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Chargers draft options: Tristan Wirfs

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NCAA Football: Miami (Ohio) at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in the offseason, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs has been mocked to the Chargers on more than one occasion. And for good reason.

The Chargers’ most notable shortcoming along the offensive line has been at right tackle. The last two seasons, it’s been mostly Sam Tevi, a former sixth-round pick out of the University of Utah. Before him, Joe Barksdale held down the spot since he was signed in free agency prior to the 2015 season.

During the 2013 and ‘14 seasons, former Chargers’ first-round pick DJ Fluker tried his hand at right tackle before moving inside to guard. And before him? It was former sixth-round pick Jeromy Clary.

It’s been almost an entire decade of mediocre right tackle play and the Chargers cannot let that go unchecked any longer. Lucky for them, however. Two of the top three tackles in this entire draft are on the right side. So if the Bolts decide to roll with Tyrod Taylor or another veteran signed from free agency, then this is the best chance they have to draft a guy who could solidify that side of the line for years to come.

For this edition of Chargers Draft Options, we are focusing in on the uber-athlete from little Mount Vernon, Iowa who could be the best offensive lineman to come out of Iowa City in some time, and that’s really saying something.

The first thing anyone and everyone should know about Tristan Wirfs is that he’s strong. Like, really, really strong. Just take a look:

That is 450 pounds on the bar and he just threw it up four times. Former fifth-overall pick Brandon Scherff, who also hails from Iowa, set the internet ablaze when he did the same thing with 425 pounds. And he only did it three times.

Scherff was a heck of an athlete himself, playing quarterback in high-school at 250 pounds before converting to tight end at Iowa before inevitably landing at left tackle. He has since been named to the last three Pro Bowls as a right guard for the Washington Redskins.

If Scherff can go in the top-5, Wirfs most definitely can. It may not happen in this draft due to the amount of other blue-chip players at other important positions, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see Wirfs get taken as the first offensive linemen in the draft.

For the sake of fun clips, here’s a little dandy that showcases some of his raw strength:

Speaking of athleticism, here is a clip from Iowa’s victory over the USC Trojans in this year’s Holiday Bowl:

This type of block by Wirfs wasn’t the first time the Hawkeyes took advantage of his movement skills. Here’s another clip from earlier in the season:

It’s not often that coaches ask a 320-pound linemen to change directions like this in the run game. Not many linemen can stick their foot in the ground and get on their horse like Wirfs, though. Him being asked to do this and still having the body-control to collect himself and latch on to the defensive back is also noteworthy.

Anthony Lynn loves being able to pull his blockers out into space. In fact, the lone bright spot with Sam Tevi is that he is actually pretty good when asked to do this. If you go back and watch some of Melvin Gordon’s biggest runs and touchdowns from that season, especially in that game against the Seahawks, you’ll see Tevi leading the way for Gordon’s 34-yard score up the right sideline.

There is a group of people among the draft community, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah included, that believe he would be able to reach a higher ceiling if he were to slide inside to guard, sorta like his aforementioned teammate, Scherff.

I can understand that train of thought, but I don’t think it would affect his future as much as some want to think. Wirfs is a much better lateral athlete than Scherff was at this point in their careers. Scherff was never asked to do the type of blocking that you saw Wirfs exhibit above when he was at Iowa.

To get some outside perspective on Wirfs, here’s what Jordan Reid of the Draft Network has to say about Wirfs who is currently the 11th-best overall prospect on his latest big board:

“After an early season injury to left tackle Alaric Jackson, Wirfs transitioned to the left side seamlessly with little difficulty. Add in the fact that he’s a tremendous athlete who has unique strength, he has a limitless ceiling and could quickly become one of the more reliable starters throughout the league. There are already debates about if he’s a guard or tackle. It’s completely fair to believe that he has a higher ceiling at guard, but he should be provided the opportunity to prove that he can’t play offensive tackle before giving thoughts about a position switch.”

You can see that Jordan echoes my sentiments that Wirfs can easily stay at right tackle, and maybe even get a shot at left tackle in a pinch. But like I mentioned earlier, he acknowledges that Wirfs could also unlock a new level within himself were he to move inside.

Just to hammer home some of those sentiments even more, here is a blurb from Daniel Jeremiah himself on just how high the ceiling of Wirfs’ could be if he switches positions:

“Wirfs is a big, powerful offensive tackle. In pass protection, he launches out of his stance and hasn’t had issues versus outside speed rushers. However, he has experienced issues against inside counter moves. He over-sets and struggles to redirect back inside, allowing too many pressures in the games I studied. When he can land his punch, it’s over. His hands are so strong and he has the power base to end the play right there. In the run game, he is very strong and aggressive. He creates a ton of movement, but also will overextend and fall off at times. He’s on the ground too much. I love his aggressive demeanor, but he needs to play more under control. Overall, I believe he can survive at tackle, but he’d benefit from playing with neighbors on both sides. I think Wirfs has All-Pro potential at guard.”

At the end of the day, I would be happy with Wirfs on the Chargers whether he was playing right tackle or not. He’s the type of talent you just pick because he’s a damn good football player and he will instantly make the team better.

With their being several options at right tackle in this year’s free agency class, signing and drafting a guy to fill two spots along the front five would be such an easy and impactful move, especially if Taylor continues to be the penciled-in starter.