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Finding Browns Fits in the 2023 NFL Draft: Tuli Tuipulotu, DL USC

The Cleveland Browns cannot have too many talented defensive linemen that can play up and down the line. Although only a true junior who could return to USC for a senior season, Tuli Tuipulotu looks like a great fit for what the Browns want to be able to do in both playing the run and attacking the quarterback.
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The most important position in the Cleveland Browns defense is defensive end. Much is required to play the role effectively as they need someone big enough to hold up against the run, long enough to avoid being reached and athletic enough to rush the passer and funnel plays to the inside. Whether it's been Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon or Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, the Browns have been well served in that role. Not only do the Browns need to think about life after Clowney but they have struggled when Garrett and Clowney aren't on the field, let alone when they miss games due to injury.

The Browns drafted Alex Wright in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft and he has a chance to be a good player in that capacity. But even if he becomes a great player, the Browns should be thinking about racking up as much talent to play that position as possible. Another reason the Browns are so willing to lean into the position is because they then have the option to kick them inside, varying the ways they can attack opposing offenses, especially the quarterback.

This projected draft class has numerous good options that fit what the Browns in terms of profile. The one aspect that can be difficult to simply look at on tape is arm length. The Browns have been steadfast both in free agency and the draft and have yet to add a stubby player dating back to when general manager Andrew Berry was heavily involved in selecting players under former executive Vice President Sashi Brown.

Enter USC defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu, who is now dominating as a true junior after having excellent production in his sophomore campaign. Should he declare, he appears ideally suited for what the Browns for their defense.

Listed Measurables:

Height: 6'4"

Weight: 290 lbs

Tuipulotu's burst and agility immediately jump off the tape. He possesses excellent acceleration and can find his way into the backfield in an instant. Additionally, his lateral agility stands out as he can change directions pretty effectively in the direction his hips are pointed. This would suggest he's got great ankle flexibility and strength in his legs.

Tuipulotu has decent power as well. It may be fair to question some of the competition he's facing, but he can drive single blockers into the backfield and hold up at the point of attack.

Reportedly, Tuipulotu is still just 20 years old, which if true would be another aspect that the Browns would like. He's got plenty of room on his frame to continue getting stronger. The fact he isn't super bulked up may be part of what allows him to be such a fluid athlete.


2022: 31 solo tackles, 22 tackle for loss, 13.5 sacks, 3 pass break ups, 2 forced fumbles in 14 games

2021: 24 solo tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 2 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles in 12 games

As a sophomore, Tuipulotu led the Trojans in sacks, edging out his teammate Drake Jackson, who was selected in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft (another player that looked he might have been a great fit for the Browns). Jackson edged him out in tackles for loss with 8 that season. This year, no one is close to Tuipulotu, who currently has 31 percent of the team's sacks and 25 percent of their tackles for loss. Teams know he's the biggest threat on the Trojan defensive front and teams still struggle to contain him.

Tuipulotu is a dynamic pass rusher that can get home from anywhere on the field. USC's defensive coordinator Alex Grinch will deploy him on the edge, inside and occasionally even has him drop as a linebacker. Grinch also utilizes him frequently on stunts to try and fool the defense as to where he's attacking.

He's quick off the ball and can get skinny, which enables him to split double teams and shoot through gaps. He's also able to get around the edge and use his arms to parry opponents trying to get into his body. Tuipulotu has good hands and can stack and shed efficiently. It's debatable just how much pop he has in his punch, but that could come with further development.

He's a great pass rusher, but he's better against the run than some might expect. He rarely has too much trouble with single blockers and can be effective in taking on double teams. Occasionally, he will get himself in trouble by letting his pad level get too high. He has the capacity to work down the line as well as pursue.

He's most often utilized at left end, but he has experience attacking from just about every gap up front. Tuipulotu gives the defense so much freedom in how they want to attack the offense because they can find the weak spot on the line and put him there. Or they can use him to combat what they feel is the biggest threat. Against Stanford, he was utilized mostly on the inside. Against Cal, he was utilized on the edge and even as a zone dropper. Against Washington State, he recorded three sacks, all from different alignments.

Why the Browns Could Like Him

It appears as though many are inclined to project Tuipulotu as a defensive tackle. Maybe that's the best fit for him if he had to be put in one spot, but for the Browns, they can take him and utilize him the same way the Trojans have, hopefully with the exception of dropping him as a linebacker with any regularity.

Tuipulotu has the speed, toughness and length to play on the edge, but can easily slide inside to attack the quarterback from the interior. His versatility makes him a weapon because the Browns already have the framework in place. If Wright develops as the Browns hope, Clowney re-signs for another year or both, Tuipulotu can become a defensive weapon for the Browns. Giving them credible relief when Garrett isn't on the field while offering them another athlete that can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

If the Browns continue to add players in the vein of Tuipulotu, they may be inclined to stunt more than they do. Frankly, it would be another reason to continue adding talent up front so they have more options in creating ways to not only free up Myles Garrett, but simply confuse the blocking scheme and create some unblocked pressures.

If he continues to develop, Tuipulotu could end up being the long term answer to play opposite Garrett for the length of his second contract. That would be ideal on numerous fronts, not the least of which is financial. Should the Browns find a way to have Garrett and two good defensive ends that are on rookie deals, they will have the flexibility to add additional veteran help to fill out the rotation.

The Bottom Line

Assuming Tuli Tuipulotu declares and his arms are long enough, it's difficult to imagine a better fit for what the Browns want for their defensive front. His ability to play defensive end and line up across their front fits with their priorities and he appears to have the upside to get even better at the next level. His usage at USC could prove ideal for preparing him to play in the Browns defensive front.