NFL Draft: What the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are getting in Iowa Hawkeyes offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs
Much like his vertical jump, the ceiling is high for Tristan Wirfs.
After three productive seasons at Iowa, Wirfs officially became the newest offensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night. Wirfs went No. 13 overall and will protect future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Tom Brady.
Wirfs is far from a finished product, which 21st-year Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz — who has long-held NFL ties — views as a positive trait as his 33-game starting tackle heads to the next level.
“He’s got a lot going for him right now,” Ferentz said during a recent conference call. “His best football is clearly in front of him. He’s a fourth-year player, starting next year.”
An offensive lineman with Wirfs’ traits, to be honest, has never come along before.
The 6-foot-5, 320-pounder's vertical jump of 36½ inches set an NFL Scouting Combine record for offensive linemen. His 121-inch broad jump tied one. And his run of 4.85 seconds in the 40-yard dash, the best of any lineman in attendance, cemented what Hawkeye fans have seen for three years: He is a guy you want on your side.
Wirfs also has record-setting strength, and that's saying something, coming from the laboratory of 21st-year Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. Wirfs' four repetitions last spring of 450 pounds in the hang-clean lift broke the Iowa program record held by Brandon Scherff. You'll recall that the three-time Pro Bowl selection was worthy of the No. 5 overall pick in the 2015 draft.
Combine that with the athleticism that made him a star in both wrestling and track and field at Mount Vernon High School, and the raw materials are there.
Wirfs also brings a willingness to learn. He was taught by some of the best — led by NFL-shaped Kirk and Brian Ferentz, along with line coach Tim Polasek. He is built to succeed in the NFL.
One of the most common things we heard from Iowa coaches during his time here was that he needed to become meaner, in terms of finishing blocks. Wirfs is a giant puppy dog in a large man’s body, and although that quality is endearing to those around him, it did hold him back in terms of becoming a dominant run blocker at Iowa. He was overpowering at times as a junior.
Wirfs gets knocked by analysts (who are looking for things to nitpick) as not being long enough and not having the vertical sets required to fend off the NFL’s dominant pass rushers. He did have arguably his worst game as a Hawkeye against the athletic pass rush of Michigan on Oct. 3, so that is a red flag. But that was just an overall terrible afternoon of mass confusion for Iowa’s offensive line (eight sacks allowed) in a 10-3 loss in Ann Arbor. It was the anomaly for Wirfs, not the norm.
Wirfs’ OWI arrest (while driving a moped) in the summer after his freshman year should be a non-issue for teams that did proper homework. Wirfs owned up to his mistake. He was known as a great teammate and hard worker at Iowa.
Chad Leistikow’s final thoughts
If a team is looking for a plug-and-play left tackle on Day 1, it cannot 100% guarantee that Wirfs is the guy. But the Bucs were clearly looking for a right tackle, and got him.
Down the road, Wirfs could become a left tackle. He acquitted himself very well at Iowa no matter where he lined up, and that included four starts (of his 33) on the left side. He played right tackle almost exclusively because of the inflexibility of Alaric Jackson (6-7, 320), who Iowa coaches believe is far better on the left side than the right.
At absolute worst, Wirfs follows the path of Scherff and kicks inside to guard while enjoying long, profitable NFL career.
But I don’t see that happening with Wirfs, who has all the tools to be a long-time tackle at the highest level. And he'll have a smile doing it for the Bucs.