From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. With the Steelers needing a boost on the offensive line, let’s take a look at the behemoth of the 2022 NFL Draft: Daniel Faalele.
#78 Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota (Sr.) — 6080, 384 lbs.
Senior Bowl / Combine Invite
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Daniel Faalele||6080/384||11||35 1/8||85 1/8|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— His absurdly massive size bolsters his raw abilities.
— Immense strength and leverage allows him to take control of his opposition.
— Strong, accurate, and violent hands shock defenders while his long arms prevent his opposition from slipping his grasp.
— Surprisingly quick and agile feet allow him to get out in front of pass rushers and shoot to his run assignments.
— Rocks defenders at the point of attack with explosive and violent collisions. His natural intimidation plays a part against lesser competition.
— Clearly a natural at the position despite his obstacles in size and experience. Steady improvement throughout college.
— Pretty wet behind the ears with only five years of playing experience and it shows in his technique at times.
— His size does make it difficult for him to bend at the knees. He gets top heavy as a result making him susceptible to pull moves from strong, long-armed defenders.
— Base gets a bit wide in his anchor and oftentimes he works his opposition into submission without technique so much as it being a chore to get around him which leads to poor technique in his anchor overall.
— Needs to work on punch speed to put those violent hands to work a touch faster.
— Tends to lean on his opposition, allowing for more explosive defenders to shock him off the line.
— Name pronunciation: fah-ah-LAY-lay
— Started 31 games at right tackle for Minnesota, opted out of the 2020 season.
— Senior from Melbourne, Australia. Grew up playing rugby.
— Began playing football in 2016. Practiced at IMG Academy in his first season before he became a starter in 2017 and helped the Ascenders to an undefeated season.
— Four-star recruit in 2018 recruiting class, received offers from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Miami and Michigan. Chose Minnesota for head coach P.J. Fleck’s family atmosphere.
— Competed in the 2018 Under Armour All-America Game.
— Named to GQ’s 2019 “Australia’s 50 Greatest Living Athletes” list.
— 2020, 2021 Academic All-Big Ten.
— 2021 1st-Team Coaches’ All-Big Ten
— 2021 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award Finalist
— Graduated with a degree in business and marketing education.
— Allowed five sacks through 34 career games played for the Golden Gophers
— Once drafted he will be the first Minnesota offensive tackle selected since 2002 (Matt Anderle, Round 6 to the Chargers)
It’s hard to begin a discussion about Daniel Faalele without marveling at his behemoth stature. At 6’9” and 380 lbs., the Polynesian powerhouse casts an intimidating shadow over the entire 2022 NFL Draft class. The cherry on top? He carries a ton of talent and potential in that imposing frame of his.
Despite every reason to doubt the Australian native — five years of football experience, his lumbering size, lack of positional success from his university — Faalele crushes many of those doubts rep after rep.
Thanks to his rugby background, Faalele possesses surprisingly agile feet. Check out these two plays where he bursts outside to cradle nimble defenders to protect his quarterback. The first against West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl shows Faalele spot a delayed blitz, corral the opposing linebacker and force him to take wide orbit around the pocket. The second against Nebraska sees him beat the blitzing backer to his spot, mirror him and eclipse his vision of the quarterback.
Eclipsing his opposition is something Faalele naturally does with regularity. This makes mirroring his target slightly easier in theory. He doesn’t have to recover much ground due to his vision-blotting width. As an added bonus, he keeps a relatively clean base that allows his nimble feet to keep him in that advantageous position. Here against a speed rusher from Maryland’s defense, Faalele crushes his opposition’s intentions by having a quick set and quickly dismisses his second attempt with a smooth mirror all while using his long arms to keep the defender at bay and in full control.
It’s not often Faalele has to recover, but when he does, his feet allow him to do so comfortably. Back against the Mountaineers, Faalele doesn’t bring his arms quite fast enough and allows the defender to taste a quick victory. Before he can shed the block though, Faalele gets his base back under him and finds control with his hands and length.
Getting into some straight pass sets, Faalele puts a lot of pressure on his opposition to have a solid plan of attack in getting around him. It takes a serious burst off the snap to get behind Faalele because of his aforementioned feet and width. Speed rushers have to circle the globe and his fast feet just extend his orbit. Those that can get even with him usually lack the elite bend necessary to dip under him without being crushed by his leverage. Such was the case for Ohio State’s Zach Harrison in Week 1 of the 2021 season.
This next clip shows three sets against the Buckeyes. The first sees Faalele washout a rip and bend attack from Harrison and the second sees the same fate befall Tyreke Smith. In the third, Faalele has seemingly crushed the will of his opposition, beating Harrison to the point, anchoring and shutting down any further effort to bypass the right tackle to the passer.
