The 2021 NFL Draft‘s interior defensive line class had its questions early on, and it still does. However, as the offseason has progressed, more and more upside has been unearthed from the ranks. The Senior Bowl gave a spotlight to several players with high potential, and even now, more names come to mind as potential sleepers. Another NFL Draft prospect who deserves more attention is Oregon defensive tackle Austin Faoliu. Part of a stalwart Ducks’ defensive line, Faoliu offers an intriguing NFL skill set. But what exactly does he provide?
Austin Faoliu NFL Draft Profile
- Height: 6’3″
- Weight: 300 pounds
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- School: Oregon
- Current Year: Senior
Tony Pauline’s Austin Faoliu Scouting Report
Positives: Full-time starter the past two seasons after seeing part-time action with the first team as a sophomore. Athletic defensive line prospect with a large upside. Fires off the snap and penetrates the line of scrimmage. Fluid pursuing laterally and shows the ability to make plays in space.
Consistently bends his knees, plays with terrific pad level, and is fluid if asked to twist or stunt. Agile, has excellent length, and works his hands. Stays with the action, keeps his feet moving, and gives effort.[sv slug=”drizly”]
Negatives: Struggles getting off blocks and must improve his strength at the point of attack. Gets pushed off the ball by big-bodied blockers.
Analysis: Faoliu has flashed ability the past three seasons at Oregon, yet never truly displayed great progress in his game. He possesses the athleticism and underlying physical skills to start in the NFL but needs to improve his playing strength and consistently produce.
Austin Faoliu Player Profile
The Oregon Ducks have long been the class of the Pac-12, and they frequently have success recruiting on the west coast. It comes as no surprise that Austin Faoliu came from their pipeline in California. A native of Santa Ana, Faoliu attended Mater Dei High School, where he gained praise as a standout player in the trenches.
Faoliu graded out as a three-star recruit in the 2017 recruiting class. Sporting a strong, stout frame, he had offers from several Power Five schools, including Texas, TCU, Michigan State, and Arizona State. However, no offer came close to enticing Faoliu as Oregon’s did. And so at the end of his recruiting process, Faoliu committed to the Oregon Ducks, filling out the depth of Mario Cristobal’s recruiting class.
Austin Faoliu’s career as an Oregon defensive tackle
Despite his three-star billing, Austin Faoliu didn’t waste any time breaking into the defensive lineup. The burly defensive lineman started two games and played in 12 in his true freshman season, putting up 22 total tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, and a forced fumble.
Faoliu remained a steady rotational threat on Oregon’s front in 2018, piling up 33 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles in 11 games and six starts.
In 2019, Faoliu had his best season yet for the Ducks. He became more disruptive on Oregon’s defensive line, tallying 39 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, and 2.0 sacks, this time starting eight of a possible 13 games.
In spite of the uncertainty surrounding the Pac-12’s 2020 season, Faoliu returned as a senior and again provided steady play. He registered 19 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a sack in six games, earning himself All-Pac-12 honorable mention recognition for the first time in his career.
In early January, after having played out his senior season, Faoliu decided to forgo the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility. In doing so, he officially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Austin Faoliu’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
More likely than not, Faoliu is a mid-to-late Day 3 pick at best. However, he does possess a decent amount of upside and versatility that could drive up his stock. He won’t have testing numbers to back him up on draft night, but his size and experience will do well enough.
Faoliu doesn’t pass the eye test with flying colors, but there are some intriguing traits in his tool chest. The Oregon defensive tackle brings good first-step explosiveness, and as a run defender, he offers solid strength and mirroring ability against sliding offensive linemen.
Faoliu doesn’t have great length, which limits his ability to generate power with his explosiveness. He also needs to make his hand strikes quicker and more precise in pass rushing situations. Nevertheless, Faoliu offers good leverage and lower-body mobility, and he also has the versatility to line up anywhere from the one-technique to the five.
Where would Faoliu translate best in the NFL?
Jordon Scott almost exclusively assumed the nose tackle position for Oregon, which left Faoliu to be more of a hybrid three-technique. With this in mind, three-technique is where he fits best in the NFL.
Austin Faoliu doesn’t have the pure strength and reach to be a nose tackle in the NFL, but he does have enough juice to be a 3-4 defensive end. He also translates well as a 4-3 tackle. There’s schematic versatility with Faoliu, which gives him more possible landing spots late in the NFL Draft.
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Teams like the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, New York Giants, and Tennessee Titans, could use a rotational interior lineman with Faoliu’s flexibility. But in truth, many more teams could legitimize selecting him in the mid-to-late range.
Faoliu ultimately adds to the quality depth of the 2021 defensive line class. Hence, he could end up being a steal in the right situation. A more likely scenario is that he carves out a long career as a solid rotational player, just as he did at Oregon. Either way, he’s a decent candidate to deliver on his draft capital investment, whatever that may be.
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