Perennially, the New York Giants search high and low for linebacker help. Low-round draft choices, low-budget free agents. Mostly, they try to turn other people’s trash into something akin to Big Blue treasure.
The Giants are hoping undrafted rookie free agent Josiah Tauaefa, from Texas-San Antonio, can become one of those unlikely treasures. So, let’s study the 22-year-old Tauaefa as we near the end of our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster that will soon report for training camp.
How he got here
Tauaefa played three seasons at UTSA, transitioning from defensive end to linebacker for his final two seasons. In each of his two full seasons, Tauaefa has more than 100 tackles, netting 111 tackles (11.5 for loss) and 4.5 sacks as a junior in 2018. Tauaefa set the UTSA record for tackles with 115 as a redshirt freshman in 2016.
Tauaefa did not earn an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine, but was apparently impressive enough at the UTSA Pro Day that the Giants signed him as a priority undrafted free agent. The Giants wanted him badly enough that they gave him a $15,000 signing bonus and $110,000 in guaranteed money, more than any other undrafted free agent they signed this offseason. Wide receiver Alex Wesley got a $85,000 guarantee and a $15,000 signing bonus, center James O’Hagan got a $35,000 guarantee and linebacker Mark McLaurin got a $30,000 guarantee.
“The truth is, his body of work on film is what he is,” [UTSA coach Frank] Wilson said. “He’s a football player. He tested solidly on this day — did himself well. But when you put on the film, it jumps off with his intangibles. His tenacity. His speed. His intuitiveness. The things that he does when you blow the whistle into play are the things that matter most for NFL organizations.”
The fact that his guaranteed money dwarfs that given to any other UDFA the Giants signed tells you the organization wanted him badly and believes he has a chance to be an NFL player.
The Draft Network had a fourth-round grade on Tauaefa. The full scouting report is worth a read, but here is the conclusion:
Josiah Tauaefa projects as a MIKE linebacker at the pro level. Tauaefa needs to sort through some of his processing of the mesh point to garner more consistency, but it’s hard not to like him movement skills, motor and range as a football player. Tauaefa did see challenges against bigger, stronger Power-5 competition, so he may face a delayed transition to the pro level as well. But his baseline skill set is one of an eventual pro starter.
High-energy inside linebacker with a willing spirit and a strong desire to get to as many plays as possible. Tauaefa has the size and frame of a thumper inside, but needs to do a better job of imposing his will rather than trying to elude blocks so often. He is a two-down linebacker with coverage limitations who needs to do a better job of playing with patience in his flow, but he’s got a shot if he can embrace a role of banger and prove himself as a core special teamer.
Alec Ogletree, B.J. Goodson, fifth-round pick Ryan Connelly and second-year man Tae Davis seem like overwhelming favorites for roster spots heading into training camp. Tauaefa figures to at least wind up on the practice squad. As far as making the 53-man roster, Tauaefa figures to be in a group with veteran Nate Stupar and fellow undrafted free agent Mark McLaurin trying to convince the coaching staff they deserve a spot on the active roster.