Tuli Tuipulotu, EDGE, USC | NFL Draft Scouting Report

USC EDGE Tuli Tuipulotu was the 2022 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. And that same 2022 tape could elevate his 2023 NFL Draft scouting report.

Sometimes lost in a deep 2023 NFL Draft EDGE class, can USC’s Tuli Tuipulotu be a surprise early-round pick and capitalize on his momentum as an underclassman? Tuipulotu has a very unique profile, which can be hard to project — but his best moments allude to exciting NFL upside.

Tuli Tuipulotu NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: EDGE
  • School: USC
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height/Weight: 6’3″, 266 pounds
  • Length: 32 1/4″
  • Hand: 10 1/8″

In 2022, Tuipulotu was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Bednarik Award — given annually to the league’s best defender.

In 12 regular-season games and a conference championship showing, Tuipulotu amassed 44 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, and a league-leading 12.5 sacks, along with three pass deflections and two forced fumbles.

Tuipulotu — the younger brother of Eagles lineman Marlon Tuipulotu — was showing signs of progression in 2021 when he put up 5.5 sacks and 7.5 TFLs as a true sophomore. But no one could have anticipated the degree to which he emerged in his first year of eligibility.

Tuipulotu leveraged his dominant performance into an early NFL Draft declaration, and he’s now seen by many as a player who could potentially crack the top 100 picks. A former three-star turned Pac-12 superstar, few can match Tuipulotu’s production, and that’s one thing that’s very translatable to the NFL game.

Tuli Tuipulotu Scouting Report

With his success in 2022, Tuipulotu emerged as a legitimate wild card in the 2023 NFL Draft defensive line class. His profile is not only incredibly exciting but also incredibly unique.

Tuipulotu’s Strengths

Your eyes have to do a bit of work to find Tuipulotu on each snap. His exceedingly strong 6’3″ frame — with which he carried a playing weight of up to almost 290 pounds — implies heightened alignment versatility. And that versatility is something that shows up often on Tuipulotu’s tape.

Tuipulotu has played everywhere from 1-tech to wide 9. He’s arguably best between 3-tech and 7-tech, and there will be questions about what his best overall fit is at the NFL level. But the bottom line is, Tuipulotu’s amalgamation of tools allows him to make an impact from multiple spots.

The USC EDGE has a quick first step off the line and attacks contact situations with urgency. Tuipulotu has great accelerative capacity and foot speed from multiple alignments. His explosiveness can be a mismatch generator on the interior, but he also has enough long-track burst to stress tackles at the apex.

Going further, Tuipulotu is a surprisingly twitched-up rusher for his size, who can abruptly adjust his leverage and positioning to exploit slower blockers. He has the lateral agility to quickly swivel around and envelop QBs in pursuit, and he can quickly peel free from blocks and change directions, exploding on the chase.

The application of agility is also impressive with Tuipulotu. At his size, he has the short-area control to tempo his rushes, using throttle shifts to manipulate and displace blockers. He can also sidestep blocks early off the snap.

With his twitch, he generates impressive energy around the apex and surges around blockers with suddenness. Moreover, he has the lateral explosiveness to cover ground quickly as a stunting lineman and carry momentum into angled rushes.

With his loading twitch, frame density, and length, Tuipulotu has exceptional raw power capacity. Functionally, he’s shown to leverage his hips and length into extensions to maximize power output. He’s then able to sustain power rushes after contact with urgent leg drive.

Tuipulotu torques through power exertions and wrenches blockers back, using his leg drive to plow open lanes off the edge. With his power drive, he’s able to get inside tackles and compress the edge.

As expected with his frame, Tuipulotu brings formidable strength to the fold. He has the hand strength necessary to deconstruct anchors and enter pursuit off the rush. He can quickly stack and shed run blocks with violent swims, and he’s flashed the strength to one-gap at 3-tech with proper leverage.

At times, Tuipulotu can strive for more consistent leverage and pad level, but he’s shown he can properly utilize his base to acquire leverage and fully drive through rushes. Ultimately, Tuipulotu is able to lower his pads and get under blockers to maximize leverage. In those instances, he has the hand usage to capitalize.

Tuipulotu is a violent, heavy-handed rusher who can swat past blocks with ruthless double swipes and clubs. He’s shown to shoot his hands inside the torso and properly apply power on downhill rushes. But he’s also able to violently latch and use push-pull and swim combos to wrench through moving blockers.

Tuipulotu shows great promise with his hands, but not simply because of the violence. He’s able to maintain synergy between his upper and lower body, using euro-steps and hesitation moves to complement hand strikes. He can also stay tight to the arc and maximize reps with spatial awareness, as well as manipulate linemen with initial moves.

