Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
Utah's Star Lotulelei is projected to be a top-five pick in the 2013 NFL Draft despite his team's poor season.
Utah Utes defensive tackle Star Lotulelei no longer holds the top overall spot among 2013 NFL Draft prospects as was the case before the season began, but the consensus All-American is still near the top, coming in at No. 3 in Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest rankings.
Lotulelei registered 42 tackles, 10 of which resulted in lost yardage, and five sacks in his senior year at Utah, despite the 6'4, 325-pound lineman being double-teamed on nearly every play. Kiper has some positive things to say about Lotulelei, who ranks behind only Georgia's Jarvis Jones and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o:
Consistently at the center of what opposing offenses must work around, he absorbs so much blocking help. Demands double-teams and clogs the middle of the field. A great sense for disrupting the run game, with power to bull rush. Quick off the ball with great upper-body strength. Coaches rave about him.
In spite of Lotulelei's dominance on the defensive side of the football, the Utes finished the 2012 season with a disappointing 5-7 record in their second year of Pac-12 play. Last year, the Utes posted a respectable 8-5 record in their first season playing in a major conference.
If Kiper's rankings play out, Lotulelei will join Alex Smith (No. 1 overall in 2004) and Jordan Gross as top 10 NFL Draft picks to come out of the University of Utah.