With their first pick on day three of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jaguars selected defensive tackle Jay Tufele from USC. The 21-year-old interior defensive lineman was a four-star recruit out of Salt Lake City in 2017. He redshirted his freshman year at Southern Cal. Tufele has just two seasons of college football experience, having opted out of the 2020 season. He stands 6'2" and weighs in at 305 pounds. During his redshirt sophomore campaign, Tufele registered 26 pressures, 26 stops (tackles that resulted in a "failure" for the offense per PFF), and 3.5 sacks. He also picked off a pass, recovered a fumble, and blocked a field goal (2018).
Strengths: Jay Tufele is fast and explosive for a man of his size. He is able to get off the ball quickly thanks to his first step explosiveness and regularly chases ball carriers to the sideline or down the field thanks to his impressive speed. Tufele ran a 5.0 40-yard dash at his pro day. Strength is another significant asset for the interior defender. He routinely powers through guards and centers and holds up well against double teams. His strength was again highlighted at his pro day with 30 bench press reps. He has a nasty swim move that allows him to burst past interior offensive lineman and into the backfield. Tufele's motor runs hot, but he generally plays under control.
Weaknesses: Experience appears to be one of the chinks in his armor. He played in only 24 collegiate games and missed out on his junior campaign in 2020. Tufele's inexperience occasionally leads to inconsistencies with pad level and play recognition. This sometimes causes him to get moved off the line quickly. He certainly isn't long, which is less of a concern on the inside but still a trait to note.
Fit in Duval: Tufele is an excellent fit in Joe Cullen's defense and Urban Meyer's locker room. He's a try-hard player who is all about ball. And he has some positional versatility across the defensive line, although his best role will be as a penetrating 3-tech. The Jaguars have plenty of depth on the defensive line, and they'll rotate many guys in and out. I expect Tufele to be heavily involved in that rotation early on and to become one of the main contributors along the interior by seasons' end.
Final Thoughts: Tufele played very well during his first two seasons at USC, and there should be even more potential to unlock, especially in the consistency department. If he can eliminate some of the negative reps, the sky is the limit for this powerful, explosive interior defender. He should've been a second or third-round pick and likely would've been had he played in 2020. Tufele could go down as one of the steals of the draft if the Jaguars' coaching staff can develop him just a tad. I've heard some rumblings about Tufele being similar to former first-round pick Taven Bryan. While it is true that Bryan and Tufele share some traits, Tufele has a much more natural feel for the game with better instincts, and he brings more energy to the field. Those traits make it easier for me to see Tufele being a quality starter with upside. Having a more defined role for him early on will aid his development.
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