Career Recap: The name Lotulelei stands out at Utah. Star Lotulelei was a dominant defensive tackle earlier this decade and was a first-round pick of the Carolina Panthers. He's continued to have success in the NFL, and his young brother has followed his footsteps in playing football for the Utes.
Lowell Lotulelei made an immediate impact with 33 tackles with four sacks and a forced fumble in 2014 as a freshman. As a sophomore, Lotulelei was a leader of one of the top defenses in the Pac-12 as he totaled 26 tackles with five for a loss and one sack.
2016 Season Outlook: Utah will see quality competition in the Pac-12. Perhaps Lotulelei's best test will come against USC. Guards Damien Mama (6-4, 355) and Viane Talamaivo (6-2, 315) have the size to battle Lotulelei. Lotulelei should have a good amount of pass-rushing one-on-ones against the Trojans. He also has the advantage of two quality defensive ends in Kylie Fitts and Hunter Dimick, who will command more blocking attention coming off the edge.
Skill-Set Summary: There is always a need for defensive linemen in the NFL, and Lotulelei is a physical force at the point of attack. With his brother having success as a pro, that should only help teams to view Lowell Lotulelei as having the physical ability to contribute as a professional. That being said, Lotulelei is a bit of a limited player entering his junior season in terms of his NFL evaluation.
In the pass rush, Lotulelei needs to improve significantly for the NFL. He shows the strength to collapse the pocket with a bull rush, but that is the only thing that he can do. Lotulelei doesn't show pass-rushing moves or a variety of ways to attack guards. All he does is bull rush. Given his size and a potential lack of length, Lotulelei could be viewed as a nose tackle who comes off the field in passing situations.
Lotulelei's strength is his run defense at the point of attack. Offensive linemen are unable to move him or push him out of his gap. He is very stout to hold his ground and plug up rushing lanes. Lotulelei doesn't shed a lot of blocks and chase down tackles outside of his gap, but he swallows up a lot of runs in the middle. He is good to free up the inside linebackers to make tackles as well.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, I wouldn't be surprised if Lotulelei ends up going later than expected. Physically, he is similar to Andrew Billings from Baylor, who slid in the 2016 NFL Draft because of a lack of length and teams projecting him to being limited in the passing game. Lotulelei is built like Billings, but Billings showed even more pass-rush potential at Baylor than Lotulelei has Utah.
Lotulelei's best fit in the NFL could come as a zero-technique nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. In a 4-3 defense, he would be a nose tackle and very likely would be limited to rushing situations only.
2017 NFL Draft Expectations: Entering the 2016 season, Lotulelei is an early round prospect. If he excels with his pass rush ,that would really help his draft stock. If Lotulelei plays the same as he did in 2015, he could more likely be a second-day selection, but sliding like Andrew Billings is possible.