2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Utah OLB Pita Taumoepenu

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

Pita Taumoepenu/OLB Utah – 6’1/2 243

The Good

– Excellent first step, great burst off the ball that really stresses a tackle’s kickslide, often forcing them to abandon it or get deeper in their set
– Knows how he wins as a pass rusher, two strong moves – speed and inside spin
– Great flexibility and able to corner the edge and get upfield
– Excellent athlete and closing speed
– Good effort player who chases sideline to sideline
– Slight frame but decent length (32 3/8 inch arms) and big hands (9 7/8)
– Uses length well to create space in the run game and overcome strength/size issues
– Shows traits to be fluid and comfortable in coverage
– Tested well at Combine
– Productive senior season

The Bad

– Lacks size, muscle, slight frame overall
– Doesn’t have strength power as a pass rusher, shows a little bit with proper hand placement on speed bull but generally rebuffed by tackles and one-arm stab does nothing for him
– Prone to getting washed inside on counters
– Was not asked to drop into coverage very often and will have to learn how to play moving backwards
– Can fire off the ball so hard that he has trouble steering himself upfield and due to lack of strength, can get run up the arc and out of the play
– Will have to use his hands better and do more than get by just on his athleticism
– Lacks starting experience and spent time as situational pass rusher

Bio

– 7 career starts
– Career: 45 tackles 25.5 TFL, 21.5 sacks, 4 FF
– 2016: 12.5 TFL, 9 sacks
– Pronunciation: peet-tuh tao-mo-eh-pen-new
– Born in Texas, moved to Tongo at 3 months, moved back to states at 17
– Played one year of HS football, 25 sacks senior year was third highest in state history
– Ran track in HS, played rugby in Tongo
– 23 years old

Tape Breakdown

Pita Taumoepenu is a pretty easy guy to figure out. And an easy guy to root for. He’s a great athlete but raw and still playing catch up from his delayed high school days. Athletically, he’s excellent and tested well at the Combine: 4.67 40, 1.65 ten split, and a really impressive 6.91 three cone.

And that’s how he wins. A Dwight Freeney type pass rush approach – speed to the outside, spin inside to his counter. Example of both. RDE in all these clips.

But his power is weak and the poor vertical/broad jump sorta tell that story, a weaksauce 28.5 vert and 9’4” broad. His bull rush is poor and if he can’t win with speed, the battle is almost always won by the tackle. I didn’t get a great feel for his run defense, and the clips I saw weren’t awful, but there’s going to be an obvious concern for him at the next level.

He’s still raw, playing just that one year of high school football, though he positively dominated, and not getting to play a ton in college, often used as a rotational piece before seeing more consistent snaps as a senior. He admitted the learning curve of coming to a Division One college was tough, in this cool feature piece by the Deseret News, which I encourage you to check out.

“College was super hard,” he said. “The plays were hard to learn; they have a lot of plays. It’s a different level, and it was hard for me to catch up.”

He had good coaching, learning from former New York Jet nose tackle Sione Po’uha. But there’s still development in his game and he won’t be Day One ready. I don’t think he’ll ever be a full-time starter but there is a role as a situational, third down pass rusher.

Projection: Late Day Three

Games Watched: vs California (2015), vs BYU, at California

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek BarnettAmba Etta-TawoGareon Conley
Taco Charlton Elijah McGuireRyan SwitzerTanoh KpassagnonTre’Davious White
Brian HillMatthew DayesDonnel PumphreyJosh ReynoldsNazair Jones
De’Veon SmithDavis WebbObi MelifonwuTJ WattJohn Ross
Jerod EvansVince BiegelJosh CarrawayJosh MaloneKevin King
Fadol BrownChris GodwinNate GerryJordan WillisStacy Coley
Zay JonesJimmie GilbertGlen AntoineTarell BashamDuke Riley
Rayshawn JenkinsChad KellyTrey HendricksonJeremy SprinkleJoe Williams
D’Onta ForemanCarlos WatkinsDamontae KazeeWayne GallmanWillie Quinn
Xavier WoodsElijah HoodMalik McDowellDesmond KingSolomon Thomas
Cordrea TankersleyRaekwon McMillanJosh Harvey-ClemonsChristian McCaffreyChris Carson
Montravius AdamsAaron JonesMack HollinsDeatrich Wise JrAdoree’ Jackson
JuJu Smith-SchusterJosh JonesDavon GodchauxLorenzo JeromeQuincy Wilson
Stevie Tu’ikolovatuMike WilliamsAhkello WitherspoonDede WestbrookTedric Thompson
Marcus MayeJoe MixonTaywan TaylorTyson FernandezJarrad Davis
Ishmael ZamoraDaeshon HallCJ BeathardKendell BeckwithJalen Reeves-Maybin
Rasul DouglasMarcus WilliamsDevonte FieldsJustin EvansKenny Golladay
Marquez WhiteChad WilliamsCurtis SamuelD.J. JonesSeth Russell
Amara DarbohNoah BrownMalik HookerCarroll PhillipsIsaiah Ford
Marlon HumphreyT.J. LoganJalen MyrickChad HansenEddie Jackson
Budda BakerJahad ThomasFabian MoreauMatt MilanoTashawn Bower
Jason CroomJamal AgnewHoward WilsonShaquill GriffinKeionta Davis
Michael RobertsTeez TaborShock LinwoodShelton GibsonChanning Stribling
Montae NicholsonNajee MurrayJoseph YearbyJustin DavisKD Cannon
Dawuane SmootLeonard FournetteJeremy CutrerSamson EbukamAdam Shaheen
Tarik CohenGerald EverettTaquan MizzellTony ConnerPatrick Gamble

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Steelers12

    I really hope we can sign him as a free agent

  • Bill Sechrengost

    Thanks Alex. I wouldn’t mind taking him in the 7th or an UDFA signing. He definitely needs some work. We’re getting down to the last days now. I’m sure there are still a few guys I’d still like to see with profiles, so I’ll narrow it down to 1. I would like to see one for Jehu Chesson, the WR from Michigan, a late-round guy that has nice measurable and mostly good combine numbers.

  • igloojoe

    I really like this guy. It’s really hard to say who will end up being better between him and Ebukam, but I’d be happy with either of them. The one thing about Taumoepenu is that, while he didn’t play here in college, I could also see him moving to ILB. He has the fluidity to be very solid in coverage and doesn’t need as much power as an OLB.

  • PaeperCup

    Incredible athlete. Seems pretty humble, which means he’s teachable. Nice late round project prospect. Wonder how he’d do on special teams.

  • Wil Masisak

    How many years did Freeney stay in the league with basically those two moves?

  • Wil Masisak

    Different kinds of players. Ebukam is more well-rounded… used a lot Off-Ball and in coverage. Taumeopenu is a straight up, stunt rusher– full on speed to the QB or run.

  • Matt Manzo

    Totally answered my question!

  • Wil Masisak

    If you look for me on twitter, my pinned post links to my annual blog about some lesser-known and undervalued prospects– both guys are mentioned.

  • LucasY59

    I cant decide between him or Jimmie Gilbert but I think either could be this yrs version of the Feeney pick last yr (but could be the 7th rd pick or UDFA instead of 6th) Ebukam is another possibility, would be happy with any of the 3