While he doesn’t have elite bend, Tuipulotu has enough at his size. He has solid ankle flexion, plus the requisite hip flexibility to roll through the apex when he has space. The USC EDGE has flashed the ability to pinch tight angles while accelerating into the pocket.

This bend can serve as a fusing agent for Tuipulotu’s other traits. He’s able to feign a cross-chop to narrow blockers, then dip around the edge with flexibility, using both inside and outside rips as well.

Of course, tools alone don’t earn you the production that Tuipulotu has enjoyed. His elite motor is ultimately what makes it happen. The USC EDGE is a relentless rusher coming downhill, consistently seeking to finish plays.

He brings indomitable energy attacking the pocket. What’s more, Tuipulotu actively uses his length to obstruct passing lanes, and he’s a high-energy defender who adapts quickly and carries urgency through reps.

Tuipulotu’s closing burst, passable length, and motor make him dangerous in pursuit. He has a finisher mentality in the backfield, both against the run and the pass. In run support, he’s able to quickly deconstruct blocks and snare runners once they enter his range, and he’s shown he can read exchanges quickly and key in on the ball carrier.

Tuipulotu’s Areas for Improvement

While Tuipulotu’s physical profile is undoubtedly a strength, he’s not flawless in that regard. He doesn’t quite have elite explosiveness off the edge and benefits with room to quicken his strides and gear up.

At times, Tuipulotu appears a bit tightly wound on direction changes. And while he’s not a liability in terms of length, his proportional length is below average for a defensive lineman. He has enough length to drive power, but his 32 1/4″ arms can be out-reached, particularly against opposing tackles.

One of the bigger recurring issues on tape for Tuipulotu is pad level. The USC EDGE has room to better leverage power with full extensions, but he’s also inconsistent at aligning his base and fully driving power. This also hurts Tuipulotu in run defense, as he sometimes diverts upright after contact and fails to leverage his base while attempting to hold ground.

While Tuipulotu has great overall frame density, he lacks the lower body mass to consistently hold his ground against interior blockers. He can also get driven back in run defense.

Tuipulotu’s hand placement in run defense can also be inconsistent when attempting to anchor. Off the snap, he sometimes gives up too much of his torso, allowing blockers to stall his momentum.

As a hand-fighter, Tuipulotu sometimes experiences a slight delay between counters when stacking moves around the edge, and he could be a bit smoother. Particularly on the interior, his pass-rushing plan is less consistent, and he can more consistently load and exert on power rushes to maximize his output into contact.

Around the edge, Tuipulotu doesn’t have the elite bend necessary to consistently pinch tight angles and can get worked upright after getting a step on tackles. His torso sometimes appears stiff and confined. As a result, he can’t always flex under blocks and reduce his surface area. He also struggles to sink consistently.

Lastly, Tuipulotu could be more disciplined in run defense. The USC EDGE sometimes sells out to enter the backfield and gives up gap space. And in pursuit, he visibly lacks elite long speed.

Current Draft Projection for USC EDGE Tuli Tuipulotu

Tuipulotu carries a top-100 grade on my board in the 2023 NFL Draft, worth consideration on Day 2. He has intriguing tools and projected versatility, but there are also questions that arise about what his most ideal role in the NFL is. His production profile is a solidifying factor for his stock, however, and his size will win over NFL teams.

It’s important to note what some of Tuipulotu’s mild limitations are. His torso stiffness can be an issue at times, and while he has exceptional size, strength, power, and burst, he’s arguably short of the quantifiably elite mark in all of those areas. He also has room to further maximize his hand usage, as well as more consistently manage his leverage.

Even so, that same mix of exceptional traits boosts Tuipulotu’s appeal — especially for teams that value versatility on the line and employ hybrid fronts. He’s a player you can move around based on matchups and situational factors, and he’s impressively natural off the edge for his size.

Seeing that Tuipulotu weighed in at just 266 pounds at the NFL Combine, he could be in line for a more consistent EDGE role in the NFL. That may be best for Tuipulotu, whose most translatable reps occur on the edge. There, he’s afforded the space to load power and use his full allotment of pass-rushing moves.

Even at around 270 pounds, however, Tuipulotu has shown he possesses the ability to rotate inside, stunt, rush along angled paths, and give blockers trouble with his explosiveness, power, and unending motor. His non-elite length puts another slight cap on his upside, but he has a good power profile, regardless.

In the mid-to-late Day 2 range, or as a priority Day 3 pick, Tuipulotu’s floor is high enough that he could see starting reps early on in his career. Across his prime, he can be a quality starter with the alignment versatility and motor to sustain production and the strength to hold up in both phases.

Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast

Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Scouting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Scouting Podcast on our Scouting YouTube channel.

Related Articles