Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft starting on April 29th, we will be releasing several draft profiles of prospects who could potentially see themselves on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Next up…
Talanoa Hufanga (Safety), University of Southern California, Junior
Since the retirement of Troy Polamalu in 2015, the Steelers have seemingly been a rotating door at the safety position, up to the draft selection of Terrell Edmunds in 2018 and the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019. With the 2021 season being the final year of Edmund’s rookie contract, the Steelers may be looking to add depth at the safety position through the 2021 NFL Draft. Not to say there is ever going to be another Polamalu, but a Somoan safety from USC has been catching the eye of some NFL scouts looking towards the draft. His name is Talanoa Hufanga.
Hufanga is a complete safety. At 6’0” and 199 pounds, he is a great size at the safety position. He is great at picking up coverage assignments on the fly and has great eyes for the ball. He is able to adjust his hips in coverage and still maintain position on the receiver and the ball in the air. At the line of scrimmage, he is able to break quickly towards the ball carrier and make the play. Hufanga plays with a high motor and is able to explode to the line and power through tackles. In addition, he is a great open field tackler and takes effective angles in chasing down receivers. From watching his tape from the 2019 and 2020 season, Hufanga plays every down like it is his last, and ends up being around the ball on almost every play.
Hufanga holds two major areas of improvement in order for him to take that next step to becoming an elite NFL safety. First, is his play speed. At his Pro Day, Hufanga ran a 4.61 second 40-yard dash. From compiling NFL scouts’ notes, this is a concern for a modern NFL where offensive players are stronger and faster than ever before. In college, a defense can survive on a less-speedy safety with the proper cornerback support, but an NFL quarterback will be quick to expose that. The second concern is his durability. Hufanga has been injured every season since 2018 and is starting to receive a lot of questions surrounding if he can withstand an NFL season. If an NFL team is looking at Hufanga as a potential mid-round selection, they’ll like to know he will be available the majority of games. Hufanga understands that injuries are a part of football, however coaches seem to attribute those injuries to his physical style of play.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 2nd Round to early 3rd Round
Hufanga is currently ranked as the 10th best safety available in this year’s draft. There have been some mock drafts released with him going in the early part of the 2nd rounds, but I see him more of waiting until after the 45th selection until his name is called.
Is Hufanga the next Troy Polamalu? No. With that said however, he has shown flashes that reflect Polamalu’s play and knowledge of the game. It is no wonder, as Hufanga has been training with Polamalu in the offseason in preparation for the draft. His durability and speed are going to be concerns. But seeing as though he’d potentially be paired with Fitzpatrick on the backend, Hufanga will have the freedom to playing to his strengths in the box, and be that versatile hybrid linebacker/safety combination that NFL teams like to have. It is going to be interesting to see how teams view his injury history and how that’ll effect his draft stock. I say if Hufanga is available to the Steelers after the 3rd round, that is a steal. Hufanga has the potential to being an effective NFL safety in the right system, and I think the Steelers have that system.
Where do you think Hufanga will land in April? Let us know in the comments below!