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Unpacking Future Packers: No. 99, Washington edge rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui

The Unpacking Future Packers Countdown is a countdown of 100 prospects who could be selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 2024 NFL draft.

When Zion Tupuola-Fetui takes the field against the Texas Longhorns on New Year’s Day, it could mark the final time the edge rusher dons a Washington Husky uniform. If so, it’s been quite the journey for the former three-star recruit from Hawaii.

During his first season on campus, ZTF played in just two games to preserve his redshirt status. It wasn’t until the 2020 COVID-19 shortened season that ZTF started his first collegiate game. In just four games, he recorded seven sacks and 20 pressures

Then, in spring ball leading up to the 2021 season, he tore his Achilles. He returned after missing five games to open the season and recorded one sack before missing the final two games due to a concussion. 

In 2022, ZTF recorded 4.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and 32 pressures. He enters the College Football Playoff matchup against Texas with five tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and 24 pressures. It’s a season in which ZTF lost his father in the middle of the season.

Zion has been an important part of the pass rush plan,” Roman Tomashoff, a UW writer for SI.com, said. “With a lot of youth behind him, he has been asked to play a ton of snaps and has done a great job, especially developing in run support.”

A big hurdle for ZTF during the pre-draft process will be his medicals. After suffering a torn Achilles back in the spring of 2021, the UW edge rusher has worked his way back to form. A few years removed from that injury, the former three-star recruit put together his best season since the breakout 2020 campaign. 

“He displayed far more athleticism this season and he was really impressive with his get-off,” Tomashoff said. “He has lined up all over the formation to display his athleticism, he even took a few pass rush snaps where he lined up at inside linebacker.”

ZTF has adequate initial quickness off the snap and converts speed to power. He has powerful, active hands. The former three-star recruit displays natural pass-rush instincts and has a deep bag of tricks to get after the quarterback. He uses his long strides to quickly close on the quarterback. 

“He offers a lot of speed,” Tomashoff said. “While he’s lost some of the power he had playing at 280 pounds he’s developed more of a pass rush plan and has improved with counter moves.”

ZTF is an inconsistent edge-setter. He’s powerful at the point of attack, but the consistency from snap to snap is lacking. He can get skinny and shoot gaps to disrupt the action in the backfield.

“He emphasized a commitment to setting the edge all spring and fall,” Tomashoff said. “While it is still clearly coming along, he has certainly made strides in that department.”

Fit with the Packers

A team can never have enough pass rushers and as it stands right now the Green Bay Packers have a formidable stable of edge rushers. Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Lukas Van Ness and Kingsley Enagbare are all scheduled to return next season and it’s safe to assume that Van Ness will see an uptick in snaps during his second year in the league. 

What if the Packers move on from Smith? The veteran edge rusher will turn 32 in March and could wind up being a cap casualty. On top of that the Packers may be comfortable moving Van Ness into a starting role next season. 

Regardless of what happens with Smith, if a team thinks they have enough edge rushers they should add another for insurance. ZTF is slated to be a day-three pick and would provide Green Bay with quality depth and a player who once looked like a potential Top 50 pick before suffering a torn Achilles.  

On top of everything that ZTF brings to the football field, he’s a leader and a player who will likely interview well during the pre-draft process.

“I think he can be a really good rotational piece along the defensive line as a pass rusher,” Tomashoff said. “Zion has matured over the past few seasons and has grown as a leader, and offers a lot in terms of his potential because he still seems to be learning to play at a lighter weight.”

ZTF projects as a rotational edge rusher. With his pass-rushing upside, the Packers could roll the dice on the Washington edge rusher on day three of the 2024 NFL Draft as they look to add more depth on the edge. 

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire