The nose tackle position in Dallas has been devalued for years, and that could potentially come to an end in 2020. With a new staff being put together, Mike Nolan will be named the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys under new head coach Mike McCarthy. Nolan, a long-time coach in the NFL has spent time as a defensive coordinator with the Ravens, Giants, Redskins, Jets, Broncos, Dolphins, and Falcons. He also was the head coach of the 49ers from 2005-2008. He most recently spent time with the Chargers in 2015, and with the Saints (2017-2019) coaching the linebackers.
Throughout his time in the NFL, Nolan has experience running both odd and even fronts, but one thing has been consistently noted regarding Nolan’s coaching strategy. The nose tackle position plays a pivotal role on the defensive line in both the 4-3 and 3-4 fronts he’s coached. That’s where Leki Fotu, a senior 2020 NFL Draft prospect out of Utah,, comes into play.
Name: Leki Fotu
Position: DL (nose tackle)
The first thing you notice when popping on Fotu’s tape, is the massive size. Listed at 6-foot-5, 335-lbs, Fotu has all the ideal traits to be a dominant 1-technique or 0-technique in the NFL. For a man of his size, he moves extremely well on tape, showing the quickness, athleticism, and elusiveness to make plays in the backfield, down the line of scrimmage, and even down the field. The former three-star recruit’s motor pops off the tape as well, as he’s consistently making hustle plays down the field, and chasing down running backs in the screen game. Fotu’s best strength is the amount of power he plays with in his upper and lower half, showing impressive force to control blockers at the point of attack, and control gaps even when double teamed. He has the first-step quickness to win one-gap penetration, but also the strength, size, and disciplined to excel in a two-gap scheme. He beat multiple back-side lineman to the landmark to make tackles for loss on film. Fotu is one of the dogs on the Utah defense as you see him consistently getting into shoving matchups post-play, the emotion he plays with, and his ability to completely take over a game at times. NFL scouts will love that nastiness about him when evaluating his tape.
Even with all the positive traits, expecting Fotu to be a consistent pass rusher at the next level is probably not the best trait he’ll bring to the table. While he showed an impressive arm-over, and dip move at Utah, I expected to see more when using his bull-rush. Far too often, Fotu would get stuck on a block because he fired too high out of his stance, and was unable to generate push, once opposing offensive lineman get into his breast plate. While he has impressive length, it seems as if he’s still learning to use it to keep lineman free from controlling his pads.
Fotu is exactly what the doctor ordered as a 1/0-technique in Mike Nolan’s new defensive scheme. It’s time for the Cowboys to stop looking past the position at nose, and start helping their run game struggles by plugging in a guy who can make it difficult for offensive lineman to get to the second level. Fotu has the arm length, power, hands, and quickness to find success at the next level, he’ll just need to continue to develop his pass rush moves, so he can more than just a two-down player at the next level.
Wait.. so you're telling me the Cowboys are going to value to fat man again?— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) January 6, 2020
Leki Fotu you have my attention sir. pic.twitter.com/xcC6XXJorx
Foot blows this play up with his initial push lined up over the center at 0-tech, but my word look at upper body strength to toss the iOL like a ragdoll.— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) January 7, 2020
That motor and hustle too. pic.twitter.com/mma4Fw2aOp
I'm in love.— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) January 7, 2020
Leki Fotu moves so smoothly for almost 340lbs, he's a dog too, check him after the play. pic.twitter.com/kG5sagygB7