Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
Weight: 314 pounds
40 time: 5.20
A complete player at the offensive tackle position, Bryan Bulaga enters the NFL as one of the safest picks in this year’s draft.
A two-year starter for the Hawkeyes, Bulaga began his career at left guard in 2007 before moving to left tackle where he started in 2008 and 2009. Bulaga is a polished product who is the next in a long line of productive Iowa Hawkeye offensive linemen to enter the NFL. He has the prototypical size and frame that I look for in a future starting left tackle in the NFL; his combination of size and pure athleticism is excellent.
Bulaga is also a very smart, instinctive player who was a leader at Iowa both on and off the field and will provide top-notch intangibles to the team that drafts him. Bryan plays with great technique both as a pass blocker as well as in the run game. He has excellent upper body strength with a very strong grip, being capable of positioning the defensive lineman in whatever direction he wants once he gets his hands on him; Bryan uses his hands very well to gain control at the point of attack. He takes good angles both in his kick-slide as well as in the run game, and he has shown a consistent ability to mirror the defensive end out on the edge.
Bulaga plays with great leverage and also has a strong lower body; he is a great anchor as a pass blocker on the blind side of the quarterback. In the run game, he offers good mobility for a player of his size and he’s shown that he can consistently block in open space; Bryan played tight end in addition to offensive tackle in high school, so he has no problem blocking on the move. He has good quickness off the snap with a strong punch at the point of attack to knock the defender off balance. Bulaga plays with a good mean streak on the field and will consistently finish his blocks.
There are occasionally times when Bryan will struggle against elite speed pass rushers on the edge, which is something that he will need to continue to work on and adjust to when he gets to the next level. His lateral agility is good, but not great; while he typically plays with very good footwork, there are times when the defender will be able to beat him inside when setting him up and then coming in with a secondary rush. Also, his arm length is just above what is accepted by most scouts for a left tackle prospect (33 1/4 in). Durability is a minor concern, as Bryan missed five games in 2007 with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery. In 2009 he also missed three games with a thyroid condition that hospitalized him; the condition was reportedly a virus that is not expected to affect his long-term future. I project that Bulaga will be drafted in the first round, specifically among the Top 10 overall picks.
Bryan Bulaga is a player that I really like in this year’s draft. He has all of the physical tools as well as the talent and intangibles needed to have a long, successful career as a starting left tackle in the NFL. He has the potential to develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber player for the team that drafts him.
Notes: Bryan was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2009 in addition to being named first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-American; in 2008 he was named second-team All-Big Ten. A former Parade All-American and top recruit coming out of high school, Bryan was rated as the No. 2 player in the state of Illinois as well as the No. 6 offensive tackle and No. 70 overall player in the country by Rivals.com. In high school, Bryan didn’t allow a single sack at left tackle, while also playing tight end, defensive end, and linebacker. Over the course of his high school career he recorded 261 tackles, 46 tackles for loss, 31 sacks and one interception; as a senior he produced 108 tackles and 23 sacks at defensive end while also catching 35 passes for 665 yards and 10 touchdowns.