WSU

Rob Rang thinks Shalom Luani could follow the same NFL path as former Cougar DL Destiny Vaeao did a year ago

SAFETY SHALOM LUANI and former Cougar defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao are entirely dissimilar when it comes to size. But NFL guru Rob Rang thinks the 5-11, 202-pound Luani could follow the same NFL draft path as did Vaeao did a year ago.

Vaeao (6-4, 295) went undrafted last year but after signing as a free agent, he not only made the team but played in 16 games with Philadelphia, posting 15 tackles with two sacks and a forced fumble.  Meanwhile, the 2017 NFL defensive back class is generally thought to be the deepest in years, possibly decades.

“I think we’re talking about a Day Three guy here in Shalom Luaniand that’s just a reflection of the talent at the position. (Luani) could wind up going undrafted and I'd still feel confident (he) is talented enough to make an NFL roster. It’s the same way I felt about Destiny Vaeao a year ago, who of course went undrafted but wound up making the Eagles' roster,” said Rang.

Luani racked up 157 tackles and eight interceptions in his two years as a starting safety/nickel for the Cougars. Originally a soccer player, he didn’t start playing football until his high school years in American Samoa. That leads to both a high ceiling, and questions, said Rang.

“To me the biggest question mark is going to be the fluid change of direction, if he can he truly be a cover safety … He helped to dispel that reputation with his shuttle drills and speed at the combine.  As far as his strengths, there is still a relatively good amount of untapped potential there because he has not played a lot of American football … Because he was a pretty good player for the Cougars, he could wind up being that much better at the next level,” said Rang.

While Luani could potentially fill the same NFL role as CouGreat Deone Bucannon has pioneered, a linebacker/safety hybrid often referred to as “moneybacker”  Rang sees him as likely more of a traditional strong safety.

I don’t know that he has the range to be a true free safety in today’s NFL, I think where he is probably going to carve himself out a role is on special teams at least initially. He’s probably more of a traditional strong (safety) because he’s physical enough to be able to come down into the box. But he might be able to drop all the way down into the box and be that hybrid linebacker, that moneybacker,” said Rang.

Luani’s performance at the combine (as well as a Seattle Seahawks scout putting Luani through agility drills at the WSU Pro Day) helped his stock, said Rang.

“Anybody who watches his tape knows he is an instinctive and physical player,” said Rang. “The athletic numbers he posted at the combine reflect that he is also a very talented athlete.

"His production at Washington State is not a statement about the fact he plays in the Pac-12 and ‘Oh all they have are these high octane offenses so it puts you in position to have high numbers.’  I believe Luani is still a player on the rise.”

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