The New Orleans Saints have done a terrific job at finding talent at the defensive tackle position that’s been overlooked by other teams in recent years. Taylor Stallworth was added as an undrafted rookie from South Carolina in 2018. Shy Tuttle went undrafted out of Tennessee in 2019. Malcolm Roach was overlooked in last year's draft, but quickly scooped up by the Saints.
Each of those three defenders made an impact for the New Orleans defense as rookies. They teamed with David Onyemata and former 1st round picks Sheldon Rankins and Malcom Brown to give the Saints the deepest pool of defensive tackles in the league. Depth was so complete that Stallworth couldn't even crack the rotation and was released midway through the 2019 season.
Now, as the Saints head toward the 2021 NFL draft, they look somewhat thin at this spot. Rankins departed in free agency and Brown was traded to Jacksonville to create salary cap space. Onyemata, an emerging star, is one of the key pieces of the defense. Bigger contributions are also expected from Tuttle and Brown.
Defensive tackle is not considered a strong position in this year's draft class. However, there are a few mid-round prospects that have the potential to be immediate contributors. Tuttle, Roach, and Stallworth all hailed from schools in Power-5 conferences. New Orleans could turn back to a program they've historically had quite a bit of success when drafting to unearth another overlooked defender.
TOMMY TOGIAI, DEFENSIVE TACKLE (OHIO STATE)
Togiai ventured east to Columbus after winning Idaho Player of the Year honors as a senior at Highland (ID) High School. He saw some action as a true freshman at Ohio State, registering ten tackles (two for loss) in six games.
Earning more playing time in 2019, Togiai gathered 16 tackles and 2 for loss while appearing in every contest. Togiai played in 7 of 8 contests during a shortened Buckeyes season in 2020, but missed the national title game because of COVID-19 protocols. He finished second on the team with 3 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss while recording a career-high 23 tackles.
Togiai has a compact frame and short arms. That makes it difficult for him to disengage from blocks. He’s not a polished pass rusher, getting most of his pressures with hustle or benefiting from broken plays. He can be engulfed by double-teams, getting bottled up inside.
Togiai must improve on his fundamentals at the next level. Even with his short frame, he allows blockers to get a leverage advantage too often. He’s a bit slow to change direction in pursuit once he does disengage from blockers.
Built like a fire hydrant, Togiai sets a strong base inside as a run defender and is nearly impossible to move off the point of attack. He willingly ties up multiple blockers to give his teammates an opportunity to make plays.
Possessing incredible strength, Togiai also has a quick first step off the snap. His hustle is non-stop from whistle to whistle, which allows him to make big stops on broken plays. An extremely physical player, opposing linemen must come ready for a brawl from snap to snap.
Tommy Togiai needs some polish to be successful at the NFL level. He’s already shown great improvement in his technique by the end of his college career. Togiai should be an immediate asset against the run and has the upside of a potential starter in the right scheme.