The Philadelphia Eagles drafted TCU Horned Frogs offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai with one of their Day 3 selections (No. 164 overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft. We briefly profiled Vaitai last week, but I thought it would be useful to acquire an insider's insight as well. In order to learn more about the Eagles' new offensive lineman, I reached out to TCU SB Nation blog Frogs O' War. Melissa Triebwasser (@TheCoachMelissa) was kind enough to answer questions about Big V.
1) What are his strengths?
"I think Philly is going to really like Big V. He is the epitome of a blue collar kid - not a lot of finesse to his game, he just wants to get his hands on you and dominate you. He's a big dude, obviously - the nickname is certainly not a misnomer. He's got great experience with 30 starts under his belt, and he's a really smart football player. Playing in front of a guy like Trevone Boykin means you have to be able to move and adjust on the fly, and he became really adept at doing that. For his size, he moves really well, and he has room to add weight to his frame without losing much in the way of athleticism. He's such a heady player - you aren't going to trick him with stunts and twists, and he has a good sense for the opponent's game plan, along with the ability to adjust accordingly. He was taught well and plays with good technique and footwork. Also, this is just a really great kid. He's an absolute teddy bear off the field, the kind of guy who is going to get involved in the community and make a difference. He has great parents and an excellent work ethic. His best football is still ahead of him."
2) What are his weaknesses?
"Going into the draft, the biggest concerns about Big V were his hand size and lack of elite athleticism. Well, I think the hand thing is a little oversold, but I think there could be something to the worries about his athletic ability. Vaitai also has some work to do as far as strength - he definitely needs to improve his upper body strength to be able to push around pro defenders, as opposed to falling back on just out-sizing people. His footwork is good, but could stand improvement, and holding his ground on the edge is something that he probably hasn't mastered to the level he needs to to be successful in the pros. But he can definitely add to his frame, and in a pro weight regime, getting stronger shouldn't be a problem. He's not a sloth by any means, but depending on who he's lining up against, his foot speed could be problematic. The NFC has a handful of solid pass rushers, but I feel confident he can hold his own on the outside. If the Eagles do decide to move him to guard, he has a chance to be a really good one."
3) Big V played at left tackle and right tackle. Which position did he have the most success playing?
"Vaitai was behind Tayo Fabuluje at left tackle in 2014, a guy who was drafted by the Bears last year, which is why he slid over to the right side that season. He moved to left tackle this year, when Tayo graduated, and the transition was fairly seamless. It's hard to say that he was better at one position or the other, but because of the aforementioned 'weaknesses', I think he is best suited to the right side in the NFL."
4) How critical was Big V to TCU’s success?
"TCU had a thousand yard rusher and a thousand yard receiver for the first time in their history, and Big V was a big part of that. He was injured during the WVU game this season, limiting his snaps in the only two losses of the year for the Frogs - at Oklahoma State and at Oklahoma. TCU could do little on the ground against the Cowboys, and Boykin played his worst game of the year in Stillwater. Was that all because of Vaitai's absence? Probably not. But the OSU pass rush was one of the best in the conference and they bothered the TCU O all game. Big V was an important part of what was a really good offensive line for the past two years, and TCU played better with him on the field, plain and simple."
5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?
"The best case scenario for Vaitai is to have time to learn and grow into an NFL system. He's best suited to being a rotational player for the time being, and needs time to fully develop. Give him a season or two to grow into his role - and his body - and he has a chance to be a solid starter for the Eagles, or at worst, a plus rotation player and excellent backup."
Thanks again to Melissa. Make sure to check out Frogs O' War.