It was a little less than a year ago that Hercules Mata’afa tore his ACL during Organized Team Activities with the Minnesota Vikings. He was on track to become one of the more intriguing stories of the preseason for the purple, largely because nobody knew where, exactly, the team was going to play him. He started off OTAs working with the linebackers, but at the time of his injury had been shifted to work with the defensive line.
Now, if we can infer anything from a tweet that he sent out earlier on Friday, the Vikings might have a different plan for him entirely.
i’m doing things people said i could never do #3tech— Hercules Mata'afa (@herculesuluao50) May 24, 2019
The tweet from Mata’afa seems to imply that he’s, at the very least, getting a look at the “three technique” defensive tackle spot, the spot that was occupied last season by Sheldon Richardson, who has moved on to the Cleveland Browns. Right now, that spot is pretty well wide open, with players like the newly-acquired Shamar Stephen and second-year man Jalyn Holmes apparently vying for the position.
Now, it’s not entirely crazy to think that Mata’afa would be lining up at the defensive tackle spot. After all, that’s where he spent a lot of his time in college at Washington State, and in his final season with the Cougars he was a Consensus All-American and the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. However, it would appear that he’s amazingly undersized for the position at the NFL level. The Vikings’ official roster page lists Mata’afa as weighing in at 254 pounds. That’s roughly the same weight as linebacker Anthony Barr, who isn’t going to be seeing any snaps at the three-tech spot anytime soon.
I suppose that the idea of Mata’afa as a situational pass rusher from the three-tech spot does have some merit to it, but it’s still surprising to see that it could, potentially, actually be happening.
I was one of the many that was pretty intrigued with Hercules Mata’afa when the team signed him as a free agent and was curious about what the team was going to do with him. This opens up a lot of potential possibilities, and makes him a player to keep an eye on once again as we get deeper into OTAs and closer to the start of Training Camp.