There is nothing usual about Minnesota offensive tackle Daniel Faalele. His size, inexperience, and journey to the precipice of the NFL Draft have all been rare. Yet, out of unusual circumstances comes a genuine NFL-caliber talent. The pre-draft process might have cast more questions than answers, but Faalele’s scouting report reveals a potential Sunday skill set wrapped up in his sizeable outer skin.
Daniel Faalele NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Offensive Tackle
- School: Minnesota
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’8 1/8″
- Weight: 387 pounds
- Wingspan: 86 1/4″
- Arm: 35 3/8″
- Hand: 11″
Daniel Faalele Scouting Report
It’s been 20 years since the San Diego Chargers selected Matt Anderle in the sixth round. That’s so long ago that the Chargers don’t even reside in San Diego anymore. But, why is that important?
Well, Anderle is the last Minnesota OT drafted to the NFL. Before him, you had to go back to Jon Melander in 1990 and Todd Hallstrom in 1983 to find a Gophers tackle selected in the draft. Minnesota offensive tackles making it to the NFL are rare. But so is Faalele.
It would be remiss to begin Faalele’s scouting report anywhere other than his size. At 6’8″ and 387 pounds, there simply isn’t a bigger player in this 2022 NFL Draft class. These are verified Senior Bowl measurements, with Minnesota listing their OT at 6’9″. Unbelievably, Faalele has slimmed down, tipping the scales at 400 pounds at one point in his college career. He dwarves even the biggest men in the trenches.
Being this ginormous has its advantages as an offensive tackle. Pass rushers simply cannot run through him. He’s the epitome of an immovable object. Faalele is also too big for most pass rushers to merely run around. He’s too broad. Furthermore, he owns excellent functional length. Faalele’s arms measured in at 35 3/8″ at the Senior Bowl. Additionally, his wingspan is in excess of 86 inches.
Length and strength
Step into any online debate about offensive tackle play, and you’ll instantly become aware that length is essential. Faalele demonstrates this in several ways. He puts his length to good use to walk pass rushers around the outside track and past the quarterback. He consistently displays excellent ability in this regard.
The Minnesota OT also routinely locks his long arms to keep defensive linemen from getting their hands to his chest. Although not explicitly related to his length, Faalele does an excellent job of using his inside arm to feel for interior pressure while keeping his eyes focused on his target.
With immense size comes incredible strength. In pass protection, Faalele demonstrates an impressive anchor with his sheer lower body strength. It helps that he routinely displays a wide base, but his anchor is rooted in strength. Furthermore, he uses this strength to move people up the field or onto the floor as a run blocker. His competitive toughness is glaringly apparent. He revels in putting a man on the ground.
Faalele’s strength also shows up in his hand usage. The Minnesota OT has a potent initial punch, routinely knocking defensive linemen and pass-rushing linebackers back at the point of attack with a single strike. He also has an impressively firm grasp when he gets his hand placement right. With hands measuring in at 11″, you’d be disappointed if he didn’t.
Relative athleticism and NFL Draft outlook
For a man of Faalele’s size, the most significant question mark is inevitably around his athleticism. Even here, there are some pleasantly surprising answers.
He won’t beat anyone in a foot race; let’s not get carried away. Still, he has impressive lateral agility for his size and can quickly get into pass sets. Furthermore, he shows some explosiveness at the point of attack and also makes his way out to the second level in the run game with relative smoothness.
With size, strength, decent relative athleticism, competitive toughness, and some impressive technical ability, Faalele belies his relative inexperience to be an alluring 2022 NFL Draft prospect. While he’s attracted significantly high praise at times during the past 12 months, even going in the first round in some mock drafts, Faalele will likely be a late Day 2 selection in Las Vegas.
Areas for improvement
While Faalele’s scouting report has thus far been crammed with glowing endorsements, there are areas for improvement. However, this should come as no surprise for an NFL Draft prospect playing in only his fourth entire season of competitive football at any level. Ironically, Faalele’s lack of relative experience could impact his ability to be an instant-impact offensive lineman in the NFL.
Faalele suffers from a common affliction with college football offensive tackles. There are examples on tape where he gets his weight over his toes, resulting in him becoming unbalanced. While he doesn’t find the floor often, he does get beaten because of it. Potentially due to his incredible size, the Minnesota OT is sometimes guilty of bending at the waist rather than the knees, which doesn’t help with the balance issue.
Like with most young players, it’s about consistency
Consistency is key to Faalele’s overall projection as an NFL Draft prospect. Due to his size, he doesn’t consistently play with a low pad level. In fact, there were frequent examples of him playing with a high pad level. Playing low is an important component of winning in the trenches, and the Minnesota OT will need to work on this element of his game.
Furthermore, he needs to demonstrate consistency with his hand usage. Faalele has incredibly strong hands. Yet, there are multiple examples on tape where he leaves his chest plate vulnerable to attack. This results from inconsistent hand timing and placement where his hands are too far outside of the defender’s frame.
Faalele needs to learn to keep his head on a swivel. There were examples on tape of him being caught unaware and not knowing how the play was unfolding around him.
That said, these fine technical and awareness elements can be directly attributed to his relative football inexperience, and you would expect to see him develop the longer he plays the game.
