It’s hard to work out how good Tui Tuipolotu is

December 19th, 2022 | Written by Rob Staton

Tui Tuipolotu had a big 2022 season for USC

It caught my eye a few weeks ago when Tony Pauline cited a source saying USC defensive lineman Tui Tuipolotu could go in round one.

I’d spoken briefly to Tony about Tuipolotu and we both agreed he was an incredibly difficult player to grade. In my horizontal board I went for round three simply because I was really struggling to balance out the pro’s and con’s.

He’s listed at 6-4 and 290lbs. He had a tremendous 2022 season with 12.5 sacks and 21 TFL’s.

Yet he’s also the reason why the word ‘tweener’ was invented.

There are a couple of players I really want to see testing results for. One is Tuipolotu and the other is Jared Verse the Florida State pass rusher. I don’t think I’ll be able to give a serious grade on either until after the combine.

I did want to share some thoughts on Tuipolotu though after re-watching three games today.

He has a Euro step. He has a cross-chop. He can win with a fake to the inside before exploding back to the edge. He can bend and straighten. There are wins with a bull-rush where he drives the tackle back into the quarterback. His get-off is good enough to put a tackle on skates. He fights through attempted blocks with good hands — swiping away from the tackle and ripping through contact. He converts speed to power. He can crash inside to attack the B-gap and fill in versus the run. His motor is generally good. He does a lot very well and his repertoire is impressive.

There are also inconsistencies on tape. As impactful as he is, there are stretches where he’s too easily blocked or washed out. He can’t press consistently to keep players away from his frame and you don’t see much of a long arm to stay clean and read the play. He plays in bursts. This is indicative of the key question mark.

He’s such an in-between player. He has the build of a smaller, specialist interior rusher but he rushes the edge well enough to play most of his snaps outside. His pass rushing grade per PFF is 80.6. He’s effective and I think he’s a better player at defensive end.

Yet he lacks the traditional long frame to play the edge. His arm length looks short too and I worry about his ability to keep blockers off his body at the next level consistently. He’s so quick at times and he has some bend and flexibility. Maybe his agility testing and burst will signal a unique talent? Yet his frame doesn’t lend itself to defensive end and I’m not sure a permanent move inside would work either.

Then you come back to the production and assortment of different pass rush wins and you want to rate him extremely highly.

He’s one of the hardest players I’ve tried to work out in a long while. I can well imagine him coming into the NFL and being a little bit inconsistent but finding a way to grab 8-12 sacks a season as a versatile piece who moves around the D-line. I can also imagine him being an ineffective tweener who just feasted on substandard PAC-12 teams and while he looked great rushing the edge in college — there aren’t really any players succeeding with his body type at the next level.

He’s a brilliant test case. If he does test well I can see a team taking a chance in the top-40. I can also see him being there in round three.

His brother Marlon plays for the Eagles. Incidentally, the Eagles defensive coordinator, Jonathan Gannon, has been touted as a potential candidate to replace Pete Carroll this week. Benjamin Allbright re-emphasised this week and even doubled-down on his initial speculation, suggesting John Schneider was ready to work with a new Head Coach.

I don’t think a Carroll-led defense would draft someone like Tuipolotu. A different coach might feel differently.

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65 Responses to “It’s hard to work out how good Tui Tuipolotu is”

  1. Jabroni-DC says:

    With a base 3-4 it’s hard for me to figure out what the FO will look for in a DE. Carter could play in any front but there are plenty of guys who have me scratching my head as to whether they are big enough. For instance, in a 4-3 I think Seattle would love Tyree Wilson but at 6’6″ 275 lbs does he have the sand in his pants to play every down in a 3-4?

  2. cha says:

    What will be the key numbers at the combine for him specifically besides arm length?

    Short shuttle and 10-yard split?

  3. Rob Staton says:

    On Carroll’s future — I know this is speculative again. However, I found it surprising that he was seemingly so emotional about a fairly minor Tyler Lockett injury after the Niners game. It seemed to really impact him. At the time I thought it was because PC firmly believed it would impact their playoff chances but even then, given he’s supposedly only missing a week, it felt a bit OTT.

    Now I’m wondering if it’s because Carroll is thinking this is his last season and he was upset in the moment that he might never have Lockett on the field for him again, a player he has basically talked up as the definition of what they look for in a Seahawk.

  4. Jabroni-DC says:

    All I want for Christmas is the Rams to win,
    the Rams to win,
    the Rams to win.

    Gee if we could only have the crap Rams win,
    then the Sea-hawks could draft a little high-er.

  5. Palatypus says:

    Rasheem Green 2.0?

