2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Sacramento State LB Marte Mapu

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will 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 Sacramento State LB Marte Mapu.

#5 Marte Mapu, LB, Sacramento State (R-Senior) – 6025, 217lb

Senior Bowl Invite

Measurements

Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Marte Mapu 6’2 5/8”, 217lb 9 3/8 33 3/8 80
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
N/A N/A N/A N/A
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press
N/A N/A

The Good

— Has good length and height for the position
— Possesses an athletic frame that is built for today’s game
— Versatile defender who has played at safety, nickel, and the overhang
— Has great range when it comes to covering ground in coverage as well as in pursuit
— Can run with backs and tight ends across the field in man coverage
— Has shown the capability of carrying vertically up the seam against deep threats
— Long arms aids in his ability to bat down passes
— Proven production in coverage with 20 PBUs and six INTs the last two seasons
— Shows physicality against the run when taking on blockers
— Violently seeks out contact against the run
— Has bad intentions as a hitter when target is lined up
— Can set the edge and string out runs toward the sideline
— Has the profile to contribute right away on special teams
— Thrived against increased competition at the Senior Bowl

The Bad

— Lacks a true position as he played outside the box for most of his college career
— Doesn’t have the requisite size and mass of a traditional off-ball LB
— Can be tentative at times when it comes to getting down and dirty against the run
— Motor appears to run hot and cold throughout a game
— Lateral movement skills are only average in terms of making open-field tackles
— Will occasionally overrun plays
— Needs to be more consistent at stacking and shedding blocks
— Will occasionally be overcome by sheer power and mass is not running downhill
— Size and frame presents durability concerns at the next level
— Will be older than your traditional rookie
— Coming off a torn pec suffered in pre-draft training
— Will need to be schemed into a defense as role of full-time ILB is a projection

Bio

— Redshirt Senior (sixth year) prospect from Hawthorne, CA
— Lined up at quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker, safety, and cornerback in high school
— Redshirted first year at Sacramento State
— Played in five games at linebacker and on special teams in 2018, logging six total tackles (missed five games due to injury)
— Appeared in 11 games, starting two, in 2019 and logged 18 total tackle (13 solo), one TFL, and an INT
— Lost his 2020 season due to the pandemic
— Started all 12 games at nickelback in 2021 and made 65 total tackles, 5.5 TFLs, four INTs, and 14 PBUs
— Started 13 games in 2022 and racked up 76 total tackles, 6.5 TFLs, a sack, one forced fumble, two INTs, six PBUs, and a blocked kick
— Suffered a torn pectoral muscle during pre-draft training in February
— Graduated with a degree in sociology and is pursuing a second BA in kinesiology
— Associated Press FCS First Team All-American (2022), Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year (2022), first-team All-Big Sky (2022), second-team all-Big Sky (2021)

Tape Breakdown

Marte Mapu wasn’t a well-known name going into the Senior Bowl as a last-second call up from the NFLPA Bowl where he had showed out during a week of practices. Filling in for several LB prospects that opted out of the showcase, Mapu made a name for himself in front of NFL scouts. Playing well with some of the biggest names in the country, he showed off his physicality as well as his athletic prowess in coverage. Despite his efforts, Mapu ended up being a Combine snub, growing the chip on his shoulder that much more.

When you turn on the tape on Mapu, you see a non-traditional LB prospect, like many in this draft class, who played more of a hybrid role in college. A versatile chess piece on the defense, Mapu lined up at overhang, in the slot as the nickel, or even at safety. His ability in coverage speaks for itself, having 20 PBUs and six INTs the last two seasons. He possessed the speed, length, and movement skills to run with backs and tight ends in coverage and contests passes like in the clip below.

Mapu’s range as a coverage defender is very impressive given his build more fits as a linebacker. He can carry receivers vertically up the seam, like in this clip against Incarnate Word, working from the overhang position to the receiver stretching the field on the opposite hash. Mapu falls just short of making the play and gives up the TD, but his ability to cover that much ground and be in position speaks to his range.

Mapu displays good range as a coverage defender and shows impressive pursuit as a run-and-chase tackler. He can run sideline to sideline in pursuit of the football or sniff out screen passes underneath. In this rep against Colorado State, he weaves around the block and into the receiver to stick him shortly after the catch for a loss.

When Mapu flies to the football, he comes bearing nasty intentions as a hitter. Check out this play in which Mapu comes down from the safety spot on the underneath pass to the running back. Closing ground as he cuts him off along the sideline, he delivers a big shot to knock the runner off his feet and out of bounds.

Mapu does a good job locating the football and flowing to the ball to make a play, showing the instincts needed to play off-ball LB. Here is an example in which Mapu works from the slot to the opposite side of the LOS, getting in on the tackle.

While Mapu did a fair amount of his play on the back end and spread in coverage, he also showed on tape as well as at the Senior Bowl that he can come downhill against the run and even line up on the edge and set the edge line. In the clip below against Montana, he spins off the block to make the stop in the backfield for the TFL.

Mapu has several deficiencies he needs to iron out if he wants to be considered a player that can play regular defensive snaps at the next level. His lateral movement skills aren’t the best despite his coverage background, and he tends to overrun plays and is slow to diagnose on occasion like you see in the first clip below against Incarnate Word. Mapu has the QB on the option but doesn’t quite see the handoff to the back up the middle, overrunning the play as the back gets in for the score. In the second clip, we see Mapu overrun the tackle attempt in the flat, allowing the receiver to move the sticks for the first down.

Conclusion

Marte Mapu is yet another hybrid defender in this off-ball linebacker class who lacks an exact positional fit but brings a lot of enticing tools to the table. He has the skill set to contribute in sub-packages as a nickel/coverage linebacker. He also showed that he can play against the run and bring physicality to the table on the edge as well as coming downhill. Still, he lacks desired bulk to be a traditional off-ball LB, is coming off a torn pectoral, and will be nearly 25 years old as a rookie, raising questions about his development and durability at the next level.

While many have taken to comparing Mapu to All-Pro LB Fred Warner due to his versatility as a former safety, a more reasonable comp would be Warner’s former teammate, Azeez Al-Shaair. Al-Shaair was also a small-school player coming out of FAU where he was listed at LB for the Owls. He made plays all over the field as a run defender, a blitzer, and in coverage. However, like Mapu, Al-Shaair lacked ideal size for the ILB position (6’2, 228lb) and tore his ACL in October of his senior year, causing him to go undrafted.

Given the recent pec tear, Mapu could experience the same fate that Al-Shaair had on draft weekend. Still, he has the tools to contribute right away on special teams and be a solid sub-package defender with the potential to earn more of a role on defense with more time in the system and with a DC deploying him in positions to succeed. The Steelers lack that true coverage linebacker on the roster. With two starters recently signed in free agency, perhaps a late-round flier or priority UDFA signing of Mapu would give them a player who can add more versatility to the room as a developmental piece behind Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts.

Projection: Day Three

Depot Draft Grade: 6.6 MED–Backup/Special Teamer (5th Round)

Games Watched: vs Incarnate Word (2022), vs Montana (2022), at Colorado State (2021)

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