In case the gifs don’t work, I’ve included the links beneath them.
How do you judge a prospect that is only good at one thing?
How do you judge a prospect that is only good at the one thing your team desperately needs?
How do you judge: Tipa Galea'i?
This was the question that was bugging me when I sat down to look at his tape play by play. Now, to say that Galea'i is only good at one thing is a little much, but the part of his game that can help a team in 2020 is his ability to rush the edge with speed. It is his one truly elite gift. The rest of his game is a chaotic mess that needs significant amounts of technical refinement.
So we go back to the original question. How do you judge a prospect that is so unbalanced?
For me, I go back to the question Seattle PR threw around back when Pete and John were hitting on (what seemed like) every late round pick.
“We focus on what a player can do… Not what they can’t do.”
So is there a role for this player on this team? I would say yes. After trading Jacob Martin to the Texans, the Seattle Defensive Line became all power and no speed. Clowney, for all his gifts, is not a twitchy, bendy, speed rusher that threatens the edge. He’s a power rusher with elite explosion. Anash, in his prime, could do that, but the Seattle version of Ziggy Ansah was a shell of the former pro bowler’s self. Rasheem Green, LJ Collier, Quinton Jefferson are all larger, power type Defensive Ends. All were drafted to play inside and outside. And none of them are real threats to the edge. It was so bad last year that Seattle had to get Shaquem Griffin in on obvious passing downs to add some speed to the rush.
Seattle needed a true EDGE rusher. Seattle still needs a true EDGE rusher. A true LEO.
Enter Tipa Galea'i. This is a weak EDGE class, particularly in terms of LEO-type speed rushers. The hope is that Seattle will find a solution to this problem in FA, but with the price of EDGE rushers sky-rocketing and the amount of turnover on defense, there’s a chance that it doesn’t work out.
In which case, Seattle may be forced to look at the draft.
One late round guy that I think can help is Tipa Galea'i.
First let’s look at frame:
Height: 6’ 5”
These measurements aren’t official and I expect his height to come down. But, he still looks like a longer prospect. Particularly his arms, which I think will be no less than a respectable 33”. He is also very skinny when you watch him, and I don’t think it’s too hopeful to say he’s capable of adding 15-20 lbs.
This is a projection, but I think people would feel differently if Galea'i measured in at 6’5”, 255 with 33” arms. That probably puts him as a 2nd day pick. Regardless, I think Galea'i has the frame of an NFL LEO which makes him intriguing over guys like Alton Robinson and Kenny Willekes.
So let’s do a dive into why I think Galea'i has NFL starter upside.
Speed, Explosion, Bend:
The thing that will immediately stand out to you watching Galea'i is how fast he looks and how well he moves. John Schneider has talked about watching player’s hips at the combine for how flexible they are and I think Galea'i will pass with flying colors. He’s a very fast, very twitchy athlete.
You can see in the clip above how Galea'i can win with pure speed. Watching in slow motion really shows just how much faster off the snap Galea'i is than everyone else. Add in his ability to cut around the Right Tackle and get to the QB in about 2 secs shows elite speed off the edge. I recognize that he is untouched, but part of the reason he is untouched is how quickly he jumps the snap.
One thing you’ll see with him is he does seem to avoid contact even with a RB, but the athleticism to stutter step and hold the RB and then dart around him to force the QB to move shows the quick twitch speed and agility he has as an EDGE rusher. This a RB that he’s beating with speed, not a 300lb OL. This is something that can work in the NFL, especially if he can learn to use his hands better, but you can see the plan and ability to vary his cadence on his way to the QB. This will translate. Now, he needs more than this, because NFL players won’t be fooled if he doesn’t add another element to his game, but he can win a rep with this move in the NFL.
Another win without outright speed that shows where Galea’i needs to improve if he’s to become an NFL starter. If he gets better with his hands and isn’t so averse to contact, then he doesn’t have to take such a rounded path to the QB and ultimately probably doesn’t slip. But his pressure forces the QB to move off his spot.
I credit this pick six to Galea'i rushing the throw. The QB drops back looking to his left and when he comes back to his right, Galea'i is closing. I don’t think the QB has time to read the coverage and is hurried, leading to the pick. This is a good rep, but you can see the pattern developing with him and contact. This needs to get better.
