Evaluating interior defensive lineman is an extremely difficult thing to do, especially one that got as much attention as the big man from Utah, Star Lotulelei did. Star doesn’t jump out at you when you watch some of his film, unless you are really watching closely, and on paper he is average at best. In 2012, Star recorded just 4 sacks and 10 tackles for loss; those stats weren’t even the best at his position in the Pac-12. When it comes down to it though, Star is a special player who can make a big impact with the right team.
Star is an extremely gifted and well-rounded player. There are not many people who play his position that jump the snap as well as he does. For a man his size it is really shocking just how quick he is and how big of a gas tank he has. Star simply never gives up, and that is the greatest characteristic an interior defensive lineman can have. He never gets down, he goes 100% on every play for 60 minutes and it’s part of the reason he is such a great player and a soon to be top ten pick.
Lotulelei was the Utah defense, and in a lot of ways he was the whole team. The Utes had a very disappointing 5-7 season in 2012, so Star was really the only bright spot on an otherwise bad football team. Despite being keyed in on in just about every game, Star was still able to find ways to stand out. In his time with the Utes, Star took double teams on just about every play, and sometimes he had to deal with triple teams. It was truly impressive to watch Star push back the line of scrimmage despite having two guys trying to block him, not many players can do that in the NFL. Offensive coordinators in the NFL will quickly realize that doubling up on Star will be a necessity and that will open things up for his teammates.
For that reason I firmly believe that Star needs to go to the right team if he wants to be considered a great player. I don’t think he will have much better numbers in the pros than he did at Utah, but if he goes to a team with some good edge rushers he will be able to make a huge impact.
The problem with that theory is that Star will be and should be a top ten pick, and none of those teams really have that presence on the edge that would make Star, well, a star in the NFL. Buffalo has Mario Williams, but will they pick another interior defensive lineman that high after Marcell Dareus? Kansas City has Tamba Hali, but will they be willing to make Star the number one pick overall? The most logical team in the top ten would probably be number nine to the Jets; Rex Ryan would probably love having Star on his defense, especially if they lose Mike DeVito in free agency. The Jets, however, do not have that edge presence; at least not currently.
You don’t need me to tell you Star is great player and will be a top ten pick, Mike Mayock and Mel Kiper will be doing plenty of that after the combine. Star made the best out of being on a bad football team and has become a player with the potential to be the best player at his position at the next level. If he gets put in the right situation, Star will not just be a pro bowl/all pro type of player, he will be in the conversation for defensive player of the year on a yearly basis for a long time.
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