Tyler Shelvin is a big deal.
LSU’s behemoth brick-wall nose tackle has the potential to be one of the biggest steals of the NFL Draft, but he’ll need to answer some of the bigger question marks that have followed him throughout his football journey.
Can the 6-foot-2-inch, 350-pounder maintain an acceptable playing weight (he missed games in 2018 when he ballooned to near 380)? Can he improve his pass-rush repertoire to become a more effective three-down player?
Shelvin, an unheralded yet high-impact player for the Tigers during their national championship run in 2019 before opting out over COVID-19 concerns in 2020, has been answering those questions a lot during the predraft process.
“There are two main questions from almost every team that I usually get and am ready to answer,’' he said following his recent pro day. “One obviously is about my weight, and two, if I’m a good pass rusher. So, I mean, that’s the main things I really focus on because my football game speaks for itself when Saturday comes so, I mean, it’s just learning how to control those things.
“When I opted out, I learned about nutrition. I mean, when I got out to Exos [Performance Center in Dallas] I had a game plan, we executed it well, and I came back in good shape and I was ready to go, and that goes for the same thing on how to pass rush and be explosive. I mean, it was a hard process, but I executed it well.”
Shelvin fits the profile as a classic two-gap run stuffer who can eat up space and occupy multiple blockers, creating room for his teammates to locate the ball and make plays. He won’t collect a lot of statistics, but his tackling buddies surely will.
When Shelvin is engaged, he’s like a tree stump in the middle of the line and won’t easily be moved off his spot. He’ll give maximum effort early, but he must maintain his conditioning to be consistently effective in the NFL.
Shelvin has drawn comparisons with Vince Wilfork when the former Patriot was coming out of Miami, and while he possesses a similar body type, Wilfork’s athleticism and light feet were special. Shelvin is probably best suited in the middle of a three-man front, while Wilfork could move up and down the line.
If Shelvin can get a tad lighter and improve his quickness, the tools are there to be effective at collapsing the pocket.
“A few things that I worked on with my pass rush, learning how to get off my steps, reading the center, guard, [and] tackle [and] how they set, because most of the interviews that I did with some coaches, they took me through a progression of how they pass rush, so I had to adapt to how they coach it and how I did on my own, and apply that to how I did it on my own,’’ Shelvin said. “I mean, just learning how to take my steps, reading high hand, low hand.
“[At pro day], we did big bags and I’m a very good spinner, when I’m rushing the passer, so that was a plus and I showed my quickness, how twitchy I am, how quick I am reading the guards, tackles, and centers, so it was a good process, learning how to pass rush.’’
It’s also fair to question whether football is truly important to Shelvin. Aside from his fluctuating weight, he missed time on the field in high school and college because of academic issues.
“What I tell most teams who might want to pick me: ‘I’ll give you 110 percent of me, day in day out.’ I mean, because it’s the next level and you’ve got to work for what you want, but the most [important] thing I really tell these teams is, I don’t care about a paycheck,’’ he said. “I just want my name to be out there, be known. I really want to get into a yellow jacket and be in the Hall of Fame. That’s going in, putting in the work, day in and day out. Just getting your name known.’’
Following the 2019 season, Shelvin was thought of as a possible first- or second-round selection, but opting out hurt his stock, with some scouts suggesting he should have stayed in school for another year of polishing. He hasn’t played a game snap in 15 months.
Shelvin is counting on teams putting stock into his 2019 campaign and the work he’s done since.
“I related everything to the 2019 season, what you’ve seen on film, that’s what I put out there,” he said. “I think I did an excellent job at that time, but I knew what I was getting myself into and what to prepare for, such as my pass rush and my weight, so I mean, I worked on those things, day in day out.’’
The Patriots invested heavily to build tackle depth, re-signing Lawrence Guy and adding Davon Godchaux and Montravius Adams in free agency. Byron Cowart, Akeem Spence, Carl Davis, and Bill Murray will fight for spots.
The position isn’t a high draft need, but if Shelvin were still around in the middle rounds, his potential might be too tempting to pass up.