  6. Peter says:

    Completely unscientific “analytics,” but I looked at his game logs and I wonder if there’s something to the idea of perhaps he was just feasting on bad teams. When I looked through them I noticed against the tougher ( pac12 so…grain of salt) teams he was shut down.

    • swedenhawk says:

      When was the last time a player from the Pac 12 became a star in the NFL? I mean, even top-prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux hasn’t been able to translate the game-wrecking potential he flashed at Oregon.

      • swedenhawk says:

        My bad. There are, in fact, several. Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Justin Herbert, and Vita Vea, for starters.

  7. Jabroni-DC says:

    Rob what is your eye-test guess on Mazi Smith’s arm length?

  8. Blitzy the Clown says:

    There’s a lot to like about Tuli’s play, but you gotta wonder about the level of competition.

    I see him ranked as high as the #2 DL behind only Jalen Carter. I dunno about that.

    FWIW I think he’s closer to 6-3, but he should be able to add some good weight in a pro training program and get up around 300lbs. I’d feel better about him at that size.

    Testing will be crucial to validate what you see on tape.

    He still hasn’t declared for the draft though

  9. Donovan says:

    NFC South vs Hawks: 4-0

    NFC South vs Rest of League: 8-26

  10. Snowed-in says:

    To use a baseball analogy, a good defense is strong up the middle, i.e. Shortstop, 2nd base, Centerfield. This is also where Seahawks are weakest and thus targets for our draft should be interior DL, ILB and Safety. We need “ballers” at those positions. Four player we should be able to get without a Top 5 pick are:
    Tuli Tuipulotu – DL USC, 6’4” 290-lbs (mid-2nd). His production is amazing; not sure about the size for a 3-4 or level of competition. But he’s fun to watch.
    Jack Campbell – LB Iowa, 6’5” 243-lbs (late 2nd/early 3rd). Tall, rangy, athletic, good field-sense. Reminds me of Jack Lambert or Brian Urlacher.
    JL Skinner – Safety, Boise St, 6’4” 220-lbs (late 1st/early 2nd). Kam Chancellor-like…Can really hit and probably has room to add a few pounds.
    Calijah Kancey – Pitt, 6’0” 280. Smaller but is compared to Aaron Donald. Runs 4.69 (40), 31.5” vertical, 425-lb bench. Disruptive.
    IMO, Tuipulotu, Campbell, Skinner and Kancey are “ballers”. They will bring attitude to this team.
    Second point…As much as I hate it when PC/JS get “cute” with their draft picks this just might be a good year to trade down. Unless we have a Top 3 pick or absolutely love a QB (Levis or Richardson?) maybe it’s a good year to work the phones. Who knows what the SeaHawks could get to move back into the mid/late 1st round from some QB-hungry team…Perhaps a 2024 1st with a mid/late 1st and 2nd or 3rd rd pick this year? Comments?

  11. cha says:

    Monday Press Conf PC

    “Couple days off helps our guys. Hopes it gives us a boost. Put together a normal week, just a day earlier. Going to KC, a terrific FB player, star power, coach, won their division. Flying. Chance to see arguably the best of the AFC. They struggled with Houston. As they do, won at the end, did a nice job.”

    [q]. Tyler surgery? “Doc said it was perfect. Feel very good come back quickly. Chance just miss one game.”
    [q] Most realistic? “Secured it in a way he can move his hand. Keep our fingers crossed (dad joke).”

    [q]. Prep for game cold weather? “Just as cold on their side too. Clothing we wear help us adapt. Doesn’t matter how cold, you have to play and win FB game.”

    [q]. Eskridge? “Trying to get back. Still working on it.”

    [q]. Al Woods? “Still sore. Wait the week and see. Can’t go today.”

    [q]. Lockett play no practice next week? “Wouldn’t have any problem with that. He will adapt.”

    [q]. Andy Reid record of success? “Done everything. Amazing coach, championship level. Set tone for coaches around the league. Creativity. Lucked out on Patrick Mahomes, great get. Adapted to him and made him a great player. Consistency I admire.”

    [q]. Chess match with him? “Reminds me of Jerry Burns.”

    [q]. Why KC offense so hard to defend? “Versatility, quickness. Base things, but complement with unique. Bienemy fantastic job. Deserves a ton of credit. Highly successful. Commands offense. Top offense in NFL. He’s calling the plays.”

    [q]. Running game? “They have good balance. Don’t overdo it with QB. Gonna throw the heck out of it. Complement it. Big RPO team.”

    [q]. Brooks status? “Practicing, determined to play.”

    [q]. Balance run more in cold? “Depend more on wind. sunny and clear, beautiful day. Crucial to have balance.”

    [q] Ken Walker? “We’ll see. Made it through week, sore out. See how this week goes, give him every day to get back. Won’t practice today.”