Faalele’s Player Profile
9,395. That’s the distance in miles from Minnesota to Melbourne, Australia. It’s a long way, right? Yet, somehow, that gargantuan distance doesn’t do justice to the football journey untaken by the Minnesota offensive tackle. From the rugby fields of Melbourne to the Twin Cities via the prestigious IMG Academy in Florida, Faalele’s story is unbelievable.
Faalele had never seen a down of football when he arrived in Florida for the 2016 high school season. However, the young rugby player had attracted the attention of a football scout from Hawaii. When he impressed at a satellite camp in Australia (ran by Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh), the man-mountain became hot property in the US.
From the minute he set foot on the IMG field, Faalele began to turn heads. Evan Neal, himself an imposing physical specimen in the 2022 NFL Draft, was taken aback by Faalele’s sheer size. He’d never seen someone the size of the 6’9″ behemoth.
Schools swoon for inexperienced high school star
With a lack of any exposure to the game, Faalele spent the 2016 season learning from the sidelines. However, that didn’t stop college programs from clamoring to secure his services.
By the time he completed his first season — an undefeated campaign where IMG had averaged 177 rushing yards and 27.8 points per game — the four-star prospect had 20 offers as the nation’s 19th-best high school offensive tackle.
The 20 offers weren’t from any old programs either. Heavy-hitting programs like Alabama and Georgia fought to secure his services. However, for the gentle giant, the decision behind his destination was more than just football. A family man, he’d been bowled over by Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck’s family and future-oriented recruiting pitch.
“I felt like some of the other schools didn’t have that family environment and atmosphere I wanted,” Faalele told Bleacher Report. “I wanted to play for Coach Fleck.” He was joined in Minnesota by IMG teammate Curtis Dunlap Jr., enhancing that family feel.
Faalele’s career at Minnesota
Despite his relative inexperience, the Minnesota OT was thrust into action as a true freshman. Having seen playing time in two games early on, he was made the starting right tackle against Ohio State. Rather than wilt in the spotlight, Faalele stood tall. He started eight games as Minnesota hit 20+ passing and rushing touchdowns for the first time in program history.
The true freshman was named the team’s Outstanding Offensive Freshman and received an honorable mention for the All-Big Ten team. Throughout the 2019 season, Faalele continued to impress both internally and externally. Although he missed two games with injury, the Minnesota megalodon started 11 games as a sophomore at right tackle.
While the offense set school records for total yardage and passing yards, Faalele was credited with allowing zero sacks against Rutgers and Maryland. With another honorable mention on the All-Big Ten team, Faalele entered 2020 as a hotly tipped NFL Draft prospect. However, the disruption of the college football season caused by COVID-19 threatened to halt his progress more than defensive linemen had been able to previously.
With the season in doubt, Faalele opted out of playing. Although the missed season cost him valuable reps, Faalele was still considered a potential NFL Draft prospect in the last cycle. While he could have declared, the Minnesota OT opted to come back for another season in the Twin Cities. The decision was not only a massive boost for a Minnesota team that had struggled in 2020 but also for Faalele’s opportunity to develop further.
Faalele’s NFL Draft ascension
Faalele had an exceptionally impressive 2021 campaign for the Gophers. During the season opener against Ohio State, he was dominant against any pass rusher that lined up opposite him. In 12 starts, he anchored an offensive line that didn’t allow a sack against Purdue, Nebraska, and Northwestern. With Faalele in the lineup, Minnesota improved from 1.86 sacks allowed per game in 2020 to 1.69 this past season.
The result of his performances was a plethora of national accolades. For the first time in his career, Faalele earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. He was also a finalist for the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year. However, he missed out on the award to a player he’d helped contain in the season opener, Ohio State DT Haskell Garrett.
As suspected, Faalele signaled his intention to declare for the 2022 NFL Draft at the end of the college football season, receiving a Senior Bowl invite in the process. However, the Minnesota man’s trip to Mobile didn’t prove to be the profile elevator that some expected. According to PFN’s team on the ground, Faalele’s “limitations showed up in team drills” and “he had a very tough time with more agile rushers in Mobile.”
Those issues were compounded by torrid testing times, with the Minnesota OT’s 2.41 Relative Athletic Score inflated only by his remarkable size and a decent 29.5″ vertical jump. While the positive elements of his scouting report make Faalele an intriguing prospect, he heads to Las Vegas with as many development points as upside potential and a questionable 2022 NFL Draft outlook.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report on Daniel Faalele
Positives: Massive offensive tackle with the underlying athleticism to succeed at the next level. Keeps his head on a swivel, keeps his feet moving, and uses his hands to knock pass rushers from their angles of attack. Quick off the snap and stays square. Easily seals the edge and out-positions defenders from plays. Makes good use of angles in pass protection, easily engulfs opponents, and takes them from the action. Gets a lot of movement run blocking and drives opponents off the line of scrimmage.
Negatives: Must improve his blocking balance. Struggles to adjust and pick up the blitz. Seems very sluggish at times. Lacks quick and fluid footwork off the edge and shows limited lateral blocking range. Tipped the scales at 387 pounds during Senior Bowl weigh-ins and is much too big.
Analysis: When Faalele is in proper condition and under 350 pounds, he’s a force to be reckoned with at tackle, as he displays athleticism, agility, and the ability to overwhelm defenders. When he’s in excess of 370 pounds, Faalele looks off-balance and haphazard and gets beaten. He possesses a tremendous amount of upside, but Faalele must do proper things off the field and keep himself in proper condition 12 months a year.