A compact, yet explosive defensive lineman who can add valuable depth and starting potential.
With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers recently returning vital free agents like Ndamukong Suh and Rakeem Nunez-Roches, along with stalwart William Gholston, the team figures to be set along the defensive line for the upcoming season. However, age is a factor with the group, and adding younger talent to groom for starting roles in the future will be critical. Togiai could be a prime candidate for such a designation.
TOMMY TOGIAI’S COLLEGIATE CAREER
Hailing from Pocatello, Idaho, Togiai (pronounced TOE-ghee-eye) came out of high school as a 4-star recruit in 2018, per 247Sports. After receiving interest from several West Coast schools, including Washington and Utah, Togiai committed to Ohio State as one of the top interior defensive line prospects in the nation.
He enrolled early to get action as a true freshman, serving in a reserve role on a stacked defensive line that included future pros Chase Young, Nick Bosa, Dre’Mont Jones, and DaVon Hamilton.
His sophomore year saw more of the same before finally ascending into the starting lineup this past year, where he put up strong numbers (23 tackles, 4.5 for loss, with three sacks, two pass breakups) as the Buckeyes went to the National Championship Game. That said, Togiai could not participate in the title game due to COVID-19 protocols.
Coaches recognized him with second-team All-Big Ten as a true junior before he declared for the draft.
PRO DAY DATA AND ANALYSIS
Togiai went viral when he put up a massive 40 reps of 225 lb. on the bench press at Ohio State’s Pro Day on March 30, easily one of the best performances of the major Pro Day circuit thus far.
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) March 30, 2021
That number checks out on film for Togiai, who uses those densely muscular arms along with strong hands to influence blockers across the line of scrimmage. He’s got an assertive punch and also utilizes leverage to his advantage, which is critical when having length challenges. Togiai checked in with just 31 3/4” arms and is smaller than the average defensive tackle at 6-foot-1, 296 pounds.
Undersized tackles need strong athletic testing to prove they can win in other ways beyond physical stature, and luckily for Togiai, he showed out well in these areas. His strong numbers in the vertical jump (32”), 3-cone (7.2 seconds), and shuttle (4.49) all represent his explosiveness on tape. He was routinely quick off the snap and getting into blockers while searching for opportunities to shoot gaps and slip through crevices, which led to impressive stops in the run game.
Togiai also had a good 40-yard dash showing with solid splits. Ultimately, he’s a robust athlete who has a good enough profile to overcome his deficiencies at the next level with continued work on technique and the finer points of the game.
Tommy Togiai is a DT prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.12 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 115 out of 1298 DT from 1987 to 2021.
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 31, 2021
WHAT HE BRINGS IN 2021
If drafted, Togiai should slot right in a rotational role thanks to his strength in the run game. He has work to do as a pass rusher, it’s more hustle than anything at this point, but that’s understandable when you have just one full year of starting experience. That will limit his use on passing downs, where the team will likely opt for someone with a little more consistency.
He doesn’t have the frame of a traditional 3-4 defensive tackle, so the team would likely want to see him consistently above 300 lb. so he has the bulk to handle larger offensive linemen in the league. But, the single-gap focus of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ scheme should lend itself well to Togiai’s talents, as he likely won’t have to take on double teams on a routine basis.
There would likely be healthy scratches early on, but Togiai could see his time gradually increase with good showings in the weight room and on the practice field. He’d likely be first man up in the primary backup role if someone like Suh or Gholston went down due to injury.
With Suh (34 years old) in the twilight of his career and Gholston’s contract coming due, Togiai could be drafted with the expectation of starting within the next two years. That will largely depend on how well he can maximize his frame while picking up on the finer aspects of pass rushing.
Becoming a full-time player requires well-roundedness, but at the very least Togiai should hold down a prominent role in the rotation if his run-stopping prowess remains intact at the next level. Given Tampa’s focus on a strong run defense, as leading the league in that ranking the last two seasons would suggest, Togiai should help to carry on the tradition.
Lack of length and pass rushing acumen will likely push Togiai down the board into late Day 2 or early Day 3 range, but his explosiveness, red-hot motor, and notable improvement from 2019 to 2020 will likely get a few teams plenty interested.
As of now, the 3rd or 4th round seems like a good fit for Togiai. In my first Bucs mock draft, I had the team going with him in the second round at pick No. 64, which is essentially an early third rounder. If the Bucs like him, but not enough in the second round, it could be a gamble to wait until pick No. 96. A trade-down from 64 or trade-up from 96 could be in order to split the difference and attain optimal value.
ON THE CLOCK…
Bucs Nation, what say you? Would Togiai be a good fit for Tampa as a rotational lineman and potential starter of the future? Let us know what you think by voting in our poll and discussing your thoughts in the comments down below.