In just two seconds, Jonah Tavai can alter the course of football games.
San Diego State was leading 38-24 midway through the fourth quarter of the 2021 Frisco Bowl, and UTSA had the ball on SDSU’s 42 on third and 10.
The Aztecs lined up three defenders outside of the left tackle, and Tavai was one of them. In a mere two seconds of game time, he zoomed past the offensive line before anyone knew who to block and took the quarterback to the ground.
This is proof Tavai has been a formidable pass rusher in the Mountain West for years now.
Jonah Tavai Stats
Tavai was an Associated Press second-team All-American defensive tackle in 2022 while making the All-Mountain West first team.
Tavai led interior defenders in total pressures (69), sacks (10.5) and hurries (46) in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus. He was also top 20 with 32 tackles.
PFF graded Tavai the fifth-best interior defender last season. His pass rush was ranked second, while his performance against the run was 11th.
At 6-foot, 290 pounds, Tavai also brings versatility. Via PFF, he lined up at defensive tackle for 194 snaps in 2022, and he had 192 snaps outside the tackle.
Jonah Tavai Draft Projection
Tavai should go in the sixth round of the NFL Draft considering his production. Mock drafts have seen him go between the fifth and seventh rounds or going undrafted.
Jonah Tavai’s Defensive Line Impact
At his size, Tavai isn’t easy to move at the point of attack. He demands the attention of multiple blockers at once because he can win one-on-one in a variety of ways.
He has an impressive rip move, and he knows how to use his leverage well with it. He also has quick feet, especially when moving laterally.
Tavai isn’t fast in the open field, but he’s incredibly strong. He’ll use that strength to push some NFL offensive linemen around.
Tavai could be more consistent at maintaining and clogging up gaps against the run. But he can aid NFL teams in a plethora of ways, as he played defensive tackle and defensive end with San Diego State and even dropped back into coverage occasionally in college.
Overall, his versatility should make franchises consider drafting him at some point.