He's not mentioned in the top 10 of mock drafts like fellow junior eligibles Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley. He wasn't even brought to the media room at the NFL combine in Indianapolis to speak with the media. But Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget (pronounced luh-JIT) is just as qualified as the SEC talents to be a top flight NFL interior defender.
Liuget, much like Auburn's Fairley, burst onto the scene with a breakout junior campaign for the Illini in 2010. He had 63 tackles, 12.5 for loss, 4.5 sacks along with 10 quarterback hurries and three batted passes. In Illinois' Texas Bowl win over Baylor, Liuget had five tackles including 2.5 for loss and a sack.
Though it was only good enough for second team All-Big Ten honors Liuget has been playing since his true freshman season. Most NFL scouts believe Liuget is only now starting to realize his full potential. As a result not many outside of NFL scouting circles or the Big Ten recognize the name.
That's why most of the NFL draft analysts for the major networks frequently give him the label underrated, but after Dareus and Fairley he's widely ranked as the third best defensive tackle in the draft class.
"As far as defensive ends and defensive tackles I think a guy that's going to rise is Corey Liuget a defensive tackle," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "I think he's a top 20 pick. I think he's the ideal three-technique, quick up the field defensive tackle. I like him a lot."
What's helping Liuget is his versatility. At 6'2" 298 Liuget is built low to the ground, and he uses it to his advantage when it comes to gaining leverage on an offensive lineman. At Illinois he was used in the penetrating three-technique role and also worked lined up on the outside shoulder of offensive tackles (five technique). Some scouts even believe that he could handle the nose tackle role in a 3-4 on passing downs.
The reviews on his combine workout weren't overwhelmingly positive, but he ran a sub five-second 40 (4.97) and put up 27 reps on the bench along with a 27 ½" vertical and an 8'6" broad jump. But ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper sees Liuget coming off the board in the middle of round one.
"Right now Corey Liuget at 14 to St. Louis would make a lot of sense," Kiper said. "He helped himself at the combine. He's peaking at the right time."
According to most reports Liuget helped himself even more at Illinois' pro day, where according to reports, the Rams had four representatives watching including their Director of College Scouting. Liuget only did position drill work, but by all accounts had an eye-popping performance.
In fact the workout prompted another analyst to even suggest that the right team with the right need could make him a top 10 selection.
"The Redskins at 10 would be in a good position to get a Corey Liuget," said ESPN analyst Todd McShay. "People think that might be high for him, but he's one of the more underrated players. He is one of the best 15, 16 players in the draft."
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