2013 stats: 16 starts, 3 sacks, 48 tackles, 11 pressures
2013 Review: Star Lotulelei had a very solid rookie year, exactly what you want out of a player at his position and experience. His numbers don’t do enough justice to his rookie year. He ranked 7th on the Carolina Panthers in tackles and was a huge part of the teams terrific run defense. Most impressively, you expect a rookie to stay in a fixed role throughout the year, then move him around more in future seasons as they master the techniques. But due to injuries and his progression the team was able to move him around from his most natural 1-technique spot (in between the center and a guard) to the more pass rush-oriented 3-technique (in between the guard and the tackle). That may seem like a marginal difference, but the techniques and responsibilities actually change pretty drastically.
What he needs to work on: Specifically he needs to work on his pass rush. You generally expect a player to get a sack on a quarter of his quarterback pressures, so his sack totals from last year are spot on. In other words, they are an accurate portrayal of his pass rushing skills last year; he didn’t get lucky or unlucky. 3-5 sacks is very good for a pure 1 technique, but he played a lot of 3 technique last year, and the best of those can get up to 7-11 every year. Looking at the medium, 3 for a rookie was very good, and if he continued this role you would probably want him to start averaging around 6-7 sacks a year if he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level. But with the plethora of defensive tackles this team has, and with Kawann Short being a pure 3-technique, I would expect him to stay primarily at the 1-tech. To try and guess how he may improve or decrease in 2014, I looked at the change in rookie years to sophomore years in Michael Brockers, Dontari Poe, Nick Fairley, and Corey Liuget while keeping in mind what techniques they play.
2014 Prediction: 16 starts, 4.5 sacks, 51 tackles, 18 pressures