How to identify the next breakout NFL superstar

How to identify the next breakout NFL superstar

NFL Draft Profile: Isaiah Pola-Mao, Safety, USC Trojans

NFL draft profile scouting report for USC safety, Isaiah Pola-Mao
Author:
Publish date:

i (2)
i (5)

#21
Pos: DS
Ht: 6040
Wt: 205
DOB: 6/30/99
Eligible: 2022
Phoenix, AZ
Mountain Pointe High School

Isaiah Pola-Mao
USC Trojans


Pros:

Smith: Pola-Mao is a tall, lengthy safety with above-average speed that thrives in coverage. When lined up as a single-high player, he shows good range sideline-to-sideline, as well as a keen awareness for when to break hard on throws and when to proceed with caution to keep from whiffing. He exercises that same caution against the run, preferring to ensure a good angle and positioning instead of flying downhill and risking the miss. There are flashes when he turns it loose coming downhill, but that typically happens when he knows he’s got help in pursuit. Angles can be a bit inconsistent, but he generally does pursue with the idea of using the boundary as an extra defender. Also, he does a good job staying low in his pedal when lined up deep, allowing him to flips his hips and accelerate when a deep route is passed on to him. On deeper route combinations, he understands when calling for a switch is necessary, though he needs to recognize these combos a bit quicker. He is also very capable lined up in the slot. He uses his long arms to his advantage in press coverage, and once again, flips his hips smoothly before accelerating to get on his man’s hip. His length makes him a tough player to throw on when he’s in proper position, and his five interceptions and seven passes defended over the last two seasons are evidence of that. His size and coverage skills make him an ideal candidate to match up with receivers or tight ends in the slot. Teams that like to run a strong mix of press-man and cover-three could even take a look at him as a perimeter corner. When lined up in zone coverage from the slot, he shows a desire to re-route anyone who crosses his face with an adequate jam. He locks onto to quarterback and follows his shoulders as opposed to his eyes. His ball skills are also a strength to his game. He shows comfort in his ability to extend his hand or hands to the ball. When he gets his eyes locked on it, he adjusts his path to attack the ball, whether it’s high pointing it or under-cutting the receiver.

Cons:

Smith: Pola-Mao is not the most physical safety. He’s a taller safety, listed at 6’4”, with broad shoulders but a slender lower half. He struggles to fight off blocks when lined up in the box and can even have issues out on the perimeter with physical receivers. He’s got great length, but he’s just not strong enough to jar players without having some momentum. He needs to be more active with his hands in these scenarios and attack their arms as opposed to trying to push off their frame. As a tackler, his cautious approach typically puts him in a fair position to make a play on the ball carrier, but he needs to clean up his technique. There are times he just attempts to throw a shoulder without wrapping up, and he can get a little high in his attempt as well. Still, there are reps where he makes sound tackles in the open field, so it’s more about consistency than a lack of fundamentals. His motor can also waiver in pursuit, which needs to improve. He may never be an enforcer-type, but that doesn’t mean that the desire to be involved should ever drop. He also has to be careful allowing ball fakes to move him. He follows a quarterback’s shoulders well in coverage, but he’s less consistent when a play-fake is involved.

Summary:

Smith: Pola-Mao is safety that thrives in coverage, thanks to his exceptional size, length, and athleticism. Whether lined up deep or in the slot, he shows great range and can even match up against receivers or tight ends. He also displays terrific ball skills, tracking it well in the air and extending his hands to it at the catch point. He may not be the most physical player and often takes a cautious approach as the last line of defense. He needs to clean up his consistency as a sound tackler, but Pola-Mao has everything a team could want in a single-high or two-deep safety that can also line up in the slot.

Background:

A former four-star recruit out of Phoenix, Pola-Mao is the nephew of former Trojan Troy Polamalu. His father also played football at San Diego State, where he was a captain in 1992. Pola-Mao put up tremendous numbers in high school but was forced to redshirt as a freshman following a shoulder injury that required surgery. After starting the first two games in 2018, he dislocated that same shoulder and required season-ending surgery, and scouts will certainly be keeping their eyes on how it shows up in the medical checks. Still, he’s been healthy each of the last two seasons as USC’s starting free safety, earning All-Pac-12 honors in 2020. He was also named USC’s Co-Defensive Perimeter Player of the Year in 2019. He was named a captain in 2020 and will return as the Trojans most experienced defensive back in 2021. Pola-Mao is a non-governmental organizations and social change major and is 22 entering his fifth year at USC.


One-Liners

Smith: Whether it’s lined up deep or in the slot, he shows great range and can even match up against receivers or tight ends.

Grades

Current Player Value/Potential Player Value

Smith: 7.7 / 8.8


#21
Pos: DS
Ht: 6040
Wt: 205
DOB: 6/30/99
Eligible: 2022
Phoenix, AZ
Mountain Pointe High School

Isaiah Pola-Mao
USC Trojans


Pros:

Smith: Pola-Mao is a tall, lengthy safety with above-average speed that thrives in coverage. When lined up as a single-high player, he shows good range sideline-to-sideline, as well as a keen awareness for when to break hard on throws and when to proceed with caution to keep from whiffing. He exercises that same caution against the run, preferring to ensure a good angle and positioning instead of flying downhill and risking the miss. There are flashes when he turns it loose coming downhill, but that typically happens when he knows he’s got help in pursuit. Angles can be a bit inconsistent, but he generally does pursue with the idea of using the boundary as an extra defender. Also, he does a good job staying low in his pedal when lined up deep, allowing him to flips his hips and accelerate when a deep route is passed on to him. On deeper route combinations, he understands when calling for a switch is necessary, though he needs to recognize these combos a bit quicker. He is also very capable lined up in the slot. He uses his long arms to his advantage in press coverage, and once again, flips his hips smoothly before accelerating to get on his man’s hip. His length makes him a tough player to throw on when he’s in proper position, and his five interceptions and seven passes defended over the last two seasons are evidence of that. His size and coverage skills make him an ideal candidate to match up with receivers or tight ends in the slot. Teams that like to run a strong mix of press-man and cover-three could even take a look at him as a perimeter corner. When lined up in zone coverage from the slot, he shows a desire to re-route anyone who crosses his face with an adequate jam. He locks onto to quarterback and follows his shoulders as opposed to his eyes. His ball skills are also a strength to his game. He shows comfort in his ability to extend his hand or hands to the ball. When he gets his eyes locked on it, he adjusts his path to attack the ball, whether it’s high pointing it or under-cutting the receiver.

Member Exclusive

Get Exclusive Access to NFL Draft Bible Content