by Christian Mott
Lineman: one of the most underappreciated positions in all of sports. Without them, football wouldn’t be the same. Team defenses can be elite or average based off their line play, while offense can go from elite to extinct. The reason for this setup is that a lot of good line talent doesn’t always start out as a first round pick. From Grady Jarrett to Hall of Fame inductee John Randle, late round guys on the Defensive Line can change a franchise. The Chicago Bears are hoping that Khyiris Tonga of BYU is the next great great day three lineman. He may be the biggest steal of the whole draft.
Khyiris Tonga – DT
Drafted: #250 | Chicago Bears
Athleticism sticks out when discussing Tonga. Tonga was an elite athlete on the defensive line for BYU during his time in Provo. Now, the 6’2” 320 lb player will compete to earn a spot in the rotation on an elite Bears defense. Joining up With Stud defensive tackles Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks, Tonga will face an uphill battle to make the roster. One thing to note is the great speed he has for his size. After running a 4.9 second 40-yard dash, he didn’t test in any other event at BYU’s pro day. Because of this, his draft stock hurt overall because of his lack of combine numbers. His explosiveness on tape was enough though for Ryan Pace to take a swing. Additionally, his big frame will be good for clogging up the A gaps at the next level.
“One thing I noticed is that this dude just clogged up the middle,” Nick Chandler said. “Typically you get guys who are big and are just that. They’re big and dont look like a football player that can move in any capacity. After watching the film, this kid looks like a football player. With the nose Guards in the league being asked to be more athletic, from a physical standpoint he is exactly what you want.”
Chandler also pointed out some glaring issues during that made him slide in the draft.
“Every play on film shows that his pad level is so high,” Chandler said. “His strength may have countered that in college, but he will get steamrolled in the league with that pad level. On top of that, he has good quickness. However, he lacks explosiveness which can hurt him as a pass rusher. I look at his San Diego State game as the perfect example of what he can do at the next level. Guys like this can be out of the league very fast playing that high. Luckily, pad level is something that can be taught.”
Chandler closed out the film session with this takeaway.
“Look he’s raw,” Chandler said. “Who wouldn’t be in his situation? The dude has only played four years of football his entire life. With that being said, is he ready? Of course not. However, he has every skill imaginable to be successful. Ryan Pace understands that and was willing to have him learn under Hicks and Goldman to develop into that kind of talent. If he can learn and adjust, he will end up as the steal of the draft.”
What should people expect Tonga’s rookie year to be like? Out of the three seventh round players BYU put into this draft, Tonga has head and shoulders the best chance to make the final roster. From there, Cougar fans should not get their hopes up for him to really see much action. A benefit that may help him see time is being part of a rotation.
It will be much harder for him to get rotational snaps simply because he is a nose guard and not an end. Typically, rotations at this position only go two deep. Sometimes they can go three deep. That could lead to Tonga not seeing any snaps as a rookie. Personally, that may be the best case situation. If Tonga gets a year to learn, it will set him up for more success than he would have in the rotation on day one. Overall, Tonga has all the physical attributes to be a good defensive player in the NFL. Now, it’s about learning the professional game.
Featured image courtesy Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News