As the San Francisco 49ers flew out their members of the scouting department during college Pro Days across the nation during the week of March 20, a contingent led by general manager John Lynch covered the Bay Area bases — including motoring 10 miles south on Highway 101 to check in on San Jose State.
It was there Lynch and company saw the “hot motor” cousin of Super Bowl 55 champion Vita Vea per 49ers insider for The Athletic Matt Barrows: Spartans star edge rusher Viliami Fehoko.
Barrows called the 6-foot-4, 282-pounder the star attraction of the SJSU Pro Day held on Wednesday, March 22 — which included running a 4.75 40-yard dash time. Fehoko, the reigning 2022 Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year, has additionally drawn praise from The Draft Network.
“Fehoko plays with a hot motor — he does not stop attacking offensive linemen,” TDN’s Damian Parson wrote in their evaluation of the second cousin of Vea. “Whether versus the run or pass, he plays with a relentless mindset.”
Hands & Power Gives Fehoko Lethal Combination Across Line of Scrimmage
Fehoko takes on a hands on approach when countering offenses…literally.
“His hands are and remain active during reps with multiple punches thrown,” Parson said, which his hands and arm extension making him a challenge for blockers. He’s a heavy handed defender who combines his palm power with an additionally strong lower body to create havoc.
“He has the physical strength to anchor, stack, and shed blocks on the edges,” Parson said. “Fehoko has an understanding of the different run-blocking concepts and how to win against them. He does a good job with his hands defeating zone blocks to remain clean and upright as he flows with the football.”
But on a defense structured the way the 49ers have it, getting after the quarterback is a must. Lynch and the 49ers should be pleased with the fact Fehoko raised his level of play there.
“As a pass rusher, his productivity has increased over the last three seasons,” Parson wrote. “Fehoko has multiple hand counters and moves to win. He has an understanding of not overrunning the play and getting out of the quarterback’s reach on outside rushers. Instead, he retraces his steps or spins back inside to catch the quarterback as he attempts to step up in the pocket. There are flashes of a two/double-handed swipe to reduce the hitting surface for the offensive lineman and knock their hands down altogether.”
Fehoko Already Inspired by Pro Bowl 49ers Defender
While he watched his nose tackle cousin claim a Super Bowl ring, Fehoko told Brad Graham of The SFNiners during the NFL Scouting Combine that he’s inspired by one 49ers Pro Bowl of similar descent: Talanoa Hufanga, who’s Tongan like he is.
“Just seeing Polynesians grind at the next level, it’s always motivation for Polynesians as a whole. I’ve been watching him since USC and he’s been an all-star since USC. To see him progressing as a 49er, it’s a blessing for him and blessing for the Polynesian culture to see that as motivation,” Fehoko told Graham on March 2.
As feisty Fehoko is at the point of attack, the knock on him is he’s not the quickest after the ball snaps.
“Fehoko does not have an explosive or quick first step to own the vertical outside path,” Parson said. “Snap timing will be important for his success.”
The draft evaluator added he believes opposing tackles can counter him with a short/quick setting pass block move to counter his speed off the ball. He’ll likely have to win with bend and an outside arc plus heavily rely on his hands. However, the aggression he displays off his hands and motor can make him perfect in the 49ers’ rotation should they settle on him as a late round draft selection.