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NFL Draft Profile: Josiah Tauaefa, LB, UTSA

The high-flying linebacker drew eyeballs at UTSA, but will NFL GMs take a chance on the former defensive end?

NCAA Football: Texas-San Antonio at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Josiah Tauaefa, Linebacker, UTSA Roadrunners

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 232 pounds

40-yard Dash: N/A

Bench Press: 21 reps @ 225 lbs.

3-Cone Drill: 7.06

20-Yard Shuttle: 4.26

Career Stats (3 seasons): 33 games played, 257 tackles, 22.5 TFL, 4 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception, 11.5 sacks


Analysis

Strengths: Tauaefa became a fan-favorite at UTSA thanks to his natural comfort on the field, high motor, and, well, his hair. Overlooked as a high school athlete, Tauaefa made the transition from an undersized defensive end to an instant Freshman All-American linebacker after a redshirt season at UTSA.

After graduating from college early, Tauaefa elected to pursue professional opportunities rather than enroll in a graduate program at UTSA or elsewhere. While it seemed like a no-brainer decision at the time, Tauaefa unfortunately wasn’t afforded an invitation to the NFL Combine to showcase his abilities.

Despite Tauaefa’s combine snub, he remains a trendy prospect among draft analysts. WalterFootball.com ranks Tauaefa as the 9th best linebacker prospect in this draft class, while the NFL Network has Tauaefa ranked as the 5th best linebacker available on draft day.

On the field, Tauaefa excels as a pass rusher. His two most memorable plays at UTSA were both sacks, and UTSA blitzed him liberally, often to a fault. Tauaefa’s game is a unique blend of poetic motion and brutalizing violence at the point of contact. Few linebackers are able to convert speed to power with the ease that Tauaefa does in the open field. The linebacker has a great feel for the game and is often able to make impressive cross-field pursuit tackles despite having just average speed.

Weaknesses: As mentioned earlier, Tauaefa isn’t the fastest linebacker out there. While I wasn’t able to find a reported 40 yard dash time from his pro day, I would guess that he runs somewhere between 4.7 and 4.9 in the 40. Tauaefa’s top notch instincts can make up for that lack of speed close to the line of scrimmage, but he can struggle to match running backs step-for-step when they step out of the box to run routes, or if he’s asked to pick up a receiver coming across the middle of the field. This limitation means that Tauaefa projects strictly as a middle linebacker at the next level.

Tauaefa played some truly impressive football at UTSA, compiling an impressive highlight reel. However, given that Tauaefa was extremely limited in his sophomore season due to injury, he’ll only have two good seasons of film to cut. While this isn’t a huge problem for guys like Devin White at LSU and Tre Lamar at Clemson, G5 prospects need extensive and impressive cuts of film to separate themselves from lesser talents that played against top-level competition on a weekly basis.

Final Thoughts

If we throw out combine testing and physical measurements, few defensive players would be able to match Tauaefa’s overall profile. His game sense and passion on the field more than make up for his shortcomings, making him a tackling machine.

It’s hard to see Tauaefa as a sure-fire selection given his lack of elite physical traits, but a team looking for depth at linebacker will likely be happy to pick up Tauaefa in the late rounds. If he’s afforded time to grow and learn in the right system then Tauaefa could develop into a serviceable linebacker at the next level.