After watching former linemates David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin go in the first two rounds of the 2012 draft, Stanford tackle Cameron Fleming hopes that he can now follow in their footsteps this spring.
The 6-foot-6, 318-pound Fleming has started the past three seasons at right tackle for Stanford. But the redshirt junior, like many of the record 98 underclassmen in this year’s draft, has questions to answer both about his game and mental readiness for life in the NFL.
Fleming proved himself as a talented run-blocker, but his pass-protection skills still need improvement, according to scouting reports.
This spring he will complete his degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics, so there’s no question about his intelligence. NFL talent evaluators say that generally, underclassmen can benefit from an extra year of maturity.
“The jump is bigger than what these underclassmen think,” Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert said.
But Fleming believes he is ready both mentally and physically to pursue his NFL dream and forego his final year of eligibility.
“My parents kind of gave me permission after I told them I’d graduate this year, and I decided to come out this year because I played three years at Stanford, started, and figured that this was the time to take the next step,” he said.
Having played in a pro-style offense for all of his college career, Fleming believes that he has the understanding and skill set to make the jump to the NFL now. He also believes that his skills as a pass protector are underrated.
“Just by the way we prepare and the way we run our plays, I think every lineman from Stanford comes out ready to play. [The system is] real West Coast-oriented, and it’s produced guys that are ready to play at the pro level.”
Asked about his goal for the combine, Fleming, who is projected as a later-round draft pick, said, “I hope to prove my worth: A high-round draft pick that I’m probably the best right tackle coming out of this draft class. … More people tout the left tackle position because you’re getting the right end, which is the faster guys, and you’re on the quarterback’s blind side. The right tackle guys is thought of more of a mauler, but now you really have to be a superb pass-blocker, too. Right tackle might be the position of the future.”
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