    [q] Special Teams #1 in DVOA, what well? “Really good skill guys kicking the ball. Do everything anyone can do. Highlight but core group. Complementary group of guys. Perimeter play, gunners, well executed play. Penalties not a big factor for us.”
    [q]. Errors early? “Shut them down. Haven’t returned in punt game much. Godwin been a factor.”

    [q]. 4 game win run well, change up front now? “Not been clean as we want. Those guys working hard. More than anything else, guys need to keep doing it and plays will pop.”

    [q]. Godwin punt return? “Possibly.”
    [q]. Tyler hurt, who? “Deejay. Winston(?) guy in our back pocket.”

    [q]. Tyler hurt DK production? “Most teams don’t double, give guys emphasis. These guys, who do you stop? It will help.”
    [q]. How DK adjust? “Keep plugging. Marquise big opp too. Penny (Hart) working at it too. Do other things to offset.”

    [q]. You Liked Mahomes in draft years ago? “John really liked him. Always about the off-tempo plays extraordinary. Range of abilities most guys don’t have. John right on it.”

    [q]. Prototype at DE? “4-3 or 3-4?”
    [q]. 3-4? “Those guys need to be 3-tech and 4 and 5-tech. Versatility. Play them accordingly if they’re more skilled at one aspect another. Different 2 gap and come off the ball. Tweak around that as best we can.”

    [q]. Personnel how do you think change in scheme going? “Ton of versatility. Will be better as we grow with it. But versatility special.”
    [q]. Stay with it? “Yup”
    [q]. Poona at nose if Al and Bryan can’t go? “He’s really good inside yeah.”
    [q]. Myles too? “Yeah, he’s been inside.”

    [q]. Cody play? “Have to do everything. Well equipped to do all the stuff. Offense dictates that. Have to have versatility. Not a chore to switch him. Easily switch him to MIKE. Have to learn everything.”

    [q]. Ryan Neal ok? “Still hobbling a bit. Not ready to practice today. We know he can do it, but days away from that.”
    [q]. Knee again? “Housemate’s knee.”
    [q]. WTH Housemate’s knee? “From kneeling down a lot. Bursa can swell.”

    [q]. Patrick when play breaks down? “Really cool to watch him play. He can be messing with rush and spin out and know guy all the way down the field has a chance. Feel for the entire field. Everything available due to his arm and release. Different ways he can get rid of FB. Everything available. Across his body, no-looks. Amazing spacial awareness. Can’t rest. Guys slips and falls, pops up, BAM he finds him. Doesn’t always hit them but sees them.”

    [q]. Offense without Tyreke Hill? “not as determined to show him off. Uniqueness of player, make him come to life. So fast.”

    [q]. Main thing has to go right to finish well? “Start with this game. Sharp FB across the board. Opps available to us. Catch INTs, stay onsides, make them work, play a championship style game. At our capabilities. Come up short lately. Knocking our head against the wall. Sharp focused disciplined. Freaking great game for us. Don’t play like that they’ll win.”

    [q]. Geno ok? “Great shape.”

    [q]. Arrowhead rank best? “There and Buffalo in AFC great stadiums. Like Lambeau. All three cold.”

    • Jabroni-DC says:

      Lucked out on Patrick Mahomes, great get. Adapted to him and made him a great player.

      Lucked out? Haha. A little bit of damning praise or just being a smart ass? Pete did give Andy full credit for properly developing Patrick.

    • Jaboni-DC says:

      [q]. Prototype at DE? “4-3 or 3-4?”
      [q]. 3-4? “Those guys need to be 3-tech and 4 and 5-tech. Versatility. Play them accordingly if they’re more skilled at one aspect another. Different 2 gap and come off the ball. Tweak around that as best we can.”

      [q]. Personnel how do you think change in scheme going? “Ton of versatility. Will be better as we grow with it. But versatility special.”
      [q]. Stay with it? “Yup”

      Sounds like we’re keeping the 3-4 & to some degree Pete answered a big question about his ‘type’ at 3-4 DE. Basically, someone who can do it all. Maybe that eliminates the Tyree Smith, Lukas van Ness, Calijah Kancey sized dudes as DE candidates.

  12. Blitzy the Clown says:

    [q]. Eskridge? “Trying to get back. Still working on it.”

    I don’t want to rag on it, but let’s be honest: this hasn’t been a good pick for Seattle.

    Makes me wonder which of Pete or John made the final call on taking him.

    [q]. You Liked Mahomes in draft years ago? “John really liked him. Always about the off-tempo plays extraordinary. Range of abilities most guys don’t have. John right on it.”

