There’s a concept of “first off the bus” players in football. Those are the players who are just so physically, or psychologically, intimidating that you want them to be the first thing the opposing team sees.
Minnesota right tackle Daniel Faalele is one of those players.
Looking every inch of the 6-foot-9, 380 pounds at which he is listed, Faalele (pronounced Fa-Ah-Lay-lay) is an absolute giant of a man. He will be one of the biggest players in the NFL the moment he gets drafted, yet he somehow manages to to move better than any human his size has any right to. Remarkably little of his 380 pounds is “bad” weight and that just makes him look that much bigger.
As it so happens, the New York Giants have a rather large question mark at the right tackle position. Could Faalele be a giant-sized answer for them?
Prospect: Daniel Faalele (78)
Games Watched: vs. Ohio State (2021), vs. Miami of Ohio (2021), vs. Nebraska 2021, vs. Maryland (2021)
Games played: 27
Best: Size, length, strength, power, (relative) athleticism
Worst: Technique and hand usage, (absolute) athleticism
Projection: An eventual starting right tackle in a man-gap or inside zone based blocking scheme
(Faalele is RT number 78)
Minnesota right tackle Daniel Faalele (pronounced fah-AH-lay-lay) is a massive and massively powerful right tackle prospect.
Listed at 6-foot-9, 380 pounds, Faalele possesses extremely rare size that dwarfs defenders who line up across from him. That said, he is an impressive athlete for his size. He shows good short-area quickness and balance, as well as smooth footwork in his pass sets.
Faalele plays with uncommonly good knee bend for a tall tackle, allowing him to keep his hips and pads down to play with solid leverage. He has the short-area grace to mirror smaller pass rushers and put his considerable bulk between them and his quarterback.
Faalele is an impressively powerful run blocker who shows a solid understanding of angles. He is fully capable of collapsing the edge of defenses and opening running lanes on off-tackle runs. Faalele also shows good competitive toughness, consistently playing through the whistle and looking for work when he isn’t blocking a defender.
Faalele is still very new to football, and only played the game for the first time in 2016. As such, his technique is still raw and inconsistent. His hand placement is haphazard and could lead to holding calls at the next level. Likewise, his inability to consistently gain defenders’ chest plates keeps him from fully unleashing his power and limits his play strength.
And while Faalele is an exceptional athlete for his size, he’s only average in the absolute. He shouldn’t be asked to pull or block for screens, or otherwise play in space. Likewise, he could struggle against elite NFL pass rushers, particularly on longer pass sets.
Overall Grade: 7.4
Faalele’s projection is complicated by his inexperience. His size and athleticism simply can not be taught, however he still has significant work to do in the technique department.
Faalele’s upside is plain to see, and he is a phenomenal athlete when grading on the curve of 6-9, 380 pound human beings. People his size simply should not be able to move with the ease and fluidity that he does. However, he is still somewhat slow and ponderous when compared to other top tackle prospects who are four inches shorter and 60 to 80 pounds lighter. That ponderous grace is a contradiction, but Faalele makes it work on the field. His sheer size affords him a surprising margin of error when dealing with speed rushers, as even a short set allows him to cover a lot of ground. Likewise, his mass and raw power frequently allows him to bury pass rushers who attempt to use leverage against him, while power rushers simply bounce off of him.
That said, Faalele’s hand usage and technique remain somewhat raw. His hands are often low, wide, or late, which can create opportunities for NFL technicians to exploit. He also only rarely locks in his blocks and sustains them through the whistle – not because of a lack of competitive toughness, but technique. That could give defenders opportunities to win with second efforts. Likewise, his lack of long speed could make him somewhat scheme-limited at the NFL level.
Faalele has an athletic profile that is simply rare – there are very few humans walking the planet who have his size and movement skills. If he can be coached to play with consistently sound technique, it would fully unlock his significant upside. If so, he should be a starting offensive tackle in the NFL, with the potential to be dominant in the right situations.