Hybrid Linebacker Marte Mapu Shines in Coverage | Washington Commanders
Updated: Apr 15
By Adam Aniba
This year's draft class features a wide array of hybrid defensive prospects. One particular small school prospect, displayed tremendous upside in coverage as a hybrid LB/S and garners more attention.
Sacramento State's Marte Mapu played most of his career as a subpackage defensive back and safety, but also was a standout on special teams. If not for a February '23 offseason injury, Mapu would be in the discussion as a late Day 2 selection.
Linebackers who excel in coverage are difficult to find and Mapu is the type of Day 3 prospect worth developing.
6'2" 217 lbs | LB | Sac St
Proj Late 5th-6th Rd
Career (41 Games)- 94 TAK (71 solo), 13 TFL, 1 SACK, 2 QBH, 1 FF, 7 INTs, 22 PD & 1 BK
'22 Stats (12 Games)- 76 TAK (42 solo), 6.5 TFL, 1 SACK, 2 QBH, 1 FF, 2 INTs & 4 PD
Mapu grew up in Hawthorne, CA playing football for Hawthorne HS. Mapu played two-way football, lining up quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker, safety and cornerback.
Although he wasn't highly recruited, he was invited to the West Torrance Lions All-Star Game his senior year.
Mapu is viewed as a hybrid prospect without a defined position, but had multiple roles on defense with various degrees of success.
Mapu received little national attention and accepted an offer to play for Sacramento State. In his first season, he wouldn't see the field as a redshirt freshman.
The following season Mapu played in 5 games, predominantly on special teams, but did see sporadic snaps at weakside linebacker (6 total tackles).
Unfortunately before Mapu had the opportunity to see extended time on defense, he went down with a pectoral injury vs UC Davis, which resulted in him missing the rest of the season.
In 2019 Mapu looked 100% recovered from his '18 injury and appeared in 11 games (2 starts at strong safety). He finished the season with 18 total tackles (13 solo), 1 tackle for a loss and recorded his 1st career interception vs N.Colorado.
The '20 season would be canceled before a game was played due to the COVID pandemic. In '21 Mapu started all 12 games, but predominantly was utilized at nickelback/buffalo nickel where he shined in coverage.
He was named 2nd Team All-Big Sky as an outside linebacker for his play. Mapu finished the '21 season with 65 tackles (2nd on the team), 4 interceptions (tied team lead) and 10 pass breakups (averaged a pass break up in 8 games).
In '22 Mapu was named 1st Team All-America by the Associated Press and Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year, playing the majority of snaps at outside linebacker/nickelback.
Mapu finished 2nd on the team with 76 tackles and displayed improvement vs the run with 6.5 tackles for a loss. His 2 interceptions came in the first two games of the season and recorded a minimum of 3 tackles per game during his final season.
Unfortunately during a bench press session this past February, Mapu tore his pectoral muscle which required surgery. The Sacramento State linebacker advised NFL teams, he'll be fully cleared in a few months and will be ready to participate in training camp this summer.
Displays the ability to mirror pass catchers and excelled when covering athletic tight ends (detailed understanding of route concepts)
Length stands out with contested catches, measured 78 3/4” arm length and wingspan 33 ½” during the Senior Bowl
Offers positional versatility and coverage support at multiple positions
Impressive straitline speed (teammates say he ran in the 4.5 sec range in the forty)
Disciplined and gap sound when playing the run
Issues with blocksheding in the run game
WIll need to bulk up and build up his frame to be a full-time NFL linebacker
Questions remain if he can consistently play linebacker
Has torn pectoral muscle twice since 2018
Guilty of taking bad tackling angles when out of position
Mapu lined up at linebacker during the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl & Senior Bowl. He shined in coverage, displaying impressive instincts and was also stout coming downhill in the run game.
Although Mapu wasn't able to participate during his pro day, he had the following to say to The Sacramento Bee after the event.
“I know the gaps, I know the responsibilities, but being out there (at linebacker) was a little bit different.”
Mapu is a work in progress, in saying that his ability in coverage translates to the modern NFL with flex-tight ends running 4.5 second forty. He has the ceiling to be an effective weakside linebacker, but teams might also see how he fares at middle linebacker.
The small schooler can be an immediate contributor on special teams and can contribute in obvious passing downs, where he excels in coverage. Mapu will be a steal if still available late on Day 3 of the draft.
*Games Watched- 9/3/22 vs Utah Tech, 9/17 vs UNI, 9/24 vs Colorado St., 10/6 vs N.Colorado, 10/22 vs Montana & 11/19 vs UC Davis
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