Continuing our series on NFL draft prospects for the Green Bay Packers, today we’ll highlight Ohio State IDL Tommy Togiai.
Tommy Togiai – IDL, Ohio State – 6’2″ 300 lbs
Pass-rush traits have been the focal point of many of this year’s top interior defensive line prospects. Ohio State’s Tommy Togiai, however, stands out because of his expertise against the run.
Togiai was something of a one-hit wonder in Columbus, not breaking out until his junior season. It was a special breakout campaign, however, with Togiai earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. In just seven games in 2020 he recorded 23 total tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, all three of which came against Penn State.
He plays with aggression on the inside, attacking offensive linemen with violent hands while also using his advanced technical ability and leverage to overcome an average athletic profile. He might be a hard sell as an early pick, but there’s still a lot to like about what he could offer as he develops specific role in the NFL.
When you break down Tommy Togiai, you have to start with his general proficiency against the run. There are multiple ways in which he’s able to slow down opposing running backs and beat offensive linemen. First, it starts with his ability to plug up holes and eliminate blockers with his effort and leverage.
You can see Togiai’s nonstop motor in action on this play, continuing to push the pile and leading the charge to devour the running back. He’s able to hold position and control the line of scrimmage thanks to his low pad level and excellent technique.
Complementing that trait is Togiai’s great first step. He doesn’t show elite speed on film, but he’s quick off the ball, which allows him to shoot gaps and make plays in the backfield. That was exemplified in the following play from Ohio State’s game versus Michigan State in 2020.
He’s lined up over the left guard, and on the snap he gets a jump on the blocking. Michigan State No. 67 reaches out to block Togiai, but the defensive lineman has already beaten his blocker with his first step, powering past him and lassoing the running back. This is where he’s at his best, when he gets off quickly and can attack ball carriers.
That leads us into his playmaking ability in space. He’s not the same kind of dynamic IDL stopper as Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike, but he does have the ability to move laterally and catch players on the outside. The next video exemplifies both his ability on the outside and a smart football play overall.
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford has decent mobility, yet Togiai is still able to pursue him all the way to the boundary and force him out of play. Any less speed or a worse angle and the quarterback can pick up a chunk of yardage. That’s a helpful skill for chasing down scrambling quarterbacks or going after ball carriers bouncing it outside.
That angle is where the “smart football play” element of the clip comes in, because instead of attacking too far inward he makes the right play by running parallel to the line, ushering Clifford to the sideline.
You aren’t getting an elite interior pass-rush prospect in Togiai. However, he is capable of getting to the quarterback thanks in large part to a reliable motor.
Togiai does a great job here of continuing to fight through the block, never stopping his feet and eventually ripping off the left guard to free himself for the hit on the quarterback. That type of effort can make up for some of what he lacks in terms of refinement as a pass rusher.
As we have already touched on above, Togiai isn’t going to “wow” you consistently with his pass rush. He’s not “bad” at that part of the job, per se, but you’re likely not maximizing his skills if you expect him to be an interior sack threat. That doesn’t mean he can’t do it, but it could limit his potential role and/or ceiling in the NFL.
There will be times he struggles against taller, stronger offensive linemen, so he will need to rely on his aforementioned technique and leverage to counterbalance that. Combine those potential struggles with what appears, for now, to be decent but not great athleticism and Togiai must be consistently quick off the ball and technically sound so he doesn’t get overpowered in the run game or completely eliminated against the pass. Those are worst-case scenarios and not the expectation, but they’re worth considering.
Togiai put plenty of impressive moments on tape throughout his breakout year, although it would have been interesting to see him against Alabama in the National Championship Game, when he would have faced one last round of NFL-caliber offensive linemen. It’s reasonable to assume there’s still untapped potential with Togiai considering his small sample size (he never played more than nine games in a season at Ohio State), and that’s what any team will be banking on when he’s selected.
For now, Tommy Togiai projects to be a two-down defensive lineman in the NFL. There’s a role for that type of player, and he’s capable of making a significant impact on those plays, but with minimal production as a pass rusher he will struggle to see the field in obvious passing situations. Even if a team views him as an elite run stuffer, his (currently) single-dimensional game will likely ding his draft stock.
He’s an interesting fit for the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay needs help against the run, obviously, and Togiai would make a logical fit next to Kenny Clark in the Packers’ odd front to address that need. Still, without an especially diversified repertoire it’s hard to justify Green Bay selecting him with one of their earlier picks unless his testing scores are off the charts. He makes more sense closer to the third round than the first for Green Bay.