Name: Stevie Tu’ikolovatu
Position fit: Nose tackle
Stats to know: Ranked third in the nation in run-stop percentage with 36 stops from 286 snaps.
What he does best:
- Decimates plays from the backside, almost impossible to reach block.
- Destroys inside zone when he is given solo opportunities on the front side.
- Violent hands, delivers a powerful strike to win the initial contact on a consistent basis.
- Narrows lanes by consistently driving offensive lineman vertically into the backfield.
- Embarrassed offensive linemen by rag-dolling blockers frequently at the point of attack.
- Able to fight off cut blocks with good hand placement.
- Impressive first step for a 350-pound prospect, gets off the ball well.
- Carried over his strong run defense to Senior Bowl practice where he was one of the top-graded players on a snap-to-snap basis.
- Fails to consistently shed without dominating initial contact.
- Struggles against double teams at the point of attack, can play high at times against multiple blockers.
- Finds himself on the deck regularly against double teams.
- Very limited pass-rusher, managed only one knockdown and 13 combined pressures in 2016.
- Weak bull rusher despite strength, gives blockers an opportunity to re-anchor.
- Negligible lateral agility, failed to generate any pressure using finesse moves.
- Gambles occasionally on highlight reel stops, resulting in a loss of gap discipline.
- Lacks upside, will be 26 by the start of the 2017 season.
Player comparison: Brandon Williams, Baltimore Ravens
Base package nose tackle might not be the most coveted position in the NFL, but a two-down run-stuffer is essential for any top defense. Like Williams, Tu’ikolovatu wrecks interior running plays with his strength up front. The USC product has the potential to be equally productive in the pros.
Bottom line: Tu’ikolovatu represents a difficult evaluation. His production against the run is off the charts, but he’s also in his mid-20s and offers nothing rushing the passer. Damon Harrison proves that pure nose tackles can make a major impact, but Tu’ikolovatu is likely to be overlooked in favor of the prospects with higher upside in May. That said, Tu’ikolovatu is probably one of the safer options amongst the defensive line prospects and won’t require a high pick as investment.