Tayo Fabuluje's long road to stardom may have never taken off if not for a detour through Arlington, TX. Fabuluje, who played his high school ball at The Oakridge School, a member of the SPC Conference (the same conference that produced TCU QB Foster Sawyer and recently signed class of 2015 placekicker Jonathan Song) came to the small college prep school after three years at Euless Trinity to hone his skills as a student and an athlete, and to lean on the family of his good friend and teammate, Ross Apo. Apo, a standout WR for the Owls, was heavily recruited, but spurned the Longhorns among others to sign with BYU, the school most closely aligned with his Mormon faith. Already measuring 6'6" and weighing in at 260 pounds, Tayo was a 3* recruit as a senior, holding 11 offers - including TCU. Fabuluje would choose the Cougars as well, choosing to stick with Ross and another Oakridge teammate for his college playing career. But Tayo wouldn't feel as at home in Provo as his Mormon teammates, and would choose to leave after the 2010 season and come home to DFW.
Gary Patterson was happy to have his former target come home and enroll at TCU - with one caveat. The former defensive standout would need to get bigger, and switch to offensive line. Fabuluje welcomed the move, trusting that Coach P was up to his old tricks and the switch would pay dividends - which it did. Tayo put on good weight, climbing to close to 320 pounds, and would start 12 games for the Frogs. It looked like a perfect fit - Fabuluje was lauded with awards and seemed to be ready to anchor the o-line for the next three years. But he was hiding a secret; due to family issues, he was basically supporting his sister on his stipend and working to make ends meet. After trying to do it on his own for as long as he could, Fabuluje relented and asked for help from the Apos, who had moved to Utah to more closely follow Ross' career. Tayo almost felt as if he had no choice, and transferred back to BYU to lean on his surrogate family, and begrudgingly gave up his football career to focus on school and providing for his family by working multiple jobs.
After a year off of football, Fabuluje missed the game and wanted to come back to football, and thusly TCU. With his sister on solid ground, he made the awkward call to Patterson - and was happy to see that his coach and teammates were willing to welcome him back with open arms - not just to play, but to get his degree. But with his weight ballooning to close to 400 pounds, the big guy was a long way from productivity. after a grueling camp and the first handful of games, Fabuluje got himself in to shape, and as the lone senior starter on the offensive line, anchored the O to a record breaking season and the cusp of the playoffs. The NFL dream, which had seemed impossible just months earlier, became a reality - something Tayo realized as the season progressed and was cemented when he was invited to the NFL combine to participate in drills.
Inspiration and hard work make for a great story, but not necessarily a contract. So where does that land Tayo when it comes to hearing his name called this week? Weighing in at just over 350 at the combine, Tayo slimmed down to a shade over 330 in time for the his TCU Pro Day. While his 5.55 40 yard dash wasn't good, he performed well in other tests. And his frame - 6'7" with long arms - has scouts drooling over potential. While his weight and three years out of football are potential red flags, his instinct, mobility, and raw talent make him a project - and likely a late round draft pick. Most projections have him falling to the sixth or seventh round, with SB Nation's Mocking the Draft site ranking him as the 294th rated player overall.
Fabuluje's strengths start with just that - strength. With a massive frame to build on, Tayo already has the most important skill that can't be taught - size. He has a strong core that allows him to push defenders around as well as help him get to the second level, and the long arms o-line coaches covet. He has surprisingly nimble feet and great instinct, and while his footwork needs work, he has only played two years of collegiate ball and shown dramatic improvement over that time period. He has also shown that he can drop weight - player closer to 320 and moving inside is a realistic option for his pro career.
My best guess? Tayo goes late in the sixth to Indy at 205 or Houston at 211. If he falls in to the seventh round, I don't think he gets passed the Cowboys at 243, who obviously have a great o-line, but can afford to take a developmental guy late in the draft to build depth.