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2023 NFL Draft: Breaking Down USC Defensive Tackle Tuli Tuipulotu

Greg Gabriel gives his scouting report on USC’s Tuli Tuipulotu, one of his favorite prospects.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Colorado at USC Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As we all know, the Chicago Bears need to improve their defensive line in the worst way. I feel there’s no chance the Bears won't use their first pick on a defensive lineman. We don't know where the Bears will be selecting as they are sure to try and trade out of the first pick, and they very well could trade down a few times.

If the Bears end up selecting in the top four, their pick could come from the duo of Will Anderson or Jalen Carter. If they trade back further, there will be other options. USC's Tuli Tuipulotu would be one of those options.

I rarely see Tuipulotu's name and first-rounder in the same sentence but trust me, this player is a first-round lock and could be a fairly high one. The only way that changes is if he has a poor medical, but as far as I know, he has not been injured while at USC.

Tuipulotu is a true third-year junior who has been starting since midway through his freshman year in the Covid shortened 2020 season. He started jumping out at people in 2021 when he had 48 tackles and 5.5 sacks. This past season he finished with 46 tackles and a whopping 13.5 sacks!

Some people want to call Tuli an "edge," but he's not. In the USC scheme, he lines up all over. In their base defense he's a 5-technique, but he has also played on the nose. When they go to their sub-package, he usually lines up outside, but I have also seen him lined inside as a defensive tackle. Regardless of how USC used him, in the Bears' scheme, he is a 3-technique, and he just may be the best 3-tech in the country, and that includes Georgia's Jalen Carter! Tuli doesn't have Carter's upside, but he is a far more productive college player.

I think the ideal 3-technique would be a player similar to former Bear Tommie Harris. In my opinion, the player in recent years that is the most similar to Harris is Tuipolotu. Why? When Harris entered the Draft in 2004, he measured 6024 – 295 and ran a 4.68 40. His arm length was 32", and he did 29 reps of 225 on the bench. While Harris was with the Bears, he played closer to 290.

In Chicago's current scheme, the ideal 3-tech has to be quick off the ball. He has to be a disruptive penetrator in the run game, get off blocks quickly and make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. He must also be a dominant inside pass rusher who consistently gets sacks and/or pressures. As a pass rusher, this player needs to not only bull rush but have quick, strong hands, be able to redirect, and have pass rush moves similar to a defensive end.

What I just described was Tuli Tuipolotu's game. Tuli is listed as 6'4” – 290, but he'll probably measure in the 6035 range and hold that 290-pound weight. He looks to have arms that are much longer than 32". I would estimate 33" +. While I don't think he will run as fast as Harris, I do believe he will run in the low 4.70s, as we see that kind of speed when he is in pursuit. His 10-yard time might be one of the fastest of the defensive tackles at the Combine next month.

What is unique about Tuli's game is his quickness off the ball, his outstanding hand use, and his explosiveness. He may only be 290, but he easily pushed offensive tackles back into the quarterback's face. He stays low and is very disruptive. He's tough to block in a one-on-one situation because of his quickness and explosiveness. While only a junior, his pass-rush repertoire is advanced. Even better, he will be a 21-year-old rookie, and his motor and competitiveness are outstanding. He never takes a down off.

I don't understand why others don't have him Tuipulotu as high as I do, but by Draft Day, I have no doubt he will be a household name. While he isn't a player that will go in the Top Five, he is an excellent prospect on a trade down, and if I were doing the picking, It wouldn't take me long to pull the trigger.