+Off the charts football intelligence
+Can play both guard and tackle
+Can be trusted to block anyone
+Uses outstanding fundamentals
+Plays with excellent on field intensity
+Gets great leverage
+Always has his head on a swivel
+Gets great hand placement
+Outstanding run blocker
+Good pass blocker
-Doesn’t get a good initial punch, especially as a pass blocker
-Can be beaten by spin moves
-Doesn’t have a wide frame
I can only imagine what Stanford head coach David Shaw told David Yankey heading into the 2012 season: “Yankey, you aren’t going to have a specific position this year. You will play both guard and tackle. Your job is to block the opponents best defensive lineman, whether that may be a 350lbs man-eating nose tackle (Louis Nix III) or a 250lbs defensive end with the speed of a wide receiver (Dion Jordan), and everything in between. I also expect you to do this without any cost to your proper execution of our blocking schemes, the most complicated and NFL-like in all of college football.”
Yankey delivered. He’s the only guys I have ever seen at the collegiate level who showed consistently that he can block guys as athletic as Dion Jordan and and strong as Louis Nix III. It’s amazing to watch, and I can’t imagine him being anything but a tremendous success at the next level. And, beyond that, the fact that Yankey has split time at both guard and tackle over the course of his career, without showing any signs of inexperience of making any kind of mistake, is just so cool.
David Yankey alone is proof for me that David Shaw should be coaching in the NFL. The offensive line scheme is the most brilliant and complex I have seen at the collegiate level, and Yankey executes his assignments within the scheme regardless of what position he is playing. It’s incredible enough that Yankey is physically capable of playing both offensive guard and tackle, but what may be most spectacular is that he has playbook knowledge equivalent to two players. This ability is so useful to an NFL team, because, say Yankey is playing left guard and the left tackle gets injured, the team he is playing on doesn’t necessarily have to sub in the backup left tackle. They can choose between the backup left guard and left tackle, sub in whichever one is better, and if that is guard, move Yankey to left tackle. It’s happened before for him in college, and he doesn’t miss a beat. And beyond that, David Yankey really knows his assignments. He’s great at pulling, always finding guys in the second level and squaring up, he takes great angles to defenders, he always keep his head on a swivel, and he does an outstanding job of communicating with his teammates and picking up defensive line stunts. He’s an on field coach, especially in the sense that he yells his fellow offensive linemen when they make a mistake within the blocking scheme. Yankey is about as reliable and versatile in terms of executing his assignments I have ever seen from a collegiate offensive lineman.
Yankey is an outstanding run blocker. One of my favorite thing about Yankey is that he can make any kind of block, except cut block. But he is so good at down blocks, drive blocks, hook blocks, guard pulls, double teams, zone blocking, man blocking, etc. It’s so flawless. One plays stands out in particular. During the 2012 Notre Dame game, he was playing left guard (he played tackle in the game too), lined up against Louis Nix III. Nix had an inside shade and got an outstanding jump off the ball. Yankey was immediately out of position, and he immediately slammed his shoulder pad into Nix’s gut. The hit pushed him sideways enough that Nix’s left leg was tangled with that of the Stanford center, and as Nix readjusted, Yankey successfully pulled of a hook block… from his knees! Yes, a 300lbs offensive guard offensive guard successfully did a hook block against a 350lbs nose tackle and likely first round draft pick from his knees. If there was ever a block that deserved to make SportsCenter’s Top 10, that would be the one. I was dumbfounded. Beyond that, Yankey’s fundamentals are simply outstanding. As I’ve said, Yankey is the only lineman I have ever seen who is athletic enough to block guys like Dion Jordan and strong enough to block a guy like Louis Nix. Frankly, it’s not because Yankey has the strength of a Jonathan Cooper and the athleticism of a Lane Johnson. It’s just because his fundamentals are absolutely outstanding. Yankey has solid strength and solid athleticism, but he is not spectacular in either respect. Perfect fundamentals make him appear spectacular. When he is blocking guys like Louis Nix, especially on run plays, he gets such great hand position and leverage that Nix cannot beat him. His lower body strength is ideal and he doesn’t lean on his hands, and his core strength allows him to succeed with hook blocks. When he is blocking guys like Nix, his toughness doesn’t hurt either. He also has outstanding balance and can play in bad conditions. When blocking more athletic guys or blocking in the second level, Yankey consistently squares up and uses his excellent body control to make sure he never whiffs on blocks and almost always successfully engages. Given his solid strength and ideal leverage, if he does engage successfully in a block against a linebacker, the linebacker will never make a play.
Yankey is a good pass blocker. I did say that Yankey has seemingly no problems blocking athletic guys like Dion Jordan, but I think he is better suited to guard in the NFL because of his average athleticism. Jordan’s fundamentals were and still are terrible, and Yankey’s perfect technique compensates for his athletic disadvantage as a pass blocker against guys like Jordan. But Yankey will likely fail if the athletic guy he is blocking matches Yankey’s ideal fundamentals and hand placement with the only thing that can beat it: ideal fundamentals and hand placement. Yankey’s average foot quickness will come back to haunt him if the pass rusher is dipping his shoulder and getting good leverage, basically matching Yankey’s fundamentals with fundamentals, Yankey will probably lose. I have never seen him matched up against a fundamentally sound defensive end with even average athleticism at the collegiate level (not a dig on the Pac-12, that’s just a weakness of the conference). He just doesn’t have the foot quickness for me to expect success if he was blocking a guy like Von Miller. Still, I think he should be average by NFL standards against a guy like Von Miller. Beyond average quickness, his biggest weakness as a pass blocker is his inability to get a good initial punch, so he doesn’t knock opponent off balance to start the place and he is a bit vulnerable to inside counter moves. Still his ideal fundamentals and footwork go a long way in this respect, as does his ability to pick up defensive line stunts.
Ultimately, I like Yankey. I think his outstanding fundamentals make him tremendously versatile and a likely pro bowler. He really is one of my favorite prospects of this year’s draft.
NFL Comparison: David DeCastro, except a little more athletic. Not athletic enough to anchor the blindside, but athletic enough to be a right tackle when needed. Also a bit more versatile.
Grade: 97 (worthy of an early first round pick)
Projection: 94 (will be a mid, possibly late first round pick)