John Lotulelei is a very underrated prospect in the 2013 NFL draft. He's going to turn some heads when he gets to the NFL with his all around abilities. He can project well to multiple schemes and should be an asset both on special teams and within a locker room.
Let's review his talents:
+ He's got good short-area quickness that helps in all aspects
+ He's intelligent and diagnoses plays well
+ His hands are violent and talented
- Shorter and squattier than other linebackers in this class
- Top-end speed is just average
John Lotulelei is an intriguing prospect who could go anywhere from the middle of the fourth round or later. If he somehow winds up undrafted, he should be a priority free agent as a special teams candidate.
Tools ( + and - )
Lotulelei is a shorter, squattier linebacker with good quickness and strength. He's able to flow to the ball well because of it and has some very good intelligence on the field. He is able to diagnose plays well because of it and with is quickness and strength, he has a solid slate of tools to work with. It would just help for him to be taller and bigger.
Intangibles, Character and Injuries
John Lotulelei is exactly what every NFL head coach wants on his team. He's a guy that has never been arrested or suspended. He doesn't miss games for injury and is very durable. On top of that, he was a team captain for the Rebels in 2012 and was the leader of that defense. He will be able to fit right in with any locker room and will be an asset here.
In college, he was used both as an inside and as an outside linebacker. He was used in both the based and nickel alignments. John would be blitzed rarely and would drop into primarily zone coverages over the middle of the field. Against the run, he was protected well by talented defensive linemen that wouldn't allow the opposing linemen to get to that second level.
Pass Coverage ( + and - )
In man coverage, Lotulelei tends to get tripped up on his own feet. False steps and getting off the jump a half-second late will hurt his man coverage abilities. His best role is when he doesn't have to cover any players heads up or in man coverage.
In zone coverage, he's much, much better. He's able to drop back quickly and smoothly. He uses his agility and intelligence to read the plays and makes excellent hits to limit yards after the catch. Overall, his pass coverage is better in zone than it is in man because it allows him to read and react.
Pass Rush ( - )
While his pass rush skills are not great, it's more from inexperience and not being used there much. He does have a quickness to the ball and is very much like a heat seeking missile one he locks into the passer. His hand usage is amazing, though, and he can project into a better pass rusher in the pros than how he was used in college.
Against the Run ( + )
Against the run, Lotulelei is an effective talent. He can stack and shed blocks to get to the ball carrier effectively. He tackles well in the open field and hustles to the ball every single play. His ability to locate the ball against the run is helped by his pursuit abilities. He takes great angles and can throw fullbacks to the side like they are nothing.
Tackling ( + )
When he takes down the ball carriers, he wraps up effectively and even tries to knock the ball out after he's secured the tackle. He delivers good pop when he hits guys and is effective at seeking out the ball carrier in the open field even when there are blockers in the way.
Use of hands ( + )
He has very quick, strong hands and uses them violently. Lotulelei can shed blocks effectively versus both the run and in pass rushing. His low frame is extremely effective in gaining the leverage needed to use his hands effectively. He has great punch and hand placement when engaged and can throw around offensive guards that outweigh him by a good 60-plus pounds
Future Role and Scheme Versatility
In the NFL, John Lotulelei will be best as an inside linebacker in either the 3-4 or the 4-3. He could honestly fit in with any team as a depth player and special teams ace. He's a very talented player who doesn't have the size needed for the NFL, but he could shock people much like Zach Thomas did.