2013 NFL Draft: Star Lotulelei Scouting Report
Star Lotulelei is a senior defensive tackle out of Utah. He's my number two defensive tackle (behind Sharrif Floyd of Florida), but he's the top tackle on many people's lists, and even the top prospect for some. Let's take a look at some of his strengths and weaknesses, and where he might go on draft day.
Size/Strength: At 6’3” and 320 pounds, Lotulelei is built like a prototypical Tongan defensive tackle. He has an enormously powerful lower body and a thick, compact core. He’s a little bit soft around the edges, but a couple years in an NFL training regimen will tighten a lot of that up. He has a ton of natural power that sets his floor at immovable gap-clogger.
Agility/Athleticism: His sky-high ceiling comes from his lateral agility. No man as big and powerful as he is should be allowed to move as quickly as he can. He has a quick burst off the snap and can knife through gaps like a defensive end. He has “phone booth speed” – that is, he may not be quick up and down the field, but within 2-3 yards in any direction, he’s a monster. So whether he bulls through blocks or sidesteps them, he’ll always be fantastic against the run.
Versatility: He lined up all over the line at Utah, and should be similarly versatile in the NFL. He can play 3-4 nose tackle or defensive end, 4-3 nose tackle, or 4-3 defensive tackle. That type of scheme-transcendence really enhances his value.
Technique: Because he’s so physically dominant, he’s not needed advanced technique to dominate at the college level. However, to truly merit a top-five pick in the draft, he needs to prove to teams that he can develop more pass-rush moves. Gap-cloggers are valuable, but not top-five pick valuable. He flashes a decent swim move to disengage, but because he doesn’t have especially long arms, he’ll need to develop more moves, like a rip and a club, rather than just relying on a bull-rush to beat NFL interior lineman.
Consistency: When a big man like Star lacks refined technique, he must resort to bull-rushing to collapse the pocket. When he’s constantly facing double and triple-teams, he tires quickly and begins to get upright off the snap. When he gets upright off the snap, he becomes really easy to block out and no longer impacts the pocket the way he should. This happens pretty often with the big Tongan. If he doesn’t refine his technique and improve his consistency, his ceiling will be a great run-stuffing nose tackle, like Sione Pouha (also from Utah, taken by the New York Jets in the 3rd round of the 2005 Draft).
Pass Rush: This is the weakest part of his game. He only racked up seven sacks in his college career at Utah. His supporters will say it’s because he was so good that other teams were forced to double and triple-team him, freeing up his teammates to rush the quarterback. The tape shows that to be the case from time to time; it also shows his marginal technique and inconsistent motor.
If Star can prove to NFL teams that he can polish his technique, develop pass-rush moves, and improve his motor, his ceiling is someone like Haloti Ngata: huge, powerful, and dominant against the run, yet explosive and quick enough to rush the passer effectively. Otherwise, I’d say he compares favorably to a more explosive Pouha. His ceiling dictates that he be drafted in the first round, but his floor might push him down a little bit. He definitely won’t get past Carolina at 14 and New Orleans at 15, and he could go as high as number one overall.
Matthew "Door Matt" Erickson
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