This Australian NFL prospect is nearly 180kg of raw talent

NFL players keep getting bigger and bigger, but Australia’s Daniel Faalele will test the league’s limits, to say nothing of its scales.

Faalele, a 6-foot-8 (about 203 centimetres) offensive tackle from Minnesota, weighed in at 384 pounds (174 kilograms) during the NFL combine and is projected to be a second- or third-round pick in the NFL draft, which runs from Thursday to Saturday (Friday to Sunday AEST) in Las Vegas.

A native of Melbourne, Faalele was a basketball and rugby player who was discovered by University of Hawaii coaches who were scouting in the country. He quickly drew attention from other Division I schools after attending a Jim Harbaugh camp and transferred to IMG Academy in Florida, with minimal football awareness.

Just not understanding the rules, Faalele told ESPN in 2018. I didn’t know what a first down was or anything. I didn’t know the positions or what roles they played. That was surprising.

Osmosis and playing Madden with football players accelerated his education.

Just being around football helped me understand it more, Faalele said. I had no idea how to play and I just started to learn. From there, I started catching onto the rules and what different roles are on the team.

He landed in Minnesota and was a first-team all-Big Ten player for a Gophers team that went 11-2 in 2019 and then 9-4 in 2021 after Faalele did not play in 2020 because of coronavirus concerns. Size has been his biggest asset and helped him win a starting job six games into his freshman season in 2018. He started 31 of 34 games with Minnesota, who went 23-11 over that span.

But is he too big for the NFL, where size is prized but not at the expense of speed and quickness? At 174kg (with size 18 shoes and XXXXXXXXL shirts), he was the heaviest player since 2003 to participate in the NFL combine, and would be the fifth heaviest player in NFL history if he maintains that weight, topping William The Refrigerator Perry by two pounds.

My main pitch is I just tell them that I’m a great teammate, coachable, like a sponge, he said, according to the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis. I love learning more about football and being a good teammate.

In his scouting report for NFL. com, Lance Zierlein wrote that it often seems as if Faalele is going through an internal checklist of movements rather than cutting it loose and playing. In the NFL, he’ll need more than sheer size and the key to his success, Zierlein noted, will be directly tied to how teams accentuate his strengths and mask his weaknesses with coaching and scheme.

ESPN’s Todd McShay and Mel Kiper have Faalele landing with the Los Angeles Chargers with the 79th overall pick. McShay’s take? A 6-foot-8, 384-pounder at right tackle opposite Rashawn Slater? In the third round? The Chargers would be pumped for this outcome, even if Faalele takes a bit of time to develop into a regular starter.

Offensive lineman Blaise Andries, his Minnesota teammate and also a likely draft pick, told the Star-Tribune that Faalele makes his life easier on the field, something many teams may consider as they evaluate his upside.

My favourite one [story] I tell [NFL personnel] is double-teams [with Faalele] work like a hot knife through butter. It makes it easier on the guard, especially when you have a big man that can move some bodies. . . . They asked if I’d play next to him again. I said, ‘In a heartbeat. ’

Faalele told the Associated Press that the sky’s the limit for me. I just need more coaching and I feel like going to the next level I’m excited to see how far I can go.

Orlando Brown, the late offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, is an inspiration for Faalele, as is Jordan Mailata, the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive lineman who is a former professional rugby player and an Australian native of Samoan heritage. Mailata was drafted by the Eagles in 2018 despite having no football experience.

Slimming down – a bit – is a priority for Faalele, who weighed 426 pounds (193kg) when he arrived at Minnesota but has lost weight every year since enrolling. His target is 375 (170kg) by the start of training camp.

I feel like I definitely have a lot to show and I have room to grow, Faalele said. I feel like that’s the exciting thing about me. I have a lot more potential to reach.

The Washington Post

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