Lack of length and weight make him a poor fit in a 3-4
Summary: In 2018 and 2019, Tufele was one of the most consistent and disruptive defensive linemen in the Pac-12. He made an instant impact as a freshman in 2018, collecting three sacks and 23 tackles. Tufele was even better in 2019, totaling 42 stops, 4.5 sacks and a pass batted. He looked better with his year of experience and suggested early-round potential for the 2021 or 2022 NFL Draft if he continued to improve. After the outbreak of the pandemic, Tufele decided to sit out the 2020 season. He did not opt back when the Pac-12 resumed play.
As an interior pass rusher, Tufele flashes the ability to contribute in putting pressure on the quarterback. Tufele is quick off the snap, and he plays with good pad level to gain leverage on offensive linemen. Tufele actively uses his hands and has a strong swim move to shed guards, although swim moves are harder to win with in the NFL. Hall of Fame Warren Sapp will always say to save the swim move for the beach because it doesn't work on NFL guards. Tufele possesses the developed upper body strength to shove blockers away and shows a burst to close. In both phases, Tufele displays an excellent motor and doesn't quit on plays, going hard through the whistle. For the NFL, he is going to need to improve his pass-rushing moves and grow more diverse with how he tries to best blockers.
Tufele is generally a solid run defender. He uses his strong upper body to keep guards from pushing him off the ball, and he shows a nice ability to push off and pursue down the line to get in on tackles. Tufele possesses good agility for a thickly built tackle, allowing him to do a nice job of redirecting through trash to get in on stops. Tufele can also fire his gap to penetrate into the backfield to cause disruption. He can get covered up by longer and bigger defenders, and he could stand to improve his ability to take on bump blocks at the next level. That latter point will be especially important if he plays nose tackle in the NFL.
Tufele's best fit as a pro would be as a three-technique in a 4-3 defense, and he could also play some nose tackle in that scheme. He may not have the size and length, however, to hold up as a two-gap tackle who absorbs double teams. Tufele could probably play nose tackle in a 3-4, but he would be undersized compared to typical 3-4 zero-techniques. He also lacks the length to be a 3-4 defensive end.
In the 2021 NFL Draft, Tufele could go on the second day. He is most likely to come off the board in Round 3.
Player Comparison: Maliek Collins. Tufele's style of play with speed and a shorter, thick build kind of reminds me of Collins coming out of Nebraska. Collins (6-2, 308) and Tufele are nearly identical in size and have a burst off the ball. Collins was a third-round pick in 2016, and Tufele could go in the same range this year.