Quarterback Zach Wilson has ensured that attention is focused on the BYU Cougars this spring. However, in the shadows cast from the spotlight on the presumptive first-round pick, several potential stars are ready to shine on Sunday. Within that group is BYU defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga, who can be a later-round gem in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Khyiris Tonga NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- School: BYU
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 321 pounds
Tony Pauline’s Khyiris Tonga Scouting Report
Positives: Explosive, wide-bodied defender who takes up a lot of room in the middle of the line. Fires off the snap, plays with excellent pad level, and is rarely off his feet. Very good with his hands, resilient, and flashes athleticism. Consistently double-teamed in the middle of the line, keeps his feet moving, and plays through the whistle. Solid first step off the snap.
Negatives: Often handled at the point by a single blocker despite his size. Does not display himself as an overpowering lineman. Not much of a pass rusher and doesn’t make a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Analysis: Tonga possesses the size and athleticism to be a dominant force on the field and has flashed as much in the past. He comes with a large upside but must really pull the pieces of his game together and consistently play at the level he’s capable.
Khyiris Tonga Player Profile
The path to the NFL Draft is often longer from Provo, Utah than for most prospects, and BYU defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga is no different. It’s been nearly seven years since the man-mountain left Granger High School. He was a standout two-way player who utilized his experience playing rugby to excel on the football field.
In addition to lining up on both sides of the trenches, he also lined up as a tight end. Impressing early, he earned first-team All-Region honors as a freshman.
Despite that immediate impact at Granger, he was only regarded as a two-star recruit. Furthermore, Tong ranked as the 203rd defensive tackle in the 2014 recruiting class. Hailing from West Valley, Utah, he committed to play for the Utah Utes. However, before heading to college, his journey would take a detour.
As a Mormon, Tonga opted to serve his Latter-Day Saints mission out of high school. Instead of enrolling in Utah, he traveled to Wichita for two years.
On his return, he flipped his commitment from the Utes to the Cougars. At the time, BYU received significant praise for the coup.
Khyiris Tonga’s college football career at BYU
As a freshman in 2017, Khyiris Tonga contributed early to a defense that contained future BYU NFL Draft third-rounders Sione Takitaki and Fred Warner. Making his debut against Portland State, he would play 13 games and make two starts. In a standout contest against San Jose State, he racked up his first college sack while also contributing a forced fumble. By the end of the season, he generated 19 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks.
Tonga impressed with his athleticism and motor in his freshman season and continued to showcase his ability as a sophomore. In eight starts, he logged 30 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. His disruptive power was on full display against Washington and Western Michigan, where he had 1.5 tackles for loss in each game. Additionally, he displayed his versatility with a blocked field goal against Utah.
One criticism labeled at prospects from “smaller schools” is the level of competition. However, in a junior year where Khyiris Tonga contemplated declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft, he put up his best performance in the biggest game. Facing USC, the BYU defensive tackle had a sack and a tackle for loss while recording 2 pass breakups. He ended the season with 45 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 1 sack.
Although he contemplated declaring, he returned for his senior season.
Tonga cited proving he could be a three-down defensive tackle and family advice as his reason for returning to BYU. He received preseason attention, getting named to the Nagurski and Outland Trophy watchlist.
The BYU defensive tackle didn’t disappoint, starting the season as fast as the reported 4.91 40-yard dash time he ran in June 2019. A stellar performance in the season opener against the notoriously tricky Navy offense paved the way for a first career two-sack game against Troy. Despite defeat in the “Mormons vs. Mullets” game of the season against Coastal Carolina, Tonga racked up a career-high 10 tackles.
Following the 2020 season, Khyiris Tonga declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Khyiris Tonga’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
The last BYU defensive tackle to be selected in the NFL’s annual selection event was Daren Yancey. He was a sixth-round selection of the now Las Vegas Raiders in 1999. Can Khyiris Tonga break that drought in the 2021 NFL Draft? There’s every chance that the dominant nose tackle hears his name called.
Featured | Miller’s 2-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft
However, it is likely to be later on Day 3. He is my 182nd overall prospect at the time of writing. Meanwhile, Tony Pauline gives him a sixth-round grade in his latest big board for Pro Football Network.
Tonga would best fit in a 3-4 defensive scheme as a traditional nose tackle. His strength, athleticism, and bull rush should attract teams into using a Day 3 selection on him. Some defenses with a need and scheme fit include the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, and the Chicago Bears.
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