Hercules Mata’afa, EDGE
School: Washington State | Conference: PAC 12
College Experience: Junior | Age: 22
Height / Weight: 6-2 / 254 lbs
Projected Draft Status: 6th Round
NFL Comparison: Dee Ford
Hercules Mata’afa was a 3-star recruit from Lahaina, Hawaii. He received a handful of college offers and while he chose the best football program of the bunch I wonder if he chose the right football program for him. Mata’afa was played out of position his entire career at Washington State. He was commonly played as a defensive end and defensive tackle in Washington State’s even front. Mata’afa is a team first player and did everything the coaches asked of him. Frankly, he posted astonishing production for what he was asked to do at the DL position. Mata’afa wins with his quickness as an interior rusher. He hand fighting is decent, and he has an excellent motor that does not waiver. The difficult thing for NFL teams is projecting him to an off-ball linebacker when he has never really played the position. If he doesn't have success as an outside linebacker will a team try him inside? It’s hard to say how far Mata’afa will go but I think he certainly has a future as a decent backup and special teams player. He is tenacious and has a nose for the football its hard not to want a player like that on your team.
- Good size if moved to a 3-4 OLB. He has decent speed, athleticism, and good strength.
- Has impressive initial quickness off the snap against interior rushers which should translate for the most part outside. Stays low as a rusher and can win leverage battles with his power. Surprisingly stout for his size and should be able to set an edge outside.
- A tenacious player that is always working and never gives up. A good portion of his production came on him cleaning up things for teammates and working double time. Praised by his teammates and coaching for his toughness, work-ethic, and being a quality teammate.
- Solid and reliable tackler with good finishing ability.
- His floor is probably a solid special teams player for years.
- Definitely, not a DL in the NFL and will have to transition to linebacker.
- Doesn't have the ideal length, speed, or fluidity to bend as an OLB and will have to make things work like he did in college with power and effort.
- Hand technique is not awful but it needs a lot of work especially with a position switch where he will have to take on OL with much longer arms. Needs more pass rushing and counter moved to get off blocks.
- No real experience in pass coverage. Questions as to whether he will be able to fulfill other linebacker duties.
Let's see his work:
I do not care that Hercules Mata'afa was a 250-pound defensive tackle for Washington State. This is my dude, I've never had so much fun watching a player. pic.twitter.com/9r9XJ098qA— Rob (@RobPaul54) April 12, 2018
Here’s 2016 Hercules Mata’afa as an unpolished 5 tech w blue chip traits. Forced to improve hands/urgency & strength moving inside in 2017.— Mark Dulgerian (@MarkDulgerianOS) February 23, 2018
Expect his name to generate buzz in NFL circles after Combine pic.twitter.com/SIEgWP39hJ
How He Would Fit On The Redskins
Hercules Mata’afa is a player most teams ought to be interested in on day 3 of the draft. He will probably start his career as a special teams player and should be very good at it. The big question for him will be finding out how he transitions to linebacker and his ceiling is there. I have my doubts that he will be a great or elite player (the odds are against him in terms of position switch and measurables) because of the whole position switch thing. In fact, I think it's obvious to say that physically and athletically he reminds me of Ryan Anderson. Just like Anderson, I think Mata’afa will experience success because of his tenacity, strength, power, instincts, and nose for the football even if that is only as a rotational player. The Redskins seem to like these types of linebackers so if Mata’afa does last until the 5th or 6th round I don't doubt he is somewhere at the top of the team's board at that point if they don't mind a project like him. Mata’afa will have a much bigger uphill battle than a player who has played the position for obviously and will probably spend at least two maybe even three seasons getting acclimated to his new responsibilities and duties. Still, he has a lot of heart and makes plays and quite frankly in this years EDGE class the Redskins could do a lot worse late in the draft.