Continuing our Green Bay Packers draft prospect profiles, today we’re highlighting Talanoa Hufanga.
Talanoa Hufanga – SS/LB, USC – 6’0, 199 lbs
A 3-year starter at USC, Talanoa Hufanga is a tough, aggressive and somewhat old school defender to watch out for in the upcoming draft.
With some impressive 2020 tape, Hufanga has the chance to rise in this years draft as we enter the final month of preparation. Hufanga is currently projected as a Day 2 pick.
With the Green Bay Packers moving on from Will Redmond and Raven Greene entering next season, they may need to acquire some safety depth in the draft. Hufanga could be a viable option for GM Brian Gutekunst at pick #62, however the Packers may prefer to wait and see if Hufanga is still on the board when they go to draft at the end of the 3rd round.
Talanoa Hufanga is a versatile defender who played at both linebacker and safety on the USC defense, primarily finding a home in a hybrid box role. Hufanga even rushed off the edge occasionally too with relative success.
Hufanga is a noticeably charged up player who has an immense motor in every area of the game. He is a natural born hype man and a leader on the defense who gives 110% every time the ball is snapped. This should particularly translate well on special teams.
Hufanga is an incredibly physical tackler. Tying into the previous point, he simply brings it from a hustle perspective. He maintained a strong, consistent tackling form throughout his career with the Trojans.
Hufanga’s instincts are well above average. He occasionally jumped routes to force incomplete passes, and racked up some interceptions too. He’s a smart player too. In the run game, he was quick to read keys and force stops.
Talonoa’s ball skills shined bright when QBs threw ill-advised passes. He capitalized on mistakes, despite not being the lengthiest of pass defenders. The clip below from Game On Wisconsin’s Brennen Rupp is a good example of this.
— Brennen Rupp (@royal_rupp) December 8, 2020
Talanoa Hufanga is a limited athlete. At just 199 lbs, he ran a disappointing 4.61 40-yard dash, which is reflective of what we see from him on the field. While Talanoa brings hustle and motor, it’s extremely tough to make up for these physical limitations.
Hufanga is a little bit stiff as an athlete too. It’s not going to limit his floor at the NFL level, but it may limit his ceiling. This aspect of him reminds me of Chase Winovich in last years draft. A high motor guy who had production, but got pushed down a few rounds because he lacked that untapped athletic potential.
Hufanga will get ran around by shiftier TEs and most slot receivers when in man coverage. He lacks great footwork which makes him a liability when forced to turn and run with receivers.
While 32% of his snaps were at deep safety in 2020, he never overly excelled in this role. If you watch any of his highlight reels (which you shouldn’t if you want to scout players by the way), you’ll likely see almost every play coming from him in the box. He just wasn’t a big time playmaker on the back end.
Talanoa Hufanga is a gutsy player who would probably run through a brick wall if it meant forcing a stop. While his athletic ceiling may be limited, he strikes me as such a leader that if called upon, he can be a very solid starter in the NFL.
Talanoa isn’t going to translate as a rangy center-fielder in the NFL, it’s just not his play style and he doesn’t have the athletic ability. He is more suited to playing as much underneath zone as possible where you can keep him near to the line of scrimmage.
I’d like to think Hufanga will find a starting role at some stage of his career due his every down reliability as a smart, high motor guy who can defend against the run and tackle consistently.