For the Minnesota Golden Gophers, having an offensive tackle drafted to the NFL is unusual. But there is nothing usual about 2022 NFL Draft prospect Daniel Faalele. His size, inexperience, and journey to the precipice of the NFL have all been rare. Yet, out of unusual circumstances comes a genuine NFL-caliber talent, and Faalele’s scouting report reveals a 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: 6’9″
- Weight: 380 pounds
Daniel Faalele Scouting Report
When the NFL Draft kicks off in April, it will be 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 6’9″ and 380 pounds, there simply isn’t a bigger player in this 2022 NFL Draft class. Unbelievably, Faalele has slimmed down, tipping the scales at 400 pounds at one point in his college career.
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 appears to own excellent functional length.
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 can demonstrate 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. When he gets his hand placement right, he also has an impressively firm grasp. With a hand size of 4XL, 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 get quickly into pass sets. Furthermore, he shows some explosiveness at the point of attack and can also make 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. He has starting NFL potential, and with the lack of true right tackles in this class, I believe he’ll be selected no lower than Day 2 in April.
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 who is playing in only his fourth entire season of competitive football at any level.
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.
Another drawback of his size is that he sometimes plays with a high pad level. When the low man wins in the trenches, this could pose an issue at the next level. Additionally, while he demonstrates incredible hand strength, Faalele could show more consistency with hand placement. There were multiple examples on tape where he allowed his opponent to attack his chest because his hands were placed too far outside the defender’s frame.
Finally, 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.
Daniel Faalele 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 Golden Gophers offensive tackle. From the rugby fields of Melbourne to the Twin Cities via the prestigious IMG Academy in Florida, Faalele’s story is unbelievable.
When he arrived in Florida for the 2016 high school season, Faalele had never seen a down of football. 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-orientated 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.” Furthermore, he was joined in Minnesota by IMG teammate Curtis Dunlap Jr., enhancing that family feel.
Faalele’s career at Minnesota
Some of the most experienced and talented high school players spend the first year of their collegiate career on the sideline. As a result of his inexperience, that was the plan for Faalele during the 2018 season.
Nevertheless, 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. While the national attention was impressive, the highest praise came from within the program in the form of o-line coach Brian Callahan.
“This guy is more than a novelty,” Callahan told Bleacher Report. “This is as good as I’ve been around. And, I’ve been around some good ones. But this guy could be special.”
Faalele impresses with his development through sophomore season
Throughout the 2019 season, Faalele proceeded to validate his coach’s opinion. Although he missed two games with injury, the Minnesota mountain 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 0 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.
From Melbourne, via Minnesota, to Mobile?
Through Week 9 of the 2021 college football season, Faalele has been impressive. During the season opener against Ohio State, he was dominant against any pass rusher that lined up opposite him. In his seven starts, he’s credited with not allowing a sack against Purdue, Maryland, and Northwestern.
While there are times when his inexperience shows up on tape, the Minnesota OT has elevated his stock this season. As a senior, he’s likely to earn an invite to the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. There, he’ll be able to impress NFL personnel with his athletic ability. As a result, it wouldn’t be a surprise for Faalele to be considered one of the top offensive tackles in the 2022 NFL Draft class by April.