The New York Giants are picking fourth overall in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. This is their third straight season picking inside the top-ten. It is a crucial draft that general manager Dave Gettleman needs to get right in order to keep his job.
The Giants have many positions of need, but arguably their weakest position is offensive tackle. Luckily for New York, the 2020 NFL Draft class is rich in offensive line talent, especially in the first round. One of the top offensive tackle prospects in this year’s class is Tristan Wirfs, an uber-athletic tackle out of Iowa.
This article is the fourth installment of a new article series here on Empire Sports Media. This new series, the NFL Draft Profile series, will feature breakdowns of notable draft prospects to create a profile that summarizes and highlights the prospects’ top strengths and weaknesses. You can check out the first installment, the Isaiah Simmons NFL Draft Profile, here. The second installment, the Mekhi Becton NFL Draft profile, can be found here. The third installment, the Andrew Thomas NFL Draft profile, can be found here.
Granted, I am not an expert draft analyst. However, in this article, I will be breaking down Tristan Wirfs as a prospect after watching hours of his film and using credible draft analysis from various sites such as NFL.com, Pro Football Focus, and The Draft Network intertwined with my own analysis. I will use the expert analysis to cross-check and cross-reference. I will use it to confirm or deny what I have seen on film. A YouTube video will also accompany this article on our channel, Fireside Giants. Unlike the last two draft profiles, I did not make this video. Instead, our chief engineer behind the Fireside Giants YouTube channel, Mike Iarrapino, made our Tristan Wirfs Scouting Profile video.
Tristan Wirfs has all the measurables to make NFL scouts fall in love with him. He is one of the most athletic offensive linemen to enter the league in recent memory. He lit up the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, finishing first among all offensive linemen in the 40-yard-dash, the vertical jump, and the broad jump.
Tristan Wirfs runs a 4.86 40 yard dash. Rich Eisen: “that’s insanity.” Also set all-time combine records for broad jump and vertical jump for an offensive lineman. He beat WRs from Oklahoma and Alabama in vertical 😱 Is anyone surprised? pic.twitter.com/vpXoFkhPMo
— I Love Iowa Basketball (@ILoveIowaBball) February 28, 2020
Tristan Wirfs comes in at 6′, 5″, 320 pounds. He possesses 10 1/4″ hands and 34″ arms. He has the height and weight to be an NFL tackle, but some critics question Tristan’s arm length. 34 inches is considered to be a bit short, which is why some have suggested that Wirfs would make a better guard or interior offensive lineman at the next level. Tristan’s vertical pass sets are another reason some make that suggestion, but we will discuss his technique more later.
The speed and acceleration displayed at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine constantly showed up on the field. However, Wirfs’s weight room heroics do not show up on the field as often as you would like. Tristan often struggled to defend the bull-rush off the edge. Whether it be caused by a lack of strength or poor technique, there were too many instances where Wirfs was put on skates.
Mauler In The Run Game:
Tristan Wirfs is the ideal lead blocker. His speed and athleticism give him the ability to lead block for running backs twenty yards down the field. It is intriguing to see just how well Wirfs’s Combine measurements translate to his on-field performance.
Take this clip from Iowa’s 2019 matchup against USC for example:
Wirfs' ability to move in space is what makes him special. At 320 lbs and running a 4.85 40 time, he is a unicorn of an athlete. pic.twitter.com/l40YeurNrC
— NFL Film Review (@NFLFilmReview) April 4, 2020
As great as he is as a lead blocker, that is not all that is special about Tristan Wirfs. He is also a smart run-blocker that opens up huge holes with timely cut-off blocks. He has the power and quickness to drive defenders back coming out of his stance. Playing the right tackle position with that much speed allows Tristan to excel in the outside running-game.
Struggles To Defend Inside Pass-Rush Moves:
This is also something that Mike Iarappino discusses extensively in the Tristan Wirfs Scouting Profile video on Fireside Giants. More often than not, when Tristan Wirfs lets up a pressure, he gets beat on an inside move. The main reason for this is his footwork/kick steps and the angles he takes on his pass sets. Tristan’s pass sets are can be too vertical. This is when his body is perpendicular to the line of scrimmage. This will be discussed further in the next subheading.
