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July 11, 2016

Eagles rookie NFL player comparisons: Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Eagles NFL
070916HalapoulivaatiVaitai Tony Gutierrez/AP

Big V.

Leading up to training camp, as we did last year, we'll be comparing each of the Eagles' rookies to current NFL players. In case you missed the first four Eagles draft picks comps, you can find them below:

     • Carson Wentz, QB, 1st round
     • Isaac Seumalo, C/OG, 3rd round
     • Wendell Smallwood, RB, 5th round

Today we'll find a comp for OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai. By far, Vaitai was the hardest Eagles rookie draft pick to compare to a current or former NFL player. As a player, Vaitai isn't the most athletic guy, and he struggled with speedier pass rushers at the college level.

For example, here's 227 pound Eric Striker getting inside of Vaitai after Vaitai over-committed to an outside speed rush.

And here's Oregon's DeForest Buckner drawing a holding call on a similar inside move.

However, Vaitai does get good movement in the run game. Unfortunately for Vaitai, in TCU's spread offense, he didn't often get the chance to bury opposing defenders on power runs. When he did, he was impressive. Here's Vaitai murdering an edge player on a trap play:

Here he is pushing Cowboys 4th round pick Charles Tapper four yards off the line of scrimmage, creating a space for the back to make some impressive moves of his own:

And here he is doubling Tapper, before getting to the second level and riding the linebacker off the field:

When looking for player comps, I discovered that he actually had very similar workout numbers as former Eagle Todd Herremans:

Measurable Halapoulivaati Vaitai Todd Herremans 
 Height6'6 6'6 
 Weight320 321 
 40 yard dash5.26 5.20 
 Vertical jump 2930 
 Bench press 2320 

However, Herremans showed much more athleticism on tape than Vaitai. (I just thought it was interesting to show the similar numbers). I think a better comp would be former Penn State and New York Giants OT Kareem McKenzie, who had a similar lack of athleticism, but made up for it with run blocking skills and underrated footwork. Vaitai's measurables are similar to McKenzie's as well:

Measurable Halapoulivaati Vaitai Kareem McKenzie 
 Height6'6 6'6 
 Weight320 328 
 40 yard dash5.26 5.33 
 Vertical jump 2933 
 Broad jump 113103 
 20 yard shuttle 5.004.80 
 Bench press 2320 

McKenzie had an 11-year career from 2001 to 2011, playing at RT during an era when RT was markedly easier than playing LT. After Lane Johnson moves from RT to LT, Vaitai may have the opportunity to win the RT job. However, the game is changing on the edges, in that opposing defenses are beginning to put their best pass rushers up against the RT, when in the past they would typically rush from the blind side. Vaitai will have to improve his ability to handle speed rushers if he's going to have a career anywhere near as long as McKenzie's.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski