What I like-The easy answer here is everything. The former Utah star is a massive young man with a physical frame that is imposing. He even looks and dare I say it, to be built in such a way that he could even hold eight or 10 more quality pounds without losing any athleticism. And athleticism is what he has. Lotulelei is as athletic as any interior defensive lineman in this draft and is doing it much heavier than most of the other top prospects. He’s got a quick first step, does a nice job of anticipation on the snap count, and has shown that he can be effective in a one-gap or two-gap system. As a pass rusher, Lotulelei is explosive and punishing. So many games you see him just physically overwhelm a one on one block and pursue the quarterback. He didn’t always get the sack, but the real strength of his game in college was disruption. He never played with great talent around him, so teams avoided him. This means often times his best weapon was not to make the tackle or the sack, but to disrupt the play so much as to allow others to make the play.
As a run stuffer, Lotulelei is also excellent. He keeps his butt low at the snap, drives off the football and keeps his head up. Lotulelei does a good job of reading the play, working down the line and shedding blockers. As I said, he’s so physically overwhelming he’s a near impossible matchup for a single blocker. Lotulelei’s tackling is sound and especially in the open field he’s able to run down a ball carrier and secure them one on one in the open, where a 320lb defensive tackle probably shouldn’t.
What I don’t like-This is a tough list. I suppose one could argue that Lotulelei on film appears to take plays off at times and give up on plays. Some of that could be attributed to his conditioning, and some to the fact that he faced constant double teams and had so little talent around him. It could also be that like most men over 300lbs, he sometimes gets tired.
There were some medical issues with Lotulelei at one point in the season, but those have since been quieted. There was a concern about a heart condition, but after a cardiac MRI that came back clear, I would assume more teams don’t give it much of a thought. But of course there will be some teams who will deem him a health risk.
On the technical side of Lotulelei’s game, the only real quibble I have is with how he uses his arms. If he could extend better he’d be an even better player, in particular in the run game. Sometimes he lets offensive linemen get too far in on him, and if he could extend better he’d be able to redirect with less expenditure of energy.
What does it all mean-I have a hard time not making Lotulelei my top defensive player in the entire draft. Week after week he was the best player on the field and he continued to be successful when the opposing offense had only him to account for. He has excellent quickness, great feet for a massive man, and is one of the most gifted all around athletes in this entire draft. He can shoot gaps, beat double teams and is a total matchup nightmare. I could go on and on, but there’s literally nothing along the line Lotulelei cannot do. He could excel at a 3-technique tackle in a 4-3, but could also move outside to a 5-technique in a 3-4. I wouldn’t even be opposed to putting Lotulelei inside at a 1-techniue tackle in a 4-3. Not sure if I’d play him as a pure 3-4 nose, but that has more to do with the fact it would limit his impact.
Lotulelei is an almost sure fire top 10 pick now that he has a clean bill of health, and might be my early choice as defensive rookie of the year assuming he gets on a decent defense.