2007 Draft: Paul Soliai

Is everyone rested? It's almost mock draft time, so I hope you've picked up your ESPN draft guide, read your Kiper and tossed your bones (and no I don't mean "toss" in the British sense or "bone" in the 4th grade sense or "tossed bones" in the 4th grade British sense), because I'm going to need your insight to fill out this draft. Before we embark in that undoubted bonanza of blog activity, let's address a position I think everyone agrees is a need, if nothing else for purposes of depth, Big-FAT-run-stopping DT. Tubbs' health is a question and facing a division with some of the league's top talent at running back, the Hawks could use someone who can fill space in the middle and keep blockers off the Hawks' mucho talented linebacker corps.

I was going to run a top five at DT, but someone up and broke the system. Seriously, who the hell is Paul Soliai and why is he so undervalued?

Paul Soliai

Thrust Burst Bench Shuttle
134.84 197.85 ? 4.69

Ok, so he hasn't recorded a bench. Like cursed frogurt, that's bad. And he has character issues, or at least he was suspended before Utah's game against Air Force. That's not good either, of course, but it's a long ways away from stock piling arms for your militia, too. What he does have is an insane combination of size and quickness. His 20 yard shuttle was already strong, but he improved upon it at Utah's pro day, posting a linebacker like 4.53. Ok, a slow linebacker, in the XFL--but the guy's 344 pounds!

Utah had the 22nd ranked rushing defense in 2006. That's not opponent adjusted, something virtually impossible to attempt in college, but, frankly, it was an easy schedule. Against 9th ranked rushing attack Boise St. they were eaten alive for 260 yards on the ground. Hmmm...I'm not exactly convincing myself here, either. Of course Boise St. went 13-0 and features the trickiest offense this side of Auburn, so let's chalk that up as Utah being outmatched by a clearly superior opponent.

Ok, maybe team performance is a rough way to evaluate an individual college player's performance. So, what do the wags say about Soliai? Scout calls him: "Powerful...quick first step" but also that he "wears down over the course of a game...not known as a hard worker"; NFL.com's Prospect Profiles imparts "unheralded talent...wide-body frame with massive chest and shoulder thickness, huge bubble, wide waist and hips, thick thighs and calves and an ideal frame to play in a two-gap alignment" but also mentions that "he does tire late in games". Sounds like he'd be pretty well suited in a tackle rotation, huh?

Of course, Seattle will not draft this guy. He's not undersized and isn't much of a pass rush threat. He has character issues. But then he might remind John Marshall of Kris Jenkins. Jenkins was one of the league's best tackles before consecutive years swallowed by injury. Soliai has that same incredibly rare combination of size and quickness and could be had as late as the 4th round. The team that takes a chance on him may be getting the draft's best defensive lineman, a player with rare potential. In the past two years Tim Ruskell has effectively identified players whose head and heart surpass their bench and forty, but this year it might be time to change gears. "Character" no doubt will be a watchword in the 2007 draft, thanks in no small part to a rash of violent-miscreantism in the NFL, but as surely as it was undervalued in former drafts it might be overvalued in this draft. Does Soliai have questions about his character? Absolutely. Is he a bad guy? I haven't a clue. Should the Hawks draft him if he falls to the late 4th round? Absolutely.

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