2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: USC DL Tuli Tuipulotu

From now until the 2023 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 Today, I’ll be profiling USC DL Tuli Tuipulotu. 

#49 Tuli Tuipulotu, DL, USC (Junior) – 6040, 290lb


Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Tuli Tuipulotu 6’4, 290lb N/A N/A N/A
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press

The Good

— Has good size and length, carries weight well on his frame
— Possesses notable athleticism for a DL regarding his burst, speed, and acceleration
— Easy mover in space for his size, having dropped into coverage for USC
— Has played inside over the guard, but primarily rushed outside the tackle this past season
— Comfortable playing on his feet as well as with his hand in the dirt
— Has good play strength to shock back blockers with his punch
— Wins off the edge converting speed to power against OTs
— Can hold his own at the point of attack against the run
— Pursues the football well on backside runs as well as in the open field
— Motor helps him finish plays when initial rush fails
— Can maneuver his way around blocks to make tackles near the LOS
— Well-utilized on twists and stunts to get into open gaps
— Can get the corner against OTs, winning with a combination of speed and force

The Bad

— A bit of a tweener when it comes to his body type, play style, and ideal fit at the next level
— Doesn’t possess great arm length to keep OTs from latching onto his frame
— Has a tough time fighting off blocks or executing a counter as a pass rusher
— Needs to do better at keeping outside contain and shedding blocks against the run
— Will willingly give ground as a run defender rather than standing his ground and working off the block
— Doesn’t have much of a pass rush plan when it comes to a go-to move or counter
— Hand usage needs to improve as an inside or outside rusher
— Doesn’t win with pure power against top-end competition
— Not fast enough of an athlete to turn the corner around the edge
— Wins inside with quickness off the snap rather than with strength and power
— Lacks play strength to consistently win on the inside
— Is more of a linear athlete when it comes to rushing the QB or trying to change directions
— Plenty of his sacks were in the “clean-up” variety rather than great execution


— Junior Prospect from Hawthorne, CA
— Born September 3, 2002 (age 20)
— His brother, Marlon, was a defensive lineman at USC (2017-20), earning All-Pac-12 first team in 2020, and now is with the Philadelphia Eagles
— His cousins are former USC safety Talanoa Hufanga now with the San Francisco 49ers, and former USC DT Fili Moala, who played with the Indianapolis Colts
— Starred at Lawndale HS at DE, earning first team as a three-star recruit
— Committed to USC and appeared in six games with three starts as a freshman, notching 22 total tackles, 2.5 TFLs, and two sacks
— Started in 12 games as a sophomore in 2021 and had 48 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, two PBUs, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery for a TD
— Broke out as a junior in 2022, starting 14 games and made 46 tackles (31 solo), 22 TFLs, 13.5 sacks, three PBUs, and two forced fumbles
— 2022 Unanimous All-American, 2022 All-Pac-12 first team, 2022 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year, 2022 Polynesian Football Player of the Year, 2021 All-Pac-12 first team
— Communications major

Tape Breakdown

Tuli Tuipulotu from USC had himself a breakout season in 2022, racking up his second-straight first-team All-Pac-12 nod while being named a unanimous All-American. He managed to inflate his TFLs from 7.5 in 2021 to a whopping 22 in 2022 while also doubling his five sacks from the previous season with 13.5 in 2022. The game of football is a family business for Tuipulotu as his brother also was a former USC Trojan and currently plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. His cousin is also 49ers star S Talanoa Hufanga along with Fili Moala, both former USC Trojans who moved on to the league.

When watching the tape on Tuipulotu, he is an interesting case study. He is a versatile defender that plays both inside and outside (more on the edge in 2022), being able to play with his hand in the dirt as well as stand up and rush the passer. He is a good athlete for his size, moving like a player much smaller than his listed size would suggest. Watch this play Tuipulotu makes against UCLA, standing up in the box and rushing up the middle on the snap, jumping through the gap as he evades the blocker to take down the ballcarrier in the backfield for a loss.

Tuipulotu has good quickness off the snap and does a good job pursuing the football against the run as well as a pas rusher. Watch this clip for Tuipulotu crossing face of the RT for Utah on the snap, crashing inside to take down the runner as he crosses the LOS for minimal gain.

Tuipulotu is listed at 6’4, 290lb, but he came in notably slimmer and in better shape in 2022. He appears to have improved his overall athleticism compared to 2021, being able to win with a combination of speed and power as a pass rusher. You can see his athleticism for his size in this clip against Notre Dame, using the club/rip to clear the block and take down the QB in the pocket for the sack.

Tuli Tuipulotu had his best performance of the season against Washington State to the tune of three sacks, getting to the QB on the edge as well as from the interior. On his first sack of the game Tuipulotu swipes down the hands of the OT, rounding the corner as he sandwiches the QB from behind.

Tuipulotu also won from inside getting home on these two plays where he was used on a stunt, the first to the outside and the second to the inside, to confuse the OL, giving him a chance to get home for the QB takedown.

