“Long ago, in the far away land of ancient Greece, there was a golden age of powerful gods, extraordinary heroes, and greatest and strongest of all these Heroes was the mighty Hercules. But what is the measure of a true hero? Now, that is what our story…”
Okay, okay. I know that is the wrong Hercules, but hear me out. Hercules Mata’afa could be one of the biggest draft steals this year. He is a defensive linemen that lists at 6’ 1” and 254 pounds. You read that right. Mata’afa has been doubted all his life because of his size. However, that didn’t stop him from leading the Pac-12 for tackles for loss and sacks. How is it this compact player can do this?
For starters, Mata’afa was a state finalist in wrestling. This allows him to possess more power than his frame displays. He also shows a quick initial burst that constantly lets him win against offensive linemen. Mata’afa has a level of effort and toughness that is unmatched on the football field. All of this translates to a hard-working productive player on the football field.
There has been a lot of confusion on where he would play in the NFL. Teams don’t see how he can be playing the interior defensive line, which is the place where he is most productive from. They also are worried how his size and skill level converts in the NFL. Pro Football Focus compared him to Tedy Bruschi, who was an undersized nose tackle at the University of Arizona before switching to outside linebacker on the Patriots. Mata’afa is definitely a developmental project as he can get eaten up by offensive linemen at times if he doesn’t get that initial quick burst and his hand usage is a bit raw.
Fit with the Patriots?
Mata’afa has heart and determination, something the Patriots love in a player. Like stated above, he has been doubted all his life and is looking for someone to give him a chance, which is a very common trait the New England organization has. The Patriots already have bigger beefier defensive linemen in Danny Shelton and Malcolm Brown, so it is a low risk-high reward pick. Belichick could have fun running schemes with this kid. Who knows? Him and Shelton can give our defensive line some Hawaiian Punch.
Thus, this power-driven, fast, undersized player can be a steal for the Patriots or any other team that picks him. He has great potential and can strive with the proper guidance. If you think about it, maybe his story is kind of similar to the real Hercules…