The Cleveland Browns drafted Tommy Togiai with the hopes that he could bolster the team’s run defense. Let’s break down how the Ohio State product fared his rookie season.
The Cleveland Browns looked to beef up the interior of their defensive line when they selected Tommy Togiai with their second pick of the fourth round in the 2021 NFL Draft. Togiai, a one-year starter at Ohio State, made waves by benching 225lbs a staggering 40 times at his pro day leading up to the draft. Although raw, the Browns were hoping they landed a future starter in Togiai.
Cleveland’s defensive tackle room was in flux going into the 2021 season, and it was unknown what role or how much Togiai would even play as a rookie. The thought process behind drafting Togiai was that he could be an early-down run stuffer as a rookie and develop his pass-rushing abilities over time. With his age and lack of overall reps in college, Togiai was viewed as a raw prospect with a conceivably high ceiling.
But during training camp, it was obvious that the rookie was not yet ready to be a rotational piece. Given the draft equity Andrew Berry used on Togiai, he was unlikely to be cut or make it to the practice squad. Instead, the rookie would make the active 53-man roster but was destined to be a healthy scratch while he worked to improve behind the scenes. That’s exactly how it played out for the first nine games of the season.
Togiai’s first action came in Week 10 against the New England Patriots. The rookie logged 22 snaps and made two total tackles. The majority of his rookie season would play out the same way. Used primarily as a rotational piece to a defensive tackle room that was extremely lackluster over the back half of the season.
Togiai’s most effective game came on Christmas day against the Green Bay Packers. He played 42 percent of the snaps and logged five total tackles including three solo stops. Although, the Packers’ game flow largely aided Togiai’s production, as they took the air out of the ball and looked to run out the clock at the beginning of the fourth quarter. But Togiai made the plays that were there to be made.
When all was said and done, Togiai appeared in the final six games of his rookie season. In his 124 snaps, Togiai logged 16 total tackles, nine of the solo variety, and recorded half of a sack. There were a few brief flashes of what he could do as a run stuffer but, as expected, he didn’t provide anything promising as a pass rusher.
Giving Togiai a rookie grade is tricky. It’s hard to say if he improved enough to earn playing time or if the bottom of the defensive tackle room just completely fell out giving him his opportunity. Only the Browns coaching staff knows that answer for sure.
Rookie grade: C-
The true test for Togiai will be how much he can improve from year one to year two. The good news for Togiai is the opportunity for a more consistent role will be within his grasp if he is able to make strides as the defensive tackle room is again being reshuffled. The bad news is, if Togiai doesn’t make a leap and the Browns bring in an influx of talent, he may get lost in the shuffle.