2021 NFL Draft: Khyiris Tonga Player Profile

Khyiris Tonga NFL Draft Overview

Position: Defensive Tackle
Height: 6’-4”
Weight: 321 pounds
School: BYU

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Khyiris Tonga 2021 NFL Draft Profile

Tonga worked hard to raise his draft stock during his time at BYU. The defensive tackle prospect was a no-star recruit, according to 24/7 Sports, and received very few scholarship offers. In a draft class lacking depth at defensive tackle, Tonga could be a prospect to target due to his large frame and upper body strength that plays on tape. 

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Tonga attended Granger High School. He originally committed to Utah. However, after graduating High School, Tonga spent two years on his Latter-Day Saints mission traveling through Wichita due to his faith as a Mormon. Upon returning to Utah, Tonga flipped his commitment to BYU. Due to starting college later and as he leaves a senior, he will be 24 years old by the time NFL opening day 2021 rolls around. 

Tonga played fairly often as a rotational piece his first two seasons at BYU. He started 10 games out of 26 in 2017 and 2018. He earned two sacks each season. As a junior, Tonga started 11 of 13 games played and made a career-high 45 total tackles that included just one sack. He considered leaving college for the NFL as a junior but returned for his senior year. Tonga made 36 total tackles and a career-high 3.5 sacks in 2020. 

Strengths

  • Overwhelming strength for the competition he played;
  • Light on his feet and fairly agile for a man of his size – uncommon agility for a nose tackle;
  • Read and reacts skills are a plus in the run game;
  • Pad level is consistent – quick off the snap and plays with leverage;
  • Strong tackler – rarely missed in the hole. 

Weaknesses

  • Lateral movement is limited – straight-line pass rusher;
  • Lower body doesn’t explode off the snap into contact – quick, but not a burst by NFL standards;
  • Not versatile – Stout in the game but limited pass rusher;
  • Didn’t dominate the level of competition – 23 his junior year, stats aren’t special;
  • Struggles in pursuit.
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NFL Comparison: Mike Pennel

Pennel listed as a full-time nose tackle in 2020 for the first time and played well as a rotational option for the Kansas City Chiefs. He plays with good upper body strength and is more agile than you’d expect from the nose tackle position. Tonga will likely have to earn time in a rotation to start his NFL career. 

Teams With Need at Position: Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Tennesee Titans, Las Vegas Raiders

Projection: Day 3 Pick

Bottom Line on Khyiris Tonga

Tonga eats up space at the nose tackle position with tremendous width and a large frame. He excels in the run game and uses his width to makes tackles in the hole without having to fully disengage from a blocker. When he uses his agility and upper body strength efficiently to shed blockers he rarely misses a tackle. He wins with brute force and a quick get-off that forces some pressure up the middle but he’s unlikely to contribute in obvious passing situations. That limits his draft stock. 

It is a red flag that Tonga didn’t overly dominate the level of competition he faced at BYU. He flashed as one of the better players in the trenches more often than not but he wasn’t consistent every series. The step-up in competition to the NFL could be a challenge for Tonga. 

Overall, Tonga is worth circling as a target on Day 3 for a team looking for a boost in their run game defense. He’s more at home as a nose tackle in odd fronts and has the desired NFL size to contribute. However, Tonga has to be more consistent if he’s to stay in the league. 

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