Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State: 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report

PULLMAN, WA - NOVEMBER 07: Mike Bercovici
PULLMAN, WA - NOVEMBER 07: Mike Bercovici /

Washington State’s Hercules Mata’afa is a disruptive force along the defensive line who may need to change positions at the next level.

Hercules Mata’afa is an extremely interesting prospect based on how Washington State uses him. He lines up all across the defensive line spending a majority of that time along the interior. In this position, Mata’afa uses his quickness to penetrate the pocket and wreak havoc in the backfield.

The interesting part of the situation is that Mata’afa is build like a linebacker lacking the bulk you typically see from a defensive lineman. He will have a tough time holding up in the trenches at the next level.

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However, Mata’afa is an explosive athlete who has a nose for the ball. He quickly reads his keys and works towards the football. His experience working in the trenches shows that he has toughness and will fight through blocks.

He has excellent lateral quickness that helps him slip past blocks on his way to the ball carrier. This is someone who is always moving with max effort and attacking the football.

Mata’afa could be this year’s version of Haasan Reddick who is seen as an extremely versatile defender. However, Mata’afa has a little more juice in his legs and looks to have a more explosive first step. This means that he could get more consideration as an edge rusher rather than a linebacker.

Pegging Mata’afa as an edge rusher would mean that he has to add some pass rush moves to his arsenal. Right now, he is mainly a speed rusher who uses his quickness and snap awareness to gain a step.

It’s possible that he’s a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker who does a little bit of everything. He features the type of athleticism that could translate to many different roles.

Mata’afa even strikes me as someone who would excel as an inside linebacker. He has the instincts, motor and burst needed to fill that role. His lack of experience in coverage would make the transition a little more difficult.

Overall, Mata’afa is someone who has a knack for making impact plays. A defensive coordinator will be able to see his skill set and find the best place for him to play.