Mata‘afa’s big tryout

Lunas, Washington St. star projected 4th-, 5th-round pick after NFL Combine drills

Washington State defensive lineman Hercules Mata‘afa of Maui runs a drill at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Sunday. • AP photo

Hercules Mata’afa, a 2014 Lahainaluna High School graduate and standout defensive lineman at Washington State, was projected as a fourth- or fifth-round draft choice by NFL.com after completing drills at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Sunday.

Mata’afa was clocked in 4.76 seconds in the 40-yard dash on Sunday, while also recording a vertical jump of 31.5 inches and a broad jump of 108 inches. In the three-cone drill, he was timed in 7.24 seconds, and 4.37 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle.

On Saturday, he recorded 26 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press and held interviews with teams.

Winner of the Pac-12 Defensive and Polynesian Player of the Year awards and a consensus All-American as a redshirt junior for the Cougars last season, Mata’afa was measured at 6-foot-1, 254 pounds, with 31¢-inch arms, and his hands were 10™inches.

His 5.40 prospect grade at NFL.com equates to a projected “NFL backup or special teams potential,” according to the grade scale on the website.

Hercules Mata‘afa ran 4.76 seconds in the 40-yard dash. • AP photo

NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein said in his overview on NFL.com that Mata’afa is a tough read for the draft that is set for April 26-28.

“Mata’afa is a challenge to project based on the fact that his tape features him as an interior lineman who won with quickness when matched against players who were 50-70 pounds heavier than he was,” Zierlein wrote. “He has the size of a 3-4 outside linebacker but may lack the athletic traits and skill level as a rusher to fit right in. His motor and desire give him a chance to become a high-end special teams star and teams might be wise to utilize Mata’afa as an interior rusher in sub-packages.”

Among Mata’afa’s strengths listed on the website are “known as the toughest guy in the locker room” and “every snap is important to him.”

A mock draft posted on NFL.com by analyst Chad Reuter that was updated Friday projected Mata’afa to go in the second round with the 58th overall pick to the Atlanta Falcons.

* Robert Collias can be reached at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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