UCLA guard Xavier Su’a-Filo officially declared for the 2014 NFL Draft on Saturday, adding his name into a rather shallow group of offensive guards who are eligible to be selected. While the 23-year-old junior is still rather inexperienced due to a Mormon mission that postponed his college career, he has the tools to become a very good pro guard if he receives quality coaching.
As if taking two years off of football wasn’t enough to interrupt Su’a-Filo’s development, he also had to take one for the team this year by moving from left guard to left tackle after UCLA lost their top two players on the depth chart. At 6-foot-3 and barely over 300 pounds, Su’a-Filo is too small to play tackle at the NFL level, but he was their most talented lineman and filled the role decently to finish the year.
Su’a-Filo was dominant while starting every game at left guard in 2012, but he seems to have regressed during 2013. His technique has been disappointing as both his knee bend and arm extension are lacking on his pass blocks. Also, he doesn’t use his leverage well on run blocks.
Fortunately for Su’a-Filo, he’s incredibly strong, and this allows him to run defenders into the ground at the college level without giving much effort. As a pro, though, he’s going to need to refine his technique so that he can continue to dominate. As an additional measure, it would probably benefit him to start gaining weight, as he’s rather light for a guard and doesn’t have a whole lot of height to work with.
Luckily for Su’a-Filo, there aren’t very many surefire guard prospects in this draft, so he has a pretty good chance at being taken in the first three rounds. However, he’ll likely need at least a year of work before he’ll be really effective as a pro.
- Extremely strong and has not fully tapped into his strength yet
- Great on-field awareness, can slide off to secondary blocks with no trouble or hesitation
- Generally effective as a run blocker, though his technique is subpar at times
- Very good at making solid contact on blocks at the second level
- Provides a great lift to the center on double-team angle blocks
- Pretty fluid on pulls
- Extensive experience playing both left guard and left tackle, though he is undersized to be a tackle in the NFL
- High-character guy off the field; participated in a two-year Mormon mission and is an Eagle Scout
- Tends to come up too high on pass blocks, doesn’t get good knee bend
- Arm extension not good on pass blocks, keeps his arms close to him rather than extending them out
- Lets pass rushers beat him to the inside too easily
- Doesn’t always use his leverage to his full advantage; gets away with knocking defenders to the ground while standing straight up in college, but will need to develop more technique as a pro
- Somewhat undersized in terms of both height and weight
- 23-years-old with only three years of college experience
While Su’a-Filo’s technique seemed to regress during the 2013 season, he showed a team-first attitude and a high level of versatility by switching from left guard back to left tackle halfway through the season. After losing several of their primary contributors from last year and suffering more injuries throughout the year, UCLA had a pretty successful season offensively, finishing 35th in the nation in total offense behind the blocking of Su’a-Filo.
2014 Draft Projection: Third round