Solid rush by Galea'i despite pretty poor hand use at the beginning. But again, you can see his ability to bend against contact and turn to the QB. I’m not sure there is a rep that more fully encapsulates Galea’i as a prospect. You see the speed and bend, but you see the lack of hand technique and power. This is him in a clip.
In 2019, Galea'i played more on the Right Side and had more reps with his hand in the ground. This rep shows his ability to jump the snap and shoot the gap. He blows up this Read Option and forces the QB inside. It’s a good play by the QB but still a good rep by Galea'i. The play also ends in a fumble which probably doesn’t happen if Galea'i doesn’t penetrate early. I’m not crediting him with the fumble, but it’s a good example of how he can affect a play and not show up on the stat sheet.
Processing and Savvy:
One of the most important things for an EDGE prospect is processing speed. How quickly does he diagnose the play and adjust his plan? This is definitely one of Galea'i’s strengths and one of the reasons I think he has a chance to outperform his draft stock. He has an intuitive feel for the game and processes the game faster than other EDGE players I’ve watched. His ability to read a play and adjust is NFL starter-caliber.
What the above rep shows is how quickly Galea'i recognizes where the RPO is going and how quickly he adjusts his plan of attack. He stops, reads the play and jumps inside because he knows where that play is going. Now I would call this a good processing/bad process play because if he takes on the pulling TE and forces the RB through the gap, 48 is there to make the tackle. It’s a recurring theme when watching Galea'i. He’s fast to understand what is happening, but his desire to make a play sometimes goes against what is best for the play as a whole. I’m not overly concerned with this part of his game. It’s pretty common with young players and a recent draft pick to exhibit similar tendencies is Marquise Blair.
This is another example of what I’m talking about. Galea’i ducks passed the TE at the snap expecting to be blocked, but isn’t touched. He knows the TE is running a route. When he sees the QB look to his right, he ducks outside to obstruct the throwing lane and when he sees the QB turn to his left he plants his foot and tries to close on the QB. Watching at normal speed it’s hard to tell, but watching it at half speed really showed me a player that is processing the whole structure of the play and adjusting well on the fly. I personally love this. Scheme discipline is important, and it’s something that Galea'i struggles with at times, but I like players that can adjust intuitively given different situations. Scheme you can teach, instinct you can’t.
Another savvy play by Galea'i. He explodes off the line, beats the tackle but is pushed off balance and has the situational awareness to grab the QB’s foot with one arm as he’s falling to the ground. Great show of spatial awareness, processing and athleticism.
Processing can show up in many different ways and it doesn’t always look like much. But this play shows a player that is learning as the game goes on. In the previous rep the RB cut blocked Galea'i out of the play. This play the RB tries again and Galea'i shows the athleticism and foresight to anticipate the cut block, and hurdle it.
Problems with Power:
For as explosive as Galea'i is, he has a major issue with his power. Either he is just averse to contact, or he doesn’t trust his ability to win with functional strength. Multiple times you’ll see a player that doesn’t want to engage with a blocker, and if he does, doesn’t know how to use leverage and power to win the rep.
This to me is a good example. He’s one on one with the RB, the RB is not set, and he has a running start. If he had any power to his game, he can bullrush straight to the QB, or use his hands to knock the RB off balance. Instead he dances around and waits for the QB to move up in the pocket before influencing the play. In the NFL, players will dare him to win with something other than speed--right now, he doesn’t look like he can.
More lack of power and technique. Doesn’t use his hands to engage with the blocking TE and drives with his shoulder and gets blocked out of the play. Technique is an issue here, but I think it comes from a lack of functional strength. You see this pretty frequently with Galea'i’s game, where he drives with his shoulder to try and win his block but ultimately just gets driven out of the play. There’s no control which comes from a lack of strength.
The run game is Galea'i’s kryptonite and it comes back to his lack of power. Again, he drives with his shoulder and his driven back by a TE.
The play is coming Galea'i’s way and the Right Tackle just shoves Galea'i out of the way. This will happen over and over when you watch him.
