Star Lotulelei DT Utah #92
Size/Athleticism: Elite size. Definitely has the size/strength to play nose tackle at the next level. Surprisingly athletic for his size. He’s more than just a space-eater. He’ll get into the backfield fairly consistently and even make some plays in pursuit. Utah will even drop him into coverage on occasion, a rare assignment for a guy his size. In terms of the size/athleticism combination, he compares favorably to Haloti Ngata, or, for a more recent prospect example, Dontari Poe.
Run Defense: Holds his ground at the point of attack. Can definitely be a space-eater when he needs to be, and can easily hold his ground against double teams. Very reliable tackler. Impressive awareness, always keeping his eyes on the backfield while engaged. Has the strength to make plays even while still engaged in a block (see 2011 Washington game – he reaches out with one arm and stops Chris Polk dead in his tracks).
Pass Rush: Elite explosion off the snap. He obviously isn’t the fastest lineman on the field, but he makes up for with a quick burst off the snap and then does a great job leveraging his way into the backfield. As soon as he catches an offensive lineman off balance, he’s won; very few linemen, especially collegiate linemen, possess the size and/or quickness to recover against him. Does a great job keeping his eyes on the quarterback and adjusting to pursue when they take off, and to get his hands into passing lanes.
Intangibles: Poor academics forced him to attend Snow College for two years out of high school. He played football at Snow College for one year, but quit the team the following year, stating he no longer had interest in the sport. While he’s obviously regained some amount of passion for football, it will certainly be a topic of conversion during pre-draft interviews. Has reportedly matured since his JUCO days, and is now married with two children. Teammates at Utah speak highly of his leadership and work ethic in practice.
Durability: No significant injuries of note.
Comments: Only a handful of players enter the draft each year with Lotulelei’s size, and among those that do, very few possess his athleticism. Lotulelei is built like a true nose tackle, but has the athleticism to be more than just a space-eater. His size/athleticism combination makes him a viable option in any defensive scheme, which should make him particuluarly attractive to teams running the increasingly popular hybrid defense.