Although he is cerebral enough to anticipate twists and games inside, his lateral agility won’t allow him to get into good positions with his body. He struggles to redirect when a defender has countered or made an inside move. – Drae Harris, Senior NFL Draft Analyst at The Draft Network
This flaw, though, is the reason that some analysts suggest that Tristan Wirfs should play guard in the NFL. It is much more difficult to get beat on an inside move at the guard position because there is not as much space between a center and a guard as there is between a right tackle and a guard. It is also much more difficult to get too vertical in pass sets as a guard because of the spacing.
Tristan has never played guard before and has made it pretty clear that he wants to play offensive tackle in the NFL. But these technical flaws might force a team to move him inside if he cannot figure them out.
There are some reps where Tristan Wirfs does everything right. On some plays, Wirfs has a quick get-off, keeps his shoulders and feet aligned, keeps his head up, initiates solid contact, keeps a wide base, and finishes the play strong. Unfortunately, those reps of technical perfection do not happen often enough.
Wirfs has demonstrated that he understands what a pass-block rep with proper technique is supposed to look like. But he has not demonstrated that he understands how to consistently have pass-block reps with proper technique. NFL coaching will hopefully fix this and make Tristan more consistent.
There are times when Wirfs’s shoulders are turned nearly ninety degrees away from the line of scrimmage. This makes it nearly impossible for him to get beat around the edge but it also makes it really easy for a speed rusher to swim inside. If Wirfs can keep his shoulders more square to the line of scrimmage in his kick slide, he can keep the defender in front of him. Being too vertical also creates a “soft shoulder” which makes it extremely difficult to anchor down against a power rush. For a better understanding of this “soft shoulder” concept and how it impacts Tristan Wirfs’s pass protection, check out this video by Brett Kollman.
Another inconsistency in Tristan’s game has to do with his hand placement. There are times when Tristan’s hands get placed a little too far apart when blocking defensive linemen. Think of it this way: when bench pressing, is it easier to get the weight up with a wide grip or a grip about even with your nipples? Bench pressing human beings is essentially an offensive lineman’s job. Widening your arms compromises your power. Tristan needs to keep his elbows bent inwards. This technical issue could be one of the reasons why Wirfs occasionally gets put on skates in pass sets or gets no push on run blocks.
Earlier I discussed how much of a mauler Wirfs is as a run-blocker. But he is not perfect in that facet of the game either. Tristan does have a bad tendency to swing his arms back coming out of his stance. This is what offensive line coaches refer to as a “wasted motion.” Swinging your arms back to generate power in your punch just allows defensive lineman more time and a wide-open window to grab a hold of your chest and overpower you. Wirfs has the strength to neutralize that most of the time (at least at the collegiate level), but that might be different in the NFL. Lining up against the likes of Fletcher Cox and Demarcus Lawrence will cause Tristan Wirfs to quickly learn how to keep his thick, strong arms in front of his chest at all times. Once a defensive lineman grabs hold of a lineman’s chest, the rep is over and the defensive lineman won.
I think the potential is there for Tristan Wirfs to be great. But I think he has a lot of work to do. Obviously his excellent run-blocking abilities and otherworldly athletic talent make him a first-round prospect. But there are some technical flaws that Tristan will need to clean up to be successful in the NFL.
There is a really strong chance that the Giants take Tristan Wirfs in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The rumor mill seems to indicate that Wirfs is one of the Giants’ top targets. Even if they do not take him at fourth overall, he would be a top target for them in a trade-down scenario. Tristan’s experience at right tackle makes him a potential day-one starter on the Giants. His dominance as a run blocker would also make him Saquon Barkley’s best friend.
But, of course, drafting an offensive lineman in the first round is about the quarterback’s progression. The game is much easier to play when the quarterback has time to read a defense. Daniel Jones did not have a lot of time in the pocket as a rookie but adding Tristan Wirfs to the offensive line could fix that. However, if finding a true pass-protecting offensive tackle is Dave Gettleman’s goal, Jedrick Wills is probably the more polished and the more pro-ready prospect.
The Giants can not go wrong with this offensive line class. Even if they decide to wait until the second or third round, there is a good chance New York snags a long-term starter at offensive tackle. Tristan Wirfs has all the tools and potential to be that long-term starter. Giants fans should be ecstatic if they hear Tristan Wirfs’s name called when the Giants are on the clock next Thursday.