The two-year starter is an interesting pass rusher who could fill a role as a rush end or remain at strong-side outside linebacker. While most college ‘backers are still raw in pass coverage technique, Fua has excelled in this area, recording four interceptions, including one that he returned for a touchdown, generating 117 yards via those theft runbacks, in addition to breaking up fourteen other passes while starting eighteen games during his last two seasons.
Fua has a tall, athletic frame with good upper body muscle tone, long arms, thick legs, good bubble and loose hips to accelerate and close on the ball. He is a naturally fast runner who moves effortlessly when changing direction and has the range to make plays down the line.
He’s also a smart and instinctive athlete who loves to physically challenge the tight ends by coming right up to the line of scrimmage and attacking his defender immediately after the ball is snapped. That ability is perhaps due to his experience as a tight end during his prep days. He makes good body adjustments on the move and knows how to use his power to face up and attack the inside rush lanes.
Fua keeps position at the point of attack and takes good angles in pursuit, as he is very effective at maintaining leverage and keeping containment. He showed good improvement with his hands in 2014 in attempts to fend off blocks and pursue the play, as his additional ten pounds of bulk last season helped him compensate for some strength issues (played at 228 in 2013, improving to 238 pounds in 2014).
Fua has the slippery moves to avoid trash and shows a quick burst to cut off the runner at the corners. He’s an effective tackler who won’t punish the opponent, but can brake down, face up and wrap when working in space. He shows good balance on the move and is quick to break out of his pedal to mirror receivers past the short area. He also has the smooth turning motion and loose hips to get good depth on his pass drops and keeps his head on a swivel.
In pass coverage, the strong-side linebacker times his leaps well competing for the pass and will settle with speed to close and make plays on the ball. He does a good job of reaching and plucking the ball away from the body’s frame. He’s a decent pass rusher who might lack raw power, but can deliver a punishing club move to rock offensive linemen back on their heels. He generates good speed while taking proper angles to close on the pocket.
Fua has functional hands to grab, pull and jerk blockers to the ground, but when he does not get them up quickly, blockers lock on to his pads and he struggles to disengage. He has adequate, not great power, making him more of a finesse tackler than one that will generate pop on contact. He’s demonstrated good pass rush ability the last two years due to better hand usage, but is more comfortable in run containment that blitzing, as he loses leverage when he gets too high in his stance, narrowing his base in the process.
Fua has enough size (just lacks bulk) to even play down as a defensive end in the nickel package and has been known for his highlight reel-type of hits on the kickoff coverage unit. He attacks the rush lanes with good aggression and has enough hand punch to push the fullback back through the lanes, when he stays low in his pads. When he gets too erect in his stance, he will lose leverage and the result is the blocker latching on to his pads, causing him to struggle trying to shed.
Fua has the valid speed, feet and acceleration to handle man coverage assignments. He has the loose hips to come out of his breaks cleanly and is smooth dropping back into pass coverage, getting good depth in those drops. He is also very effective at getting physical and using his hands to reroute tight ends at the line of scrimmage.
His ability to flow from sideline-to-sideline allows him to chase hard in making plays vs. the outside run. He is quick to digest plays and has the passion to make plays, even at the cost of his own safety. At the pro level, he can provide a team with a presence at the strong-side linebacker position or operate as a rush end in the nickel package.
Alani Fua Scouting Combine measurables
6-5/238 (4.73 forty)
32-inch arm length
10 1/8-inch hands
34.5-inch vertical jump
118-inch broad jump
6.83 3 cone drill
4.15 20 yard shuttle
11.54 60 yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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