Hercules Mata’afa had nothing more to prove. That’s why he declared early for the NFL Draft, but things didn’t quite go according to his plan: the consensus all-American went undrafted and has signed a free agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings.
Despite that, Mata’afa is an intriguing NFL prospect. He excelled on the defensive line at Washington State, even at a smaller size. The six feet and two inches were fine, but the 252 pounds he played at doesn’t exactly match the typical body image of a defensive tackle, where he often lined up. He projects as a linebacker or defensive end in the NFL, but he played exactly zero snaps at the linebacker position in college.
So, he’s a tweener in that he probably won’t play his college position in the NFL, but he’s not quite a proven linebacker. He could also line up as a defensive end and should get time on special teams, I presume.
One NFL regional scout told NFL.com, “He makes plays all game long but how do you play him at tackle? You can’t. He has to prove he can play on the edge and my guess is he’s just a guy on the edge. Maybe I’m wrong. He plays harder than anybody on the field so maybe it can work.”
Mata’afa had plenty of highlights at WSU. This is tops for me:
Theory: Bryce Love opted to return to Stanford so he wouldn’t have to go up against Herc for another year. I bet he still has nightmares from that hit.
This one’s not far behind:
In addition to those plays, his performance in Salt Lake City this past season sticks out. While the offense was hot and cold throughout the game, the #SpeedD was phenomenal, and Mata’afa was at the center of it. He had three sacks and five tackles for loss, as well as a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
You might say he was the reason WSU won that game.
He finished his three-year career at WSU in 2017 with 22.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Enjoy yourself some Herc highlights:
Congrats to Mata’afa. I’m looking forward to seeing where he ends up on the field in the NFL.