Scouting Report: Levine Toilolo
May 19th, 2013
Let’s look at what I thought was an underrated tight end prospect in this year’s class in Levine Toilolo.
Height: 6-8 3/8
Speed: 4.86 (Combine)
Toilolo continues the trend that the Falcons apparently adopted in 2013 by selecting a player with NFL bloodlines. Three of his uncles: Dan Saleaumua (1987-98), Edwin Mulitalo (1999-2008), and Joe Salave’a (1998-2006) all played in NFL. Toilolo comes from an athletic family of Samoan Americans. A top recruit for Stanford, he started as a redshirt freshman back in 2010 in the season opener, but tore his ACL which lost him for the year. He came back the following year mixing in the rotation with Zach Ertz and Coby Fleener. He had a solid year, putting up slightly better production than Ertz. But as junior, Ertz would take off while Toilolo would sort of languish at the status quo. Didn’t have the breakout year expected, and had basically the same production despite the uptick in opportunities with Fleener in the NFL. He is primarily a blocking tight end, but possesses the length and athleticism to create matchup problems and wreak havoc in the secondary. He continues a strong tradition of Stanford tight ends in the NFL, with Ertz being taken in 2013. Fleener was the top TE drafted in 2012. Jim Dray and Evan Moore each were backups this past year, while Alex Smith was a productive starter in Tampa Bay before becoming a backup in Cleveland. His name is pronounced La-Veen Toy-lo-lo.
2012: 14 GP/14 GS, 24 rec., 393 yds, 16.4 avg, 4 TDs
2012 GAMES WATCHED
vs. USC (9/15): 7 targets, 3 rec., 47 yds (15.7 avg), 4 YAC (1.3 avg), 0 TD; 1 key block
at Washington (9/27): 2 tgts, 1 rec., 18 yds (18.0 avg), 1 YAC, 0 TD; 1 fumble
at Notre Dame (10/13): 3 tgts, 0 rec., 0 yds, 0 TD, 1 drop; 1 missed block
vs. Wisconsin (1/1): 1 tgt, 0 rec., 0 yds, 0 TD
These are general skills required for his position and relative to not only top collegiate prospects, but also NFL players. Grades are based on a 10-point rating scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite
Speed (6.5) – Is a long strider that has the ability to get vertical and make plays downfield. Isn’t a true burner, but he can get behind a defense and make them pay. Gets a good release off the line and can get up to speed fairly quickly on the vertical routes, but has less burst when asking to try and separate on shorter routes.
Hands (5.0) – Has strong hands that consistently catches the ball away from his body. Will high point the ball, but not consistently. Doesn’t always do a good job securing the ball against his body, leading to drops when he’s in traffic.
Blocking (6.0) – Knows how to get position when working as an inline blocker. Plays with good knee bend and his been well-schooled on blocking technique playing at Stanford. Shows ability to get initial leverage with good hand placement off the snap and can lock on. But he doesn’t have great pop or burst off the snap to create any real push as a run blocker. Struggles to maintain his blocks when working in space against smaller defensive backs because he plays a bit too high. Too often tries to use his shoulder rather than hands to try and get position at the point of attack as a run blocker. Won’t reliably get push in short-yardage situations.
Body Control (7.0) – Shows ability to adjust to throws in the air, able to get position on back-shoulder throws and fades. High points the ball in the air and can use his length to his advantage to extend for plays. Will adjust to low throws. Has that high-cut body type that limits his movement somewhat.
Range (7.0) – Has the ability to make plays all over the field, but shows his most potential trying to make plays downfield. His length allows him to make plays on throws that others cannot.
Toilolo has top tools, but never quite played up to them while in college. He would flash playmaking ability, but was never a consistent threat in the same way that Ertz and Fleener were. That makes him a mid-rounder that probably is best served targeted as a role player. His lack of consistently probably makes him a fifth round player, but his upside and athleticism probably push him up a round to make him a good fourth round target.
Grade: 4.4 - Good enough to be a starter at the next level, but if he does, he’ll struggle to compete against the quality players at the next level. Not a player you want in a key position and tends to be more a stopgap option for a few years rather than a long-term solution. Best used as a role player. Click here for more information on my grading system.
Toilolo is an interesting player because he certainly passes the eyeball test. As a 6-8 guy with good athleticism, you see why teams were enamored with him going into the season. I remember hearing before last year’s draft of one scout who wasn’t a big fan of Fleener because he was the third best tight end on Stanford’s roster in 2011, behind both Ertz and Toilolo. But Toilolo didn’t have the big season that was expected of him, and his stock plummeted from a potential first round pick to possibly not being drafted at all.
Toilolo just wasn’t very consistent at Stanford. But I also don’t think they got the most out of him, especially going from Andrew Luck to Josh Nunes and Kevin Hogan at quarterback this past year. I saw many times on film where Toilolo was open, but the quarterback went to another receiver (often Ertz). That suggests to me that some of his issues were due to not having a great rapport with the QB more than because Toilolo lacked ability to be more productive.
Toilolo is an effective blocker but he’s not overly powerful. Because he played at Stanford, he’s well-schooled on how to block. That suggests that he probably isn’t going to get that much better there at the next level. And that’s not quite good enough to think he can be a strongside inline blocker that a team can run behind. Instead, he’s more of a “help blocker” like Tony Gonzalez than a guy who you want matched up on an island with a quality defender. The issue is that he lacks power in his game. He gives good effort, but he doesn’t show the strength, power, or nastiness to really be a guy you can run behind. But Toilolo could improve if he was to get bigger and stronger. He probably has the frame that he could easily support another 10-15 pounds of muscle.
The player I would compare him to is Dante Rosario, but just a taller version. Rosario is a player that has the athleticism to create mismatches in the secondary, but in stints in Carolina, Seattle, and San Diego he was never able to put it all together to be considered a reliable starter. He’ll show up every now and then and make a couple of big plays, but for the most part he’s an average backup. That’s why I don’t believe Toilolo will be a full-time starter at this level. Like Rosario did in Carolina with Jeff King, if he was to start it would likely be splitting time in an offense that makes use of a lot of two-tight end sets.
The key for Toilolo in Atlanta is going to be building a rapport with Ryan early on. If Ryan is confident in him, then he’ll get some chances to make an impact. His initial value to Atlanta will be as a blocker since producing there will get him the most reps on offense immediately.
Ultimately, I could see Toilolo having production where he could reliably catch 25-30 passes and 4-5 touchdowns per year, but probably not be consistent enough to do more than that. A good comparison for his maximum upside as a starter is a player like Anthony Fasano, although I doubt Toilolo will ever be the blocker that Fasano is. When you’re a run-based offense like the Dolphins have been over the years, you accept Fasano as your starter. But if you want to be more a pass-oriented attack, his limitations become more apparent. With Toilolo, I don’t ever see him being the reliable chain mover that Gonzalez has been in this offense. Toilolo is probably ideally suited to be the fourth option in your passing game rather than second or third.
I think getting a year of working with Gonzalez will help Toilolo. The main area I think that it should impact is with ball security, where Gonzalez can help Toilolo be more consistent when it comes to securing catches in traffic. I’m not sure there is a lot else that Gonzalez is going to teach him, except maybe a few tricks with route-running and/or being able to put defenders on his hip and post them up like in basketball.
For the most part Toilolo is not an ideal long-term replacement for Gonzalez. Given Gonzalez’s ability as a pass catcher, it was unlikely that a single player would be a suitable heir apparent. It’s likely going to take at least two players to try and fill that void, and Toilolo is the first of them.