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Draft Central | 2024

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Marist Liufau to Cowboys as 3rd Round Pick


FRISCO, Texas — Having now doubled down on the offensive line in their first three picks of the 2024 NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys saw fit to make sure the linebacker dilemma was potentially resolved when they went on the clock with their second pick in the third round.

With the 87th-overall pick, they selected Marist Liufau out of Notre Dame, a long, rangy linebacker who can cover a lot of space quickly.

Round 3, No. 87: Marist Liufau, LB, Notre Dame

Three things to know:

  • 2023 Butkus Award Semifinalist
  • 2023 Notre Dame Defensive Player of the Game vs. Navy
  • Cousin of Rams' WR Puka Nacua

Also an Official 30 visit in Dallas, there was a lot of interest in him ahead of the draft, and he'll also get to learn under the tutelage of both Zimmer and newly-signed former All-Pro linebacker Eric Kendricks.

Standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing in at 234 lbs., Liufau is Hawaii-born and has a football pedigree in his bloodline, helping him to carve out a name of his own on the national stage for the Fighting Irish.

One of the faster linebackers in the draft, he ran a respectable 4.64 second 40-yard dash (70th-percentile) and his wingspan works alongside his arm length to make it exceptionally challenging for opposing quarterbacks to take advantage of him — to the point where his most notable NFL comp is Darius Leonard, with collegiate comparisons to Edgerrin Cooper (Texas A&M).

Liufau is yet another Senior Bowl alum that caught the eye of the Cowboys, and his instincts are ready-made for what the linebacker position demands. His first step is decisive and impressive, and there isn't a lot of guesswork in his game.

On the reps wherein he does have a misstep, it's because he hesitated before accelerating toward the play but, once he does, he's a missile.

He plays to the whistle and takes attempted blocks as disrespect, violently shedding them en route to what is usually a sound tackle. Not many ball carriers can evade him in open space, or when he gets his hands on them.

It's a physicality, IQ and size/stature, reminiscent of Sean Lee.

He'll need to learn how to drop gears at times in the NFL, or risk overpursuits and compromising angles that lead to bigger plays, but there's a reason defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer put his stamp on this selection — Zimmer being highly demanding of linebackers who can be game changers.

It's because while Liufau has some room to develop into a high-functioning professional, which might happen sooner than later, once he finds his footing in the NFL, he could be a menace at a position the Cowboys are starving to resolve.

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