Still, an elite burst can catch Faalele. There are times when it’s obvious just how difficult it really is to carry his 380 lbs frame. Unfortunately, Faalele didn’t square off against any elite pass rushers in 2021, leaving this area somewhat incomplete in his evaluation. In this set against Maryland, Faalele is forced to chase and reach because of the pass rusher’s get off. Just as Faalele feels he can begin to recover, his quarterback is already headed to the turf. While Faalele does get beat, the trip around Texas to get back to Maryland this rusher had to take to the quarterback kept him from ultimately making the play.
Against power, it’s not fully settled that it’s impossible to bull rush Faalele because of the lack of elite opposition, but the effort seems nearly futile. His base and grip is simply too strong to allow most defenders to get any depth or extend to a secondary move. Back to the Maryland game, this defensive lineman aims to go through Faalele to no avail. The effort to rip to the outside is met with a firm “No” from Faalele. A last-gasp spin comes with the realization that no ground was gained in this dead-on-arrival pass rush.
Where some of Faalele’s shortcomings do become the most apparent is in his run blocking. While his hands are powerful, they aren’t the quickest. He often leans on his size to do the dirty work for him. Sometimes he literally leans as he does here against Nebraska’s Ben Stille, who gave Faalele fits all afternoon in this contest.
Stille showed some explosiveness against Faalele a number of times, initiating contact with the big man, ultimately knocking him off his path. Here are two more examples where Stille was the aggressor against Faalele, first in the run game and the second against an RPO.
Most of Stille’s wins came early in the game. Eventually, it appears Faalele had had enough and became the aggressor. In these next two clips, Faalele displayed power and follow through in his leverage to create running lanes against Stille with the second resulting in a 56-yard, game-clinching touchdown for the Golden Gophers.
The struggles don’t end unfortunately, as Faalele still struggles to keep from bending at the waist and becoming top heavy with forward momentum. This interior Cornhusker defender gets the leverage on an unbalanced Faalele and sends him into a pile of bodies in the trenches.
The balance issues extend when Faalele attempts to cleanly attack the second level. Because his base is more narrow in his approach, his impressive speed to the next level is ultimately wasted in all three of these attempts to secure a clean handle of these Terrapins. In each attempt, Faalele struggles to create contact as he loses control of his upper body once he goes in for the block.
Nothing seems to be all negative for Faalele in any one category, however. Against Nebraska (a week before the Maryland game) he shows that he can cleanly bring his arms and take control of linebackers in the open field, especially if he is able to naturally climb from one level to the next.
While Faalele does need technical refinement in many areas, he still creates a lot for himself and his backs by throwing his weight around properly and combining a clean short-area burst, devastating punch, and unrelenting leverage to create running lanes. In both of these reps, Faalele clears a path with aggressive nature and takes multiple defenders out of each play.
Faalele can serve up pancakes too. When he matches his explosion to his true strength, many defenders simply don’t stand a chance. As they say, pass the big guy some syrup for these next few reps.
Of course, Faalele’s impressive traits would be a waste if he didn’t get to carry the rock like he did back in Australia to close out his collegiate career.
The only thing holding Faalele back is his inexperience, not his size. It would be unfortunate for any coach or general manager to be steered away from him for the latter in this year’s draft. Luckily, that shouldn’t be the case because of the natural way Faalele soaks in the game.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, Faalele appears to be what the team hoped to have in Zach Banner: a giant tackle that can wall off the edge in pass protection with the athleticism-to-strength ratio necessary to move bodies in the run game. The Gophers mixed up some of its run schemes based on the opponent. Against Ohio State, it was a lot of zone runs that had Faalele wall off his defender on the back side which displayed some athleticism, even if it didn’t make for dynamic tape to be included here. Against Nebraska, he was asked to use his strength more and it didn’t always pay off due to his inexperienced technique.
Still, with Matt Canada’s offense returning in 2022 and Najee Harris having great vision for zone schemes, Faalele has a versatility to his game that makes him a fit. His strengths as a pass protector would be an instant upgrade to the Steelers’ offensive line even if there is the underlying question of how he might handle the talented weak-side rushers of the AFC North.
Having the coaching talent to develop Faalele is the key for him no matter where he lands, because the raw tools are there. His feet allow him to act naturally in his pass sets, while his length keeps rushers at bay. As for his hand placement, he has a relentless grip that follows his forceful punch that keeps him in control. Despite his inexperience, he doesn’t draw many flags.
On the other hand, Faalele has to get his upper body under control to reach his full potential. NFL veterans will abuse his upper body imbalance if it’s not quickly sorted out while lanky defenders with elite speed will tighten those orbit speed rushes into short-distance corners if he doesn’t hasten his hand speed.
Ultimately, Faalele is a fringe first-rounder who stands to make himself some money at the Senior Bowl and the Combine once scouts put their eyes on him. After all, there’s plenty of him to look at.
Projection: Late Day One
Draft Depot Grade: 8.6 – Year One Quality Starter
Games Watched: vs. Ohio State (2021), vs. Nebraska (2021), vs. Maryland (2021), vs. West Virginia (2021)