Over the next few weeks, we'll be breaking down all of the Jets' 2018 draft picks (and, eventually, the undrafted free agent signings) in detail.
Today we move on to look at sixth round pick Foley Fatukasi, a defensive lineman out of UConn. The 23-year old is listed at 6'4" and 318 pounds and was selected with the 180th overall pick.
Fatukasi wasn't heavily recruited out of high school but, after redshirting his first year, was immediately productive in a rotational role as a redshirt freshman, making three starts.
He was a full time starter over the next three seasons, anchoring the Huskies' line with solid play against the run and some good production as a pass rusher.
In 2015, he was an honorable mention for all-AAC selection, setting career highs in tackles (51), tackles for loss (eight) and sacks (7.5). While he wasn't as statistically productive over his last two seasons, he still had a major impact on defense.
After his senior year, Fatukasi played well in the East West Shrine Game and put up excellent numbers at the combine, causing some experts to project him as a mid-round pick.
Let's take a closer look at what Fatukasi brings to the table, divided into categories.
As you can see, Fatukasi posted terrific numbers across the board at the combine, apart from in terms of his 40-yard dash, which isn't that important for an interior run defender.
He has excellent size and the kind of length the Jets tend to look for in their linemen. In fact, two of his top five comparables are particularly noteworthy.
Fatukasi has played nose tackle at the college level and his ability to stuff the run inside could make him a potential nose tackle candidate with the Jets if he bulks up a bit more. However, Todd Bowles has already said that they view him as a defensive end.
In college, he played mostly on the interior, although he had more reps as a 3-4 end in 2015, which was the year where he had the most statistical production.
Fatukasi is a player who gives a great effort and bring a lot of energy, despite taking on a big workload. He regularly played over 60 snaps, including one game where he played 84.
He doesn't contribute much in terms of long-range pursuit but that's more down to a lack of range than a lack of effort.
Fatukasi was one of the most consistent run defenders in the nation over the last four seasons, grading out in the top 20 run defenders at his position in each year according to Pro Football Focus.
He takes on blocks well and holds up strongly at the point of attack, making as many plays by bottling up runs as he does by getting off blocks to get in on the play himself.
Here's a good play where Fatukasi (#93 and at left defensive tackle) holds up at the point of attack and then shoves his man aside to get in on the run stuff.
On this fourth down play, Fatukasi gets some good penetration and lateral movement so the runner has nowhere to go:
Fatukasi comes out of his stance with good explosiveness and can penetrate into the backfield as he does to make this stuff:
It's rare for Fatukasi to be blocked out of a play in a one-on-one match-up, but he can sometimes be caught out by a down block as he is on this play:
As noted, he's not particularly fast in pursuit, so he's unlikely to chase runs out to the sideline or bring down runners easily in space. Having said that, he seems to have got better at this from 2016 to 2017.
Despite being mostly known for his run defense, Fatukasi has produced well as a pass rusher with 14 sacks over the past three seasons. He didn't register as much pressure in his senior year as in the previous two years, but did have four sacks, showing his ability to explode to the ball here:
Much of Fatukasi's production comes from cleaning up, but he does display some quickness to shoot gaps into the backfield at times. When rushing the passer, he usually relies on his raw power to bull rush, but has also flashed an ability to use a spin move to get off blocks.
Fatukasi tends to rely a lot on his strength, but works his hands to fight his way off blocks. On this play he is able to toss his blocker aside to blow up a run:
When Fatukasi anchors against a double-team his technique could be better. He will often be knocked off balance and barely manages to avoid losing ground simply by stubbornly refusing to be moved rather than staying upright and anchoring so that he can see and react to how the play develops.
In the running game, Fatukasi does a good job of staying in front of the ball and wrapping up tacklers, but also closes on ball carriers well and levels some big hits.
He will sometimes miss tackles in space when faced with elusive players, but his tackle efficiency has been good and he's never missed more than six tackles in a season.
Here was a play where he had a chance to get a sack but missed the tackle in the backfield:
Fatukasi hardly ever drops into coverage unless initially rushing and then reacting to the play. He's done a better job of getting his hands up to contest passes in the last year or two, but officially hasn't been credited with any passes defensed.
However, he apparently got a finger on this pass, which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown:
He also blew up this pass play by driving his blocker into the path of the shovel pass so the ball deflected off him and fell incomplete:
Fatukasi's instincts are one area experts have identified as something he needs to work at. He has a tendency to react late to the play as it unfolds in front of him, often appearing to be too focused on battling to get off his block rather than using his natural length to take on the block and set himself up to react, which would improve his play recognition.
On this play, Fatukasi gets fooled by a fake and ends up getting himself caught inside as a result:
His feel for run fits can also be off, as he might overextend himself rather than staying in his lane. On this play, he takes himself out of the running lane and then gets sealed on the outside, again perhaps not anticipating as well as he should have:
There are signs his play recognition is developing well though. Here's a nice read and tackle on a short pass to get off the field on third and long:
Like most defensive linemen, Fatukasi doesn't contribute much on special teams. However, he has blocked a couple of kicks. He also had two penalties on special teams in his career.
Fatukasi has a good character and has done plenty of work in the community when in college. On the field, he displays good energy and gets fired up at his team making a big play.
He was regarded as an important leader at UConn. In one game in particular, he addressed the team, unprovoked, at halftime after they went in trailing 20-7 to Holy Cross. They avoided the upset by coming back to win 27-20 with several players and coaches identifying that as a key factor.
In that game, Fatukasi had been ejected for targeting early on. That was his second ejection as he was also ejected for fighting in the fourth quarter of a game against Villanova in 2015.
He had five penalties on defense in 2017 but never had more than one in his first three seasons.
Fatukasi didn't miss any time in college, although he was removed from one game with an undisclosed injury. In high school, he only played two games in his senior year due to injury, which was a major factor in him not being highly recruited.
Bowles has suggested that the plan for the defensive line is to have a deep group that don't play too much, enabling everyone to stay fresh as a result. Assuming he makes the team, Fatukasi can contribute in this area.
In the past, Bowles has stated a desire for his linemen to attack rather than read and react, which actually meant that Damon Harrison and Muhammad Wilkerson weren't ideal fits for what he often likes to do. Fatukasi needs to work on his play recognition, but shouldn't have any problems adapting to an attacking mindset if that's the approach Bowles takes this season.
Fatukasi is a player who has been on our radar for some time. He's been a consistent standout during UConn games over the past four years and should immediately be able to contribute to the run defense, with the potential of pass rushing contributions down the road.
Having said that, there are areas where he needs to refine his technique. Then again, what do you expect from a sixth-round rookie?
There's a lot of competition for playing time on the defensive line, but hopefully Fatukasi will get in the mix and contribute this year because he has a lot of upside and could be a productive player for the team for several seasons if he lives up to his potential.