Top prospect Lotulelei sits out combine due to heart issue

2/25/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Blog Photo - Top prospect Lotulelei sits out combine due to heart issueThe NFL Scouting Combine is an event that can turn a no-name player into a hot commodity, or expose the deficiencies of a once highly touted prospect. For Utah's Star Lotulelei, the Combine will do neither of those things.

During his physical, it was discovered that Lotulelei's heart was not operating at a normal efficiency. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Lotulelei's left ventricle was operating at 44% efficiency, while the normal range is 55-70%. As a result, Combine officials told Lotulelei not to participate in drills.

Lotulelei is considered a top-three pick by most draft analysts, and is Scouts Inc.'s top rated player in the 2013 NFL Draft. There aren't a whole lot of questions about Lotulelei's game that could be answered by watching him work out, so missing the Combine in and of itself should not really hurt his stock.

What could cause concern to teams, however, would be if the heart issue has a chance of continuing to be a problem or getting worse. A similar situation that comes to mind is that of Jared Sullinger in the 2012 NBA Draft. While Sullinger was considered one of the game's top prospects coming out of Ohio State, he dropped to 21st overall due to a back condition that was expected to shorten his career.

The abnormal test results for Lotulelei could be a result of too much sodium in his diet or rapid weight loss. He reportedly lost ten pounds in three days last week due to a "hectic schedule." That would be the best thing for Lotulelei, as it would obviously be a relatively easy fix. However, if further tests reveal that it is a chronic condition, that would indicate possible heart damage, which would be a red flag for any team with a chance to draft the top defensive tackle.

With Lotulelei's heart condition not expected to be anything major, my guess is that he remains in the top-five area; but it is definitely a situation to monitor, as teams with high draft picks can not afford to waste a pick on a player who will be slowed by a medical condition. Lotulelei will see a specialist in Salt Lake City later this week, which will hopefully give us some more insight into the situation.

Lotulelei will still be meeting with teams for interviews during the Combine, and he plans to participate in Utah's pro day on March 20th (pending further test results), when teams will be able to observe him doing many of the same things that he would have done at the Combine.

Assuming the heart condition becomes a non-issue, I have Lotulelei going first overall to the Kansas City Chiefs in my most recent mock draft.
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