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Broncos roster review: Rookie linebacker Derrek Tuszka

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Tuszka has come out of nowhere before to make a name for himself, perhaps he can do so again with the Broncos.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Butler v North Dakota State Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When I was given Derrek Tuszka for our 90-in-90 series, I mimicked UFC fighter Conor McGregor.

“Who the eff is that guy?”

Up until Saturday afternoon when I started the research for this story, I had no idea what the hell I would write about. Then as I started to dig in, I found perhaps my new favorite rookie.

#48 Derrek Tuszka, OLB
Age 22. 6’4”, 251 lbs.
College: North Dakota State

It doesn’t hurt that Tuszka is from South Dakota, even if it is East River. He comes from the town of Warner, population 500. It’s one of the smallest towns in the state, but as Jordan Reid said in his December profile, a big talent was hidden within it.

Selected by the Denver Broncos in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL draft, Tuszka will work to carry over his collegiate success to the NFL.

The Good

Tuszka was the defensive leader for the North Dakota State defense and a major reason the Bison won their third-straight FCS title (their eighth in nine seasons). His 48 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks earned him first-team All-American and Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year accolades.

For his career, Tuszka finished with 29.5 sacks as a three-year starter.

Tuszka also has good size for a rookie.

He’s 6-foot-4 and 251 pounds. Since he is a rookie, there’s potential to add muscle, as long as it doesn’t take away from his agility, explosiveness and speed. Tuszka was the only defensive end prospect at the NFL combine to turn in a sub-7 3-cone.

From Lance Zierlein’s profile on Tuszka:

  • Skilled with his hands as rusher
  • Uses well-timed bull-rush charge to catch off-balance tackles
  • Smooth punch to counter rip transition
  • Stiff inside hand to post and circle over top of tackle’s pass set

But it’s not just the success and traits that make Tuszka a promising prospect for the Broncos. He was a leader for one of the most successful collegiate programs in the country. It’s the common trait John Elway and the Broncos have used the last few drafts to great success.

Tuszka fits the mold for what Elway, Vic Fangio and Denver looks for in prospects. Plus, you can never have enough pass rushers.

The Bad

As Joe Rowles said in our draft roundtable about our favorite Broncos draft picks, Tuszka is coming out of the pond to swim in the ocean.

The jump from the FCS to the NFL is incredibly difficult.

As Zierlein said in his profile, Tuszka’s lack of length and explosiveness weren’t an issue in college but will likely be exploited by NFL tackles. Zierlein added that Tuszka may need to prove he can handle a transition to 3-4 outside linebacker.

Some of the weaknesses Zierlein mentioned:

  • Unable to rid himself quickly from a landed block
  • Below-average change of direction and closing burst to the ball
  • Plays with tight hips and a narrow base
  • Doesn’t possess the suddenness needed to out-quick an NFL blocker

Final Word

The purpose of the 90-in-90 is to profile each member of the Broncos current roster. Hopefully it helps shed light on some of the players fans have may not know a lot about.

I had no idea who Tuszka was prior to this, but the fact he was a leader for a championship team is enough for me. That doesn’t guarantee success or a roster spot, but given his background and work ethic, perhaps that’s the way he likes it.

After all, he came out of nowhere before. Tuszka may just do so again.