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Crabbs | Lowell Lotulelei a high quality IDL

Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire

Scouting Notes

Crabbs | Lowell Lotulelei a high quality IDL

The University of Utah had 8 players selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, which was tied for the fourth most of any college in the country. Had Lowell Lotulelei decided to enter the 2017 NFL Draft, he’d have been number 9. He also would have been the second or third to have had his name called (Garett Bolles is safely out of a projection area for Lotulelei at #20 overall), potentially edging out Safety Marcus Williams, a Saints second-round selection.

Instead, Lotulelei enters the 2017 college football season as one of the top interior defensive linemen in the country. He’s big, strong, squatty and has a great nose for finding the football at the point of attack. There were ample instances throughout the 2016 college season in which Lowell was able to illustrate pass rush ability, run defending ability and team defense concepts.

That level of versatility will serve him well, as the more an interior player can do to keep himself on the field for all game situations the better off his draft status will be.

Lowell certainly has the line of scrimmage controlled, as illustrated by the Utah run defense in short yardage instances throughout their 2016 regular season:

The Utah depth chart lists Lotulelei as the right tackle, which puts him firmly in the middle of all that red; which indicates that teams running to those gaps in those down/distance situations are performing below the average expected result. Sure, Lotulelei plays with some reps working as a 0-Tech (head up on the center) but the lack of success running to the left for Utah opponents speaks for itself.

How does Lotulelei accomplish such stout run defense? First and foremost, he’s strong as hell.

Lowell, lined up over the Left Guard, fires out with good pad level and aggressiveness but actually loses leverage on a second effort push on 3rd and 1. But the natural strength of Lotulelei allows him to collect and still hold firm at the line of scrimmage; preventing a crease that the back was hoping to slip through as the ball is pressed up behind the center.

But Lotulelei does have some backfield presence as well. It isn’t his featured skill, but there’s enough play processing ability and athleticism to allow him to beat blockers across their face.

This is as good as it gets in terms of lateral play as a run defender. A good, hard punch is parlayed with a quick process of action of the ball in the backfield. From there, Lowell continues to string together lateral and forward momentum, gaining ground in the backfield to close down his angle to the ball carrier before finishing with a big hit as team pursuit prevents the ball carrier from gaining the corner quickly.

Going forward in 2017, look for more of these types of plays from Lotulelei. Regardless of the fact that he shows this kind of lateral range and can make some splash plays in the backfield, expect to hear he’s limited in his ability to impact along the line of scrimmage. These types of plays will lead you to a more accurate assessment and value range for a player of his caliber; which I would currently project in the top 50-60 selections in next year’s Draft.

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Kyle Crabbs

Kyle Crabbs is the founder/Director of Scouting of NDT Scouting Services, a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the lead NFL Draft analyst for the FanRag Sports Network.

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