Cowboys draft prospects scouting reports for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Name: Atonio Mafi
Weight: 339 pounds
Atonio Mafi is an interesting case study. As a three-star prospect from California, Mafi opted to stay close to home and attend UCLA for football - as a defensive tackle. He played right away as a true freshman, though mostly on special teams. A year later, Mafi saw action as a nose tackle, and was actually second among Bruins defensive tackles in run stops behind none other than Osa Odighizuwa.
The next year, though, he was moved to the offensive line. He saw limited action at left guard that year, and the next season had him as the top backup at both guard spots, earning him some solid playing time in both spots.
That led to Mafi assuming the starting left guard spot this past year, where he played every snap. He had a very strong year, earning the third-best run blocking grade and fourth-highest overall grade among all guards from Pro Football Focus. That said, he’s only been playing offensive line for three years, with just one full season of experience, making his projection difficult.
Anchor: Mafi is a huge body, and with that comes a great anchor. He does not get bullied or pushed around, period. There are a lot of ways in which his tape is reminiscent of Tyler Smith, and both have excellent anchors.
Lateral Agility: For as many Tyler Smith comparisons as Mafi has earned, he’s not the same type of athlete. That shows up in his below average lateral agility. He’s not a swift mover and appears to be overly stiff in his legs, a common issue with linemen that big.
Point of Attack: Mafi plays like a freight train at the point of attack, slamming into defenders with reckless abandon. He clearly loves trench life, and thrives on the physical nature of the position.
Balance: He carries a low center of gravity, thus providing him with great balance as a mover. This goes hand in hand with his anchor ability, and really highlights Mafi’s bright future as a guard.
Hand Technique: Mafi is severely underdeveloped with his hands, but that’s to be expected from someone who’s only been playing offensive line for three years. He has great power in his hands, so when he does make contact with a defender you can see the raw talent there. But he misses all too often, which was an especially big liability in pass protection as it allowed defenders to more easily sidestep him and test his subpar lateral agility.
Run Blocking: Mafi was an elite run blocker this past year, and with improved lateral agility he can reach that same level in the NFL. He’s huge, powerful, and has the tenacity that offensive line coaches love. Like Tyler Smith, Mafi will impose his will on defenders in the run game.
Pass Blocking: Mafi has a lot of room for improvement here, most of which is due to his lack of experience at the position. He gave up the 12th most pressures of Power 5 guards in this draft class, which isn’t terrible but also not good. He should improve by leaps and bounds in pass protection as he becomes more technically refined.
Processing: Mafi appears to have a solid grasp of the mental part of blocking, as he rarely got beat with stunts or twists or looked confused as to what his assignment was. That’s encouraging to see from someone so new to the position.
Intangibles: The ultimate question with Mafi is how much more he can develop. He’s still very raw, which isn’t a surprise. That he was as good as he was this year, his first season with significant snaps on the offensive line, is promising. But his development is a big piece of his evaluation at the next level, and his coachability will factor heavily into that. The fact that Mafi was so willing and even eager to change from defense to offense seems like a positive sign.