Nose tackle only, can't play other tackle techniques
Summary: Ta'amu is one of the few quality zero-technique prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft. The zero-technique lines up over the head of the center and is an essential performer in a 3-4 defense. Ta'amu has the size and bulk to occupy blockers while holding his ground at the line of scrimmage.
Ta'amu was a strong run-stuffer throughout his collegiate career at Washington. He broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore and started 11 of 12 games, recording 19 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks. He improved as a junior, but he had an inconsistent performance in 2011. Ta'amu was neutralized by the Stanford's strong offensive line and didn't look good when he went against guard David DeCastro. After that game, he was quiet for some time but finished the regular season on a high note with two sacks, 2.5 tackles for a loss and four tackles against Washington State. He didn't play well against Baylor in the Bowl game. He finished with 30 tackles with seven tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks.
The Senior Bowl saw more of the same trend from Ta'amu. At times, he was an animal who destroyed offensive linemen. In other stretches, he was quiet. Ta'amu has to keep his leverage and pad level sound in order to defeat offensive linemen. He does pretty well with his pad level, but he can get sloppy at times. Ta'amu moves pretty well with more speed and agility than one might think for such a heavy tackle.
Ta'amu projects as a player who will be a solid run-stuffer who plugs his gap and holds his ground at the line of scrimmage. He should be able to cause some disruption with his powerful bull rush to push the center into the backfield. The best fit would be for him to man the middle in a 3-4 defense. Ta'amu could turn into a quality second- or third-round pick.
Player Comparison: Casey Hampton. It is a bit of a stretch to say that Ta'amu will turn into as a good a pro as Hampton has been for the Steelers in his career. Hampton (6-1, 325) has been one of the top 3-4 nose tackles in the NFL over the past decade and was worth the 19th-overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. Ta'amu could turn into a poor man's version of Hampton in the NFL. He is a second-day pick, and not a first-rounder like Hampton was.
NFL Matches: Carolina, Kansas City, Dallas, Pittsburgh,
As a 4-3 nose tackle, Ta'amu could fill a need for a number of teams. The Panthers could use a run-stuffer on the interior of their defensive line, and Ta'amu could fill that role. The Chiefs are in need of a young zero-technique, and Ta'amu would make a nice pick for them on the second day of the draft.
Dallas could decide to go with a larger zero-technique and move Jay Ratliff to defensive end. In that case, Ta'amu could be their man in Round 2 if they don't take Dontari Poe in the first round. Pittsburgh has to find Hampton's replacement and Ta'amu would be an ideal fit.