Stevie Tu’ikolovatu NFL Draft Preview: Stock, Mock Drafts and Projections

Jan 25, 2017; Mobile, AL, USA; North squad defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu of USC (98) participates in a drill during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 25, 2017; Mobile, AL, USA; North squad defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu of USC (98) participates in a drill during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports /
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Stevie Tu’ikolovatu flew under the radar when he arrived at USC, but he’s drawing attention as a potential late round steal in the 2017 NFL Draft.

When Stevie Tu’ikolovatu made the decision to transfer from Utah to USC for his senior season, he did so with an eye on improving his NFL visibility.

He did just that with a stellar single campaign with the Trojans. USC’s Defensive Lineman of Year earned an All-Pac-12 second team nod with 12 starts and 53 tackles while turning around the Trojans fortunes upfront.

Tu’ikolovatu’s ability to control the middle of the trenches rejuvenated USC’s thin defensive front and now that run-stopping skill is driving the bulk of his draft buzz.

However, there are factors outside of a Tu’ikolovatu’s control which have kept a lid on his rise up draft boards. Notably, he’s one of the oldest prospects on the board. Though scouts like his maturity, it also works against him at 26 years old.

Scout’s Take

“Tu’ikolovatu represents a difficult evaluation. His production against the run is off the charts, but he’s also in his mid-20s and offers nothing rushing the passer.”— Pro Football Focus

“With a jarring punch that sets him up for success, he is able to get rid of blockers for quick wins and is a productive tackler once he’s free.”— Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

“He is a massive and powerful two-down space eater that will instantly upgrade the interior run defense. Weight and diet will need to be monitored. Missed the 2013 season with a foot injury. Mature individual who is married and will be 26 years old this upcoming June. Fringe day two pick.”— ESPN

“Teams that need that massive nose tackle for their 3-4 defenses will be looking for players like Tu’ikolovatu starting on day 3. He is immovable, and is the type of massive body that 3-4 defenses need to control the gaps on either side of him.”— DraftBlaster.com

Prediction

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Tu’ikolovatu is the worst-kept secret of the draft as a late-round value pick for teams looking for a run-stopping nose tackle, but just how late he goes is the question.

Matt Miller’s seven-round mock draft for Bleacher Report doesn’t include the massive defensive tackle, while Pro Football Focus has been singing Tu’ikolovatu’s praises as a sure-fire pick, though likely on Day 3.

SEE ALSO: 50 Best NFL Draft Picks in USC History

Since Day 3 includes Round 4 through 7, predicting Tu’ikolovatu somewhere in the middle feels safe.

A fifth round selection, or earlier, wouldn’t exactly surprise —Drafttek.com features Tu’ikolovatu at pick No. 177– but the sixth round could be the sweet spot.

Once he finds a new home though, Tu’ikolovatu appears to be a safe bet as a steady contributor.