Star Lotulelei has been drawing some comparisons to Haloti Ngata this past season. They have very similar talent levels, but there are some important distinctions between the two. Let’s look at them.
DL Star Lotulelei, Utah
Lotulelei is monstrous at 320 lbs. He actually has a bit of fat that he can afford to lose. Regardless, he’s an impressive athlete. He’s also extremely versatile, capable of succeeding in the NFL anywhere from 4-3 nose guard to 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4.
In spite of his size, Lotulelei is agile and moves very well laterally. He has shown some elite explosion off the snap. Sadly, if he doesn’t get a good initial jump, he can give up on plays, which is probably his scariest shortcoming. You might note that his statistics are a bit lacking for a defensive tackle prospect considered to be a Top 5 pick in the draft. No matter what the circumstances, this is absolutely true with Lotulelei, and the products of his pass rushing game are disappointing, as evidenced by his numbers. But in his defense, he demanded constant double-teams (and even triple-teams) in college. That’s sure to continue in the NFL though, which teams should consider a plus.
Lotulelei excels when he’s anchoring against the run. He uses his strong hands well and can absolutely dominate offensive linemen. He destroyed highly-regarded USC center Khaled Holmes in their matchup this season. But Lotulelei is at his best when he reaches out during blocks and simply pulls opposing running backs to the ground.
Lotulelei has a combination of power and quickness that is seldom seen in defensive lineman prospects. Aside from his inconsistent motor, he also relies on his talent a bit too much and will need to refine his technique in the NFL. He’s not quite as impressive as Ngata was when he left Oregon (he’s not even a prospect that I like), but he has the potential to be just as good of an NFL player.