Instant analysis: Cowboys draft Notre Dame linebacker Marist Liufau at 87 overall

After addressing edge rusher and center with their first two picks on day two, the Dallas Cowboys had a chance to go in a multitude of different directions with their final selection of the night.

With plenty of talented players still on the board, the Cowboys ultimately decided to upgrade the linebacker spot, selecting Marist Liufau out of Notre Dame with the 87th pick.

Coming into the draft it was clear the Cowboys needed to select at least one linebacker early on. With Leighton Vander Esch’s retirement, and question marks surrounding Damone Clark’s performance and DeMarvion Overshown’s health, Dallas needed someone who could play significant snaps if needed alongside veteran Eric Kendricks.

The Cowboys have likely found that in Liufau. The Notre Dame product is an extremely willing tackler and will never shies away from contact. He’s tough as nails and will bring some much-needed edge into Dallas’ linebacker room.

One of Liufau’s greatest strengths is his first-step acceleration which he uses to always be around the football.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic had Liufau ranked as his 15th-best linebacker in the draft. Here’s what Brugler had to say about the 23-year-old.

A two-year starter at Notre Dame, Liufau played Will linebacker in head coach Marcus Freeman’s 4-2-5 base scheme. After a broken ankle sidelined him for the 2021 season, he ripped off 25 straight starts to finish his Irish career and was often the most en ergetic player on the field. With his closing burst and physicality, Liufau plays through contact well and punches above his weight class when working downhill.

His explosive energy helps him cover a lot of ground in a hurry, although he needs to play with better anticipation and control to be a playmaker in coverage and as a tackler. Overall, Liufau has intriguing traits with his length, burst and violence, but he must improve his play instincts to balance out his relentless play style. He should shine as a “core four” special teamer in the NFL while he gets coached up for a chance at meaningful defensive snaps (similar to the Las Vegas Raiders’ Divine Deablo).

Liufau will get a chance to make an immediate impact in year one and gives Dallas another young linebacker for new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to work with.


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