastiness and hustle to help teammates, NFL coaches will get even more out of him. Scouts will have major questions about his level of competition, as well as his football and general intelligence, after he played two years at junior college and two years in Division II.