    Pete and John have always been totally complimentary of each other, so this is pretty innocuous on the surface. But I can’t help from framing it in a larger context that has recently emerged and is not yet clear.

    • Rob4q says:

      As far as Eskridge, I think the speed and physicality of the NFL have been a difficult adjustment for him. He was an electric player in college and that just hasn’t translated to the NFL. The injuries have slowed his development as well. I’m pretty sure that PC/JS would have made a different selectin in hindsight, but he looked like a player with special abilities. Maybe he gets stronger in the offseason and comes back next year and shows his potential…or maybe he’s out of the league?

    • cha says:

      I found it interesting that he specifically pointed out that John ID’d him and made effort to mention that he saw his off-schedule ability as a major asset.

      I don’t think that is super new information but coming from the source, you’ve got to think Richardson is very high on their radar.

  13. Erik says:

    It was interesting when Pete gave John the credit for seeing the potential in Mahomes. I wish he gave us this kind of insight more often.

  14. Ben says:

    Interior D-line tweeners… Great for late round picks, meh for early ones unless they have special athleticism. Let somebody else take that risk.

    I know the hawks really don’t need to take Bijan, with all the options in FA and later in the draft, but he is darn fun to watch play. Just a unique style. Would love to see him paired with a free agent upgrade(/s) to the interior line to join Walker, Abe, and Cross. The NFC is bad enough, a rookie QB (or Geno) with a truly great running game could make some serious noise as the defense is retooled.

    I won’t write Pete off from coaching until I hear it from his mouth, but sure sounds like it’s heading that way. Wish the magic of the midseason had kept going. Maybe it will, still time left. Football outsiders still has SEA at 33% so ain’t over til it’s over!

    A fresh perspective for the team plus continuity with JS remaining onboard could be ideal. He definitely earned back some goodwill with this last draft class but I still appreciate a fresh start with no concerns about pride or sunk costs in regards to Jamal Adams, Diggs, etc. We’ll have a very interesting offseason that’s for sure.

  15. samprassultanofswat says:

    Rob: Do you know enough about Tui Tuipolotu to compare him to a player like Dwight Freeney?

  16. The Boss says:

    He can’t be any worse than LJ Collier right?

  17. swedenhawk says:

    Rob, I’ve been wondering about the Seahawks’ tendencies to draft from certain conferences. In particular, I’m thinking of their recent track record of drafting defensive players from the Big 12… for example, Collier, Brooks, and Brown. Do you have any thoughts on this? For example, to what extent do you think it could be a strategy?

  18. Trevor says:

    If the Hawks try to fix the DL with two picks in the top 20 which is the better scenario?

    Carter and Wilson
    Anderson and Breese
    Carter and Kancey
    Anderson and Kancey
    Wilson and Kancey
    Wilson and Breese

    My #1 choice would be Carter and Tyree Wilson but think Wilson could be a top 10 pick so that is highly unlikely.

    #2 Choice would be Anderson and Breese.

    • Peter says:

      Carter and Kancey.

      Your Anderson/Breese combo could be absolutely face meltingly amazing if it worked…..or and abject failure if Anderson gets washed out by a bigger stronger level of competition and Breese becomes just a guy forever dealing with lingering problems.

  19. Trevor says:

    Hawks are scheduled to pay Adams and Diggs a combined $36.3 million next year.

    Meanwhile undrafted Ryan Neal is the #1 overall ranked safety by PFF with an outstanding 85.6 grade at a salary of $900k.

    Cutting Diggs and Adams with post June 11 designations should be move #1 for JS this off-season IMO. The dead $ would suck but the combined $25 mil in Cap Savings would make a big difference in the outlook this off season.

  20. Durst says:

    Can you compare/contrast Tuipolotu with Michigan Mike Morris (similar body type)

  21. diehard82 says:

    I recall looking at PFF stats for Tui, and while his pass rush grade is excellent, his missed tackle % jumped off the page, not just in 2022 but prior seasons also. And I wondered at the time whether short arms might have something to do with it. Since I think Carroll has been pining for a 6’7″ 300 pounder with long arms and disruptive intent, ala Calais Campbell, there are a couple guys in that ballpark in this draft who might be of more interest, such as Mike Morris – Michigan.

    Totally agree on safety discussion, but isn’t it most likely they drop Diggs this spring, and Adams in 2024 due to their age and contracts? Assuming they extend Neal, he’d have to fill the Diggs role, assuming Adams can stay healthy.

  22. God of Thunder says:

    “Totally agree on safety discussion, but isn’t it most likely they drop Diggs this spring, and Adams in 2024 due to their age and contracts? Assuming they extend Neal, he’d have to fill the Diggs role, assuming Adams can stay healthy.”

    Makes good sense.