Mid-Round Spotlight – Lucas Niang, OT, TCU

Sam Penix
Sam is a massive Cleveland sports fan who has covered the city's agony since 2016. He is fond of the Cavaliers and Indians, but his true passion is for the Browns and the NFL Draft.

The 2020 NFL Draft is full of elite talent on the offensive line, which necessarily pushes some players down the board. TCU right tackle Lucas Niang is one of those prospects, even before injury concerns reportedly pushed him to Day 3.

Regardless of stock, Niang is a solid player who should improve considerably with NFL coaching.

Background

Niang played in 12 of 13 games during his freshman season in 2016, and started the final eight games in 2017. He began as a full-time starter in 2018, earned an 83.5 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. Since 2017, Niang was on the field for 975 pass blocking snaps. During that time, he allowed only 30 pressures, zero sacks, and committed just three penalties. 

Niang stands 6’6″ 315 lbs and has 34 1/4″ arms, so he isn’t incredibly long but he meets the minimum threshold for a tackle. He appears to be a good athlete, able to get out in space and block well, and should be able to find a home for a team running a zone blocking scheme.

Unfortunately, Ninang was unable to show off his athleticism at the NFL Combine in March. He dealt with a torn hip labrum for the entirety of the 2019 campaign, an injury that ultimately forced him to miss the final five games of the season to undergo surgery. Due to the current situation surrounding COVID-19, teams are unable to bring Niang in for private workouts to verify his recovery.

Positives

Size

Lucas Niang may not be as big as someone like Mekhi Becton, but he’s big enough to succeed in the NFL. He was rarely overpowered in college and shouldn’t have too much trouble against bigger defenders in the pros.

Athleticism

It’s a shame Niang wasn’t able to participate at the Combine because he would have likely tested very well. On tape, Niang moves easily and is able to quickly get to the second level in the run game. He’s not a freak like some of this year’s prospects, but he is by no means stiff.

2018 Tape

Had he been healthy, Niang would have surely improved in 2019, but we weren’t able to see that. His 2018 performance was solid, and when TCU faced Ohio State that year, Niang had to deal with both Nick Bosa and Chase Young, and had little issue with them. 

Negatives

Injury Concern

Surgery is never a good thing, especially when it’s performed on a hip muscle. Niang’s tape is that of a borderline first-round player, yet teams are rumored to be weary of taking him on Day 2. That’s very telling about his injury situation. Tackles must be able to move laterally quickly, especially when run blocking in a zone scheme, and it’s not like Niang was the most fluid player to begin with. If he heals completely and returns to form, his pro team will have gotten a steal, but that’s far from a guarantee.

TCU Offense

The offense that the Horned Frogs run didn’t do Niang any favors from an NFL scouting perspective. True pass sets were rare, as TCU ran quick passes and screens the majority of the time. There’s nothing Niang could have done about that, but he won’t be able to rely on his QB getting the ball out as quickly in the NFL.

Pass Sets

When Niang was put in more pro-style situations, the results were mixed. As stated before, his sack and pressure numbers are impressive. On paper, you’d think he was a first-round player. But aside from the injury situation, Niang’s pass sets need to be rebuilt from the ground up. He basically just backpedals off the snap, which he was able to get away with in college, but that will certainly not work at the next level. Speed ends will be able to dip right past him, and power ends will throw him off balance.

Niang’s performance is pro-ready, but his technique is not. He shouldn’t see the field until his new offensive line coach is able to fix his footwork.

Bottom Line

Lucas Niang is a talented player who will be drafted later than his play deserves. He’s by no means perfect, and as such is in the third or fourth tier of tackle prospects this year, but he’s still a solid prospect who should provide his new team plenty of value, as long as he’s able to get healthy and fix his technique.

Read about another mid-round prospect, Willie Gay Jr.

 

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