Hometown: Pearl City, HI
High School: Pearl City
An intriguing defensive end prospect, Zion Tupuola-Fetui has a promising athletic profile that can make him an early-impact power rusher; however, the Washington star’s draft stock will be limited by his “tweener” frame, his inconsistent play and his April 2021 ruptured Achilles.
After recently producing a pass rusher taken in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Washington football program features another high-level defensive end available in 2022. Zion Tupuola-Fetui broke out in 2020, recording seven sacks and three forced fumbles in just four games. The scheme-versatile defender has a thick-but-athletic build and boasts a promising athletic profile. The Huskies’ standout exhibits impressive burst and lateral movement skills. He uses his change of direction while engaged to take advantage of a blocker’s momentum and has the short-area quickness to threaten the inside track. What’s more, Tupuola-Fetui’s skillset makes him an intriguing power rusher. When he leads with his hands, ZTF displays excellent strength and an advanced understanding of leverage and length to bench press or bull rush offensive linemen. He also has the strength to corner through half-man. Additionally, Tupuola-Fetui attacks with a pass-rush plan and intelligent hand usage. The pass-rush specialist employs the forklift technique to keep contact off of his frame and a spin move to avoid working too far upfield. The Washington product is adept at capitalizing on a lineman’s mistakes and especially dominates against poor weight distribution. In run defense, Tupuola-Fetui exhibits the length and anchor to stack and fill. He can make tackles through engagement and typically plays the ball carrier’s outside leg. Despite a strong 2020 season, the Washington product had multiple holes in his game that he was expected to fill entering 2021. His incomplete skillset is natural, considering his role as a rotational player in 2019 before receiving his first real playing time in a shortened season. Unfortunately, Tupuola-Fetui suffered a ruptured Achilles in April of 2021 that will likely keep him from playing meaningful snaps in the upcoming season. Further, the 6040, 280-pound defender may be pegged as a tweener during the draft process. On the field, ZTF’s tendencies to play high and engage with inaccurate or late hands decrease his functional power. The Huskies’ star is, likewise, controlled when he enters into engagement leading with his shoulder pads rather than with his hands. His technical issues revealed that he is still learning to manage distance. Additionally, the prospect lacks the bend and quickness to serve as a speed threat up the outside track. What’s more, the rising redshirt junior is ineffective against double teams. In run defense, Tupuola-Fetui is too often washed out of the play. He is an unreliable tackler in space and does not give consistent effort to chase the ball carrier down. Finally, ZTF is a liability in man and zone coverage if used there often. An intriguing power rusher, Zion Tupuola-Fetui boasts various athletic traits that indicate a promising transition to the NFL; however, his inconsistent play points to a need for further experience at the college level. A recent Achilles injury will make it hard for him to find the field before the 2022 NFL Draft. If healthy, ZTF projects as a defensive end in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme; he can be an immediate-impact backup with above-average starter potential.
Born July 3rd, 2000 in Pearl City, Hawai’i, Zion Tupuola-Fetui was a two-way standout for the Pearl City High School football team. ZTF played defensive line and tight end for the Chargers. After a stellar senior season, the talented defensive end was named to the Honolulu Advertiser all-state team and received an invitation to play in the 2018 Polynesian Bowl all-star game. The Hawai’i native’s strong high school career earned him a three-star rating from 247Sports Composite Rankings. The same outlet listed him as the 811th-overall player in his class, the 52nd-best outside linebacker in his year and the 3rd-ranked recruit in the state of Hawai’i. Since arriving on the Washington campus, Tupuola-Fetui has undergone a body transformation. A 250-pound outside linebacker recruit, the Huskies listed ZTF as 253 pounds in his true freshman season, 266 pounds in his redshirt freshman season, 280 pounds in his redshirt sophomore season and 280 pounds in his redshirt junior season. In his first year with the program, the still-developing talent played in two games and redshirted. In his second season, he played in 12 of the Huskies’ 13 games. He recorded nine total tackles in 2019 as a reserve behind eventual first-round pick Joe Tryon. In 2020, Tupuola-Fetui broke out. In just four games, he posted 13 tackles, seven sacks (good enough to lead the nation in sacks per game), one pass defended, three forced fumbles (tied for best in the nation in forced fumbles per game) and one fumble recovery. His outstanding redshirt sophomore season earned him 2020 All-Pac-12 First Team honors. He also received 2020 All-America Honorable Mention from Phil Steele. Additionally, ZTF was named 2020 All-America Third Team by the Associated Press and 2020 All-America Second Team by The Athletic and Walter Camp. Unfortunately, the Washington star’s encore to his All-American campaign seems to have been put on hold by a ruptured Achilles in April of 2021. While the Huskies’ coaching staff have not yet ruled out a return for the 2021 season, Tupuola-Fetui is expected to miss six to ten months.