Position: Edge rusher/outside linebacker
Weight: 254 pounds
School: Washington State
Combine Performance Data
40-yard dash: 4.76 seconds
Bench press: 26 reps (third amongst edge rushers)
Vertical jump: 31.5 inches
Broad jump: 9 feet
Three-cone drill: 7.24 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.37 seconds
Hercules Mata’afa 2018 NFL Draft Profile
The prospect with arguably the coolest name in this year’s draft class also happens to be one of the best defensive players coming out of the Pac-12 Conference. Hercules Mata’afa grew up in Lahaina, HI and became a dual-sport athlete while attending Lahainaluna High School. As a senior, he earned First Team All-State honors after recording 15 sacks during football season and was a state finalist in the 215-pound weight class during wrestling season. Despite the big sack numbers, he was ranked Hawaii’s fourth-best prospect by Rivals.com and was only offered two Power Five scholarships.
Mata’afa was viewed as undersized coming out of high school and was asked to redshirt his first year at Washington State. The following year he recorded 32 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks and was named to the USA Today Sports Freshmen All-America First Team. As a redshirt sophomore, Mata’afa continued to make an impact and finished fifth in the Pac-12 with 13.5 tackles for loss and had a team-high five sacks.
In his final season with the Cougars, Mata’afa began to get some national recognition. He finished fourth in the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss and led the Pac-12 with 10.5 sacks. He was named a Consensus All-American and was named Polynesian College Football Player of the Year all while helping Washington State to a 9-4 record, the team’s best finish since 2003. After the Holiday Bowl matchup versus Michigan State, Mata’afa declared for the 2018 NFL Draft.
- has a really explosive first step;
- extremely high motor and makes a lot of tackles on plays away from him;
- has a nose for forcing fumbles when pressuring the quarterback;
- has good speed coming off the edge;
- splits double teams with quickness;
- has a good inside rip move;
- solid tackler in the trenches – plays with heavy pads;
- capable of running stunts and dropping into zone coverage.
- gets driven back when he doesn’t win with initial speed;
- lacks a secondary move;
- lacks a full repertoire of pass-rushing moves;
- relies too much on quickness to win the battle;
- lacks the athleticism to transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker;
- not enough size to play interior lineman on non-passing downs.
NFL Comparison: Dee Ford
Teams with a need at the position: Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Projection: Fifth round
Despite his lack of size, Mata’afa was still able to produce big numbers at the collegiate level which suggests he can make an impact in the NFL as well. He is not a polished product and whichever team that drafts him will have to work with him on his technique. But his never-ending motor and nose for the football is similar to Tyrann Mathieu, who did not have a set position coming out of college either. Ideally, Mata’afa’s best fit is a pass rushing specialist in nickel or dime packages in obvious passing down situations. Any team that is in need of edge rusher depth should have an interest in Mata’afa on day three of the draft.