However, as you can see from a few of the clips above, Tuipulotu’s sack production came more by the means of effort plays than by pure execution. He benefited greatly when facing poor competition like against the Cougars routinely getting by blockers without proper hand usage or a predetermined pass rush plan.

Against teams like Utah and UCLA, Tuipulotu was left off the stat sheet for sacks as he was unable to defeat better blockers as an outside pass rusher or pick up clean-up sacks. He is very much a tweener, lacking the strength and power to consistently win inside while also not being a natural fit on the edge either.

When watching Tuipulotu, you see a defender that is very linear in nature. He tends to want to stand up as a pass rusher and will rush straight upfield instead of showing bend to turn the corner. Look at this play where Tuipulotu tries to go upfield on the draw to the running back essentially taking himself out of the play as he loses his balance rather than aggressively attacking the OT.

Tuipulotu isn’t a bad run defender, but he doesn’t make a lot of splash when he is blocked. He needs to do a better job of fighting off blocks and not giving ground like we see on this play against UCLA where he noticeably gives ground as he attempts to keep outside contain, failing to fight pressure as he gets strung out and the runner cuts up field and Tuipulotu brings him down after picking up the first.

Another bad habit of Tuipulotu’s is his tendency to leave his feet as a tackler. He often misses tackles because he leaps forward at the ball carrier rather than running to meet the ball and drive his legs on contact. Watch this rep by Tuipulotu where he shows good athleticism dropping into coverage, but he takes a bad angle to the football as the QB decides to scramble, leaving his feet as he reaches out his arm, being out of position to bring down the runner as he falls to the turf and the QB picks up a few yards on the ground.


Overall, Tuli Tuipulotu is a difficult player to evaluate because you see the flashes of talent, but the quality of those flashes leaves a lot to be desired. He had great production this past season at USC, showcasing impressive athletic traits for a man of his size, but he relied on plenty of clean-up sacks for his production rather than executing as a technician or as a pure athlete. He is a tweener that teams will have to scheme into their defensive system, lacking high-end edge rusher traits to consistently win with speed on the edge as well as the strength and anchor to thrive inside regularly at the NFL level.

When watching Tuipulotu, Seattle Seahawks DL L.J. Collier came to mind as another former tweener coming out of TCU that Seattle took a stab at in the first round back in 2019, but the move proved to be a mistake given the draft capital used to select him. Collier has similar size and measurables to Tuipulotu (6’2 1/4”, 291lb) and played as a big base end for the Horned Frogs in college. He managed to overwhelm Big XII OL at TCU thanks to his size and athletic traits but has struggled to do the same in the league, posting three sacks and six TFLs in four seasons.

This isn’t to say that Tuipulotu will face the same struggles at the next level as Collier did, but his lack of ideal fit and position makes his projection to the pros difficult as he will be best if maneuvered around to get him in advantageous matchups. The Pittsburgh Steelers are in need of DL, but they already have a tweener-type in DeMarvin Leal who doesn’t appear to be an answer inside at base DE, at least at this point. Drafting Tuipulotu would be redundant as the team would still lack a capable inside option, making me believe that his best fit would be for another team rather than in Pittsburgh.

Projection: Day Two/early Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.5 – Rotational Player (4th Round)
Games Watched: at Utah (2022), vs Washington State (2022), vs Notre Dame (2022), at UCLA (2022)

Previous 2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles
OL O’Cyrus Torrence LB Jack Campbell WR Zay Flowers WR Parker Washington
DL Bryan Breese DT Jalen Carter OT Darnell Wright CB Joey Porter Jr.
WR Jordan Addison DL Siaki Ika DL Keeanu Benton CB Kelee Ringo
CB Cam Smith OT Dawand Jones LB Noah Sewell iOL Ulu Oluwatimi
LB Drew Sanders iOL Jarrett Patterson OG Nick Broeker OT Broderick Jones
WR Tank Dell iOL John Michael Schmitz CB Devon Witherspoon OT Paris Johnson Jr
LB Trenton Simpson CB Christian Gonzalez LB Henry To’oTo’o WR Jayden Reed
S Brian Branch DL DJ Dale EDGE Isaiah McGuire S JL Skinner
S Jordan Battle LB Isaiah Foskey LB Ivan Pace QB Anthony Richardson
EDGE Will McDonald OG Andrew Vorhees TE Michael Mayer WR Jalin Hyatt
C Ricky Stromberg CB Terell Smith CB Kyu Blu Kelly LB Dorian Williams
DL Jerrod Clark WR Ronnie Bell CB Emmanuel Forbes LB DeMarvion Overshown
OL Peter Skoronski OL Chandler Zavala WR Rashee Rice DT Gervon Dexter Sr.
CB Anthony Johnson OL Steve Avila LB Daiyan Henley DB Sydney Brown
DE Keion White CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson CB Julius Brents QB Malik Cunningham
OT Carter Warren DL Lukas Van Ness OL Cody Mauch OT Alex Palczewski
WR Marvin Mims
To Top