But then, every once in awhile, you get a rep like this. The run is coming right at Galea'i, but he squares up with the RT, uses his length and hands to shed the block, penetrate the gap and tackle the RB in the backfield. Plays like this are not all that common, but you can see how he can grow into a complete EDGE player. He has the length. With proper hand placement and power, he can win reps against lineman. He just doesn’t do it all that often.
In general, I feel like the term “raw” is thrown around pretty loosely and I don’t always agree with it. Sometimes a player just doesn’t have the athleticism to win and over tries. It can look like a confused player, but they simply aren’t gifted enough to make the play. Tedric Thompson comes to mind. When he tried to play fast and aggressive, he looked clumsy, lost and awkward. You can also get a player that doesn’t need refinement to win. A player like Antonio Gandy-Golden is a good example. He wins one way off the snap and doesn’t need more. His physicality trumps technique.
Raw probably applies to Galea'i, but I prefer to describe him as a player that isn’t playing in control. I think part of it is how instinctive and intuitive he is at processing the game. He knows what’s happening and wants to get to the play, but he doesn’t know how to react in control. It leads to some frustrating plays where he just looks chaotic.
The above rep is a really good example of what I’m talking about. The jet sweep is coming to his side and he knows it, so he shoots up field and… does nothing. He knows where the play is going but he doesn’t know what to do when he gets there. He just throws his weight into the blocker and gets turned out of the play. You can argue that he’s trying to turn the play inside and not give up the edge, which is fine, but he’s not in a position to make a play on the ball carrier. It’s uncontrolled play. The processing is there, but the technique and plan isn’t.
Hand technique is another massive problem for Galea'i. The above rep shows a player that has no clue how to use his hands. I think if I’m being very generous, I could say he’s attempting a chop, but there is no power, no force, no plan. It looks wild and weak and the results are expected. The Tackle is unaffected and Galea'i is taken out of the play.
Another wild swing of the hands that does nothing. You’ll see this a lot with Galea'i and it’s something that he will need to improve if he is going to be anything in the pros.
So what do you do with Tipa Galea'i?
I think the first thing you do if your Seattle is you wait for the Combine and see if he is actually as long as he’s listed. The next thing you do is see how he tests. Presuming he isn’t having a Jachai Polite offseason, I think he will test well in the explosion and agility drills.
Assuming there is no major red flag in his testing, I think I take him in the 4th round. On the low end, I think Galea'i is a Benson Mayowa type prospect and on the high end I think he can become a Chris Clemons type EDGE rusher. And weirdly enough, I think that Galea'i is well placed in Seattle, where you have plenty of players that can help him learn technique and power. Rasheem Green and LJ Collier are two players that are good at what Galea'i is bad at. But his speed, bend and explosion are so apparent in a weak EDGE class that I think it’s worth a Day 3 flier.
I like Tipa Galea'i and I see a path to success for him as a Seahawk. We still need to see how he tests, but I see a role for him as a rookie. At worst, you are getting a guy that can rush the passer and at best, you are getting a player that in his 2nd or 3rd year could be a cornerstone piece to this defense.
Grade: 4th Round
Best Trait: Edge Rush
Worst Trait: Functional Strength
NFL Comparison Spectrum (Low to High): Benson Mayowa/Demontre Moore-----Kyle Van Noy-----Chris Clemons
If Tipa Galea'i is not able to add functional power and technical refinement to his game, he will go the route of Benson Mayowa and Demontre Moore. A journeyman depth EDGE rusher that never adds much value to his squad.
If he is unable to add power, but is able to refine his play so that he isn’t a liability due to lack of discipline, I think he ends up like Kyle Van Noy. Van Noy was always a playmaker at BYU but he lacked the real bend/power of an edge rusher. He looked like a bust until Belichick got his hands on him and leveraged his instincts and playmaking ability.
If Tipa Galea'i is able to add power and refinement to his game, he’ll be a double digit sack guy in the vein of Chris Clemons. Both are long, thin, speed rushers that fit that LEO spot well. Remember, Clemons was a 4-3 LB in college and did very little from a 3 point stance. Galea’i will need to hit the gym and film room religiously to have a Chris Clemons type career, but the traits are there if he can learn to capitalize on them.