It's easy to make a case for Netane Muti as an elite guard prospect. In 2017, current all-pro Quentin Nelson was the only lineman in all of college football to have more big-time blocks (basically, PFF's term for pancakes) than 19 year-old redshirt freshman Netane Muti. Injuries limited Muti to only 318 snaps over the next two years but he was dominant when he was on the field, allowing only three pressures in that span.
The scouts are big fans of Muti too:
"Worthy of top-50 draft consideration on ability alone."
—Dane Brugler, The Athletic
"Booming upper-body power"
—Lance Zierlein, NFL media
"Ferocious, unstoppable force when at his very best."
—David Latham, Last Word on Pro Football
"Looks like Joe Frazier as a puncher and will blast defenders"
—Matt Miller, Bleacher Report
"He has played like one of the best guards in college football"
—Anthony Treash, PFF
This is a player that put up 44 bench press reps at the combine—good for third most in recorded history—and was frustrated. Muti has rare strength, and it translates to flat-out dominance on the field.
So why did the NFL pass on him over and over again until Denver scooped him up in the sixth round? In short, injuries. Muti ruptured his achilles tendon in 2018 and fractured his Lisfranc in 2019. And that's on top of another ruptured achilles that kept him on the sideline in 2016. All of these injuries are serious, and have limited him to only five games over the past two seasons.
The only question, then, is whether Muti's body will allow him to stay on the field. Here's a preview of what it might look like if we are lucky enough to see Muti suit up in the orange and blue.
My favorite of the above quotes compares Muti to Joe Frazier, and describes him blasting defenders. Here's the aftermath of one such scene:
Muti lays into the defender with enough force to bury him upside down in the turf six yards away from the action.
And he doesn't just impose his will on little defensive backs. Muti plays with such strength and intuitive feel for balance that if an opponent of any size gives up even a hair of leverage he's likely to wind up on the ground.
Muti's power really shows up when he gets the opportunity to hit players on the move. It doesn't matter if it's him or the defender that has the running start—Muti will win the contact, and the added motion makes the blows land even harder.
I would certainly not want to be responsible for setting the edge when Muti is pulling.
Muti's signature move has to be throwing opponents to the ground. It's simple and devastating, and happens exactly like it sounds.
He does it with regularity.
I've never seen anything like it, but it sure is effective.
Muti's even liable to start throwing people around when you'd least expect it, like on this outside zone run.
Or even while he's "letting defenders through" on a screen.
Tossing defenders: it's what he does.
Tricks of the Trade
In addition to simply throwing defenders around, Muti has a few tricks that he uses pretty frequently. One such trick shows up when a defender raises his hands to try and knock a pass down. As soon as Muti feels a lineman's arms go up, he is ready to take advantage and dump him on his back (LG). (By the way, the lineman he slams to the ground in this clip is Redskins starting DT and former first round pick Da'Ron Payne).
Once a defender's arms go in the air they lose leverage. And against Muti, that's a fatal mistake.
Hands up, man down.
Defenders can try to deflect the pass, but they're gonna pay a price.
Another of Muti's tricks involves delivering crushing blows to defenders that are engaged with other o-linemen.
Usually the unfortunate pass rusher is engaged with the center.
It's so effective because the defenders rarely see it coming and are unable to prepare for the hit.
Muti, on the other hand, can deliver a shot and then move on to his next assignment. In this case, that's the ILB.
Tenacious or Dirty?
Muti's play can toe the line between tenacious and dirty. He certainly has a mean streak that you (or at least I) love to see in a lineman.
One of Muti's favorite activities is mauling helpless defenders that he's knocked to the ground. It's fairly common for offensive linemen to momentarily squat or lie on downed defenders, but Muti is especially intense and aggressive. He's like a predator going in for the kill after delivering a crippling blow. There are lots of examples of this in the above clips, but here's another one in which he de-cleats a defensive tackle and then roughs him up once he's on the ground.
Is this both highly unpleasant for the defensive tackle and unnecessary for the success of the play? Yes, probably. But is it dirty? I'm inclined to say not quite...
Here's another example of Muti's tenacity. On this play Muti sees a player go down, so he leaves his own man to dive on top of the stumbling linebacker. The defender clearly feels wronged, throwing his hands up in appeal to the refs.
While the above clips show a nasty edge without (perhaps) crossing the line into dirty play, this next one is pretty cut and dry.
The play is over and the defensive tackle is just watching when Muti delivers the blow. And there are other examples where he puts serious hits on players when a play is already effectively over.
Here's another one.
I love the tenacity and edge that Muti brings, but I'd also understand if other players, or the refs, took issue with his style of play.
Netane Muti is capable of dominating defensive linemen in a way that rarely occurs at the college level. And the kicker—each of the clips in this article are from Muti's redshirt freshman season. He was absolutely imposing his will on both FCS and FBS defenders as a 19 year old kid.
That sort of feat requires some pretty special traits. In Muti's case, those special traits are a rare blend of strength, understanding of leverage, and ferocity. That combination reminds me of legendary sumo wrestler Asahoryu Akinori. Asahoryu was known for possessing greater strength than seemed possible for a man of his size (massive as he was). He combined that strength with an extraordinary feel for balance and leverage to defeat opponents that were often larger than he was.
Muti looks remarkably similar in the way he ferociously attacks linemen before slamming them to the ground.
Asahoryu also wrestled with a violence and ruthlessness that bordered on the unsportsmanlike. This extra shove is exactly the kind of move that Muti pulls on the football field.
Comparisons to legendary sumo wrestlers aside, Muti was about as impressive as a guard can be in college. And while it's true he played in the lowly Mountain West conference, Fresno St. faced enough quality opponents for me not to be concerned about the level of competition. These include Alabama, Washington, USC, Boise St. twice (ranked 25th at the time), Minnesota twice—all quality programs.
And his trademark strength showed up in those contests.
Here he is burying an Alabama DT.
Not to say that Muti is a sure thing—far from it—but the grave concerns are all injury-related. First and foremost is the question of whether he will be able to perform to his pre-injury standards. That Muti looked this good as a freshman cuts both ways—his performance is certainly more impressive because of his youth. But at the same time, it's fair to wonder if he will still be capable of those feats after several serious injuries.
The second significant concern is that he's only played just a little more than one season of college football. I'm not too worried about this because of how hard he balled out in those games, but nevertheless you'd like him to have played a bit more if only for the experience.
Despite the question marks, I couldn't be higher on this pick. The sixth round is precisely the place to be swinging for the fences. Every single player that's available at that point of the draft comes with a low floor. So you may as well take a guy with a sky high ceiling as well. Muti could easily never recover from his injuries and wash out of the league without playing a single down. In that case, he'd remain one of my favorite offensive line prospects in recent memory, but nothing more.
But there's also a very reasonable chance that Muti heals well and becomes one of the strongest, nastiest interior linemen to ever don the orange and blue. In that case, the league better watch out, because no one—not even his own teammates—is safe from a Muti smashing.