Marist Liufau tabbed 'draft-day steal' following praise from Mike Zimmer

Mike Zimmer is already a fan of what rookie Marist Liufau adds to the Dallas Cowboys defense
Marist Liufau
Marist Liufau / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys had two selections in the third round of the 2024 NFL Draft, and the reactions to each pick couldn't have been more different. The addition of Cooper Beebe at No. 73 was met with instant praise since it meant they had five capable starters on their offensive line once again. Their decision at No. 87, however, was met with criticism.

Dallas took Notre Dame linebacker Marist Liufau and while he plays a position of need — and was seen as a talented prospect — they skipped on a running back who would have been a potential impact player.

MarShawn Lloyd out of USC went to the Green Bay Packers with the very next pick, which means the Cowboys will lean on Ezekiel Elliott, Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, and Royce Freeman in their backfield.

In the end, no one will care that the Cowboys skipped on Lloyd if Liufau turns out to be a stud. And according to Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report, that could be the case. Sobleski named Liufau as one of the NFL rookies already standing out as "draft-day steals" following OTAs. His primary reasoning is the praise being heaped on the rookie from veteran defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

Number one, he's brilliant. He catches on really quick. He wants to be so good and so intense that he's almost too much at it right now. The other thing is I think he's a really good pressure player and I think having that with (Micah) Parsons and another pressure player that is a linebacker or he can move somewhere else and Parsons can move somewhere else. I think those pieces add to confusion for the offense, plus he's a really good rusher.

Mike Zimmer via The Landry Hat

Zimmer sees Liufau as a potential threat as a pass rusher but he can also help in coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, he didn't allow a touchdown when playing coverage in 2022 or 2023.

Dallas had issues at linebacker last year, which was worsened by the loss of Leighton Vander Esch. Zimmer will look for improvement from the group this season and has plenty of players to turn to. Liufau joins Eric Kendricks, Damond Clark, and DeMarvion Overshown. If Overshown can play as well as he did before his injury during the 2023 preseason and Liufau turns into a draft-day steal, it will also be a vastly improved linebacking corps.

Randy Gurzi


Arizona State grad