Cajuste’s surgery may hurt his draft stock, but not his potential | 2019 N.F.L. Draft Preview

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The NFL is a passing league, which makes protecting the quarterback an utmost priority. In order to succeed, teams need guys who are strong enough to push around some of the biggest, fastest athletes in the world.

Yodny Cajuste spent his years in Morgantown defending WVU quarterbacks from Big 12 pass rushers — and he was pretty good at it. It’s pretty difficult to quantify his individual production on the field due to the lack of stats for offensive linemen, but his performances were noted. He received back-to-back all-conference honors in his final two seasons, while also being named Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year in the Big 12. His career in college was punctuated with a trip to the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Offensive linemen aren’t usually the center of attention. If you watch Cajuste closely, though, it comes as no surprise that he should be coveted by NFL teams. One of his defining characteristics heading into this year’s draft is his strength. He turned heads at the NFL Combine when he put 32 up reps on the bench press — the fourth-highest score among offensive linemen, and the seventh-highest at the whole combine. 

His strength also shows up on film:

It takes more than pure strength to be one of the best o-linemen in the conference. Cajuste also was able to fend off pass rushers with great blocking skill, which is necessary at the next level. While at WVU, he had the lateral quickness to stay in front of defenders and quick, strong hands to keep them where he wanted them.

At the season finale, Cajuste was near the top of a lot of draft boards, with pundits and publications like calling him a potential first rounder. His stock took a hit in recent weeks, however, after he had surgery on his quad, reportedly putting him out for three months. Experts can’t necessarily agree on how much it’s gone down though, as he is placed anywhere from the second to the fourth rounds.

For NFL scouts, the health issue shouldn’t be ignored. But it should be noted that Cajuste was almost a clear-cut first-round talent before he had his surgery: a physically gifted, decorated and experienced left tackle who could be the difference in keeping a valuable NFL quarterback on his feet.

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