Talanoa Hufanga Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
Tough run defender
Has some instincts
Flashed ball skills in 2020
Solid in short zone coverage
Good height, length
Has some issues in coverage
Man-coverage limitations versus WRs, shifty TEs
Not a great fit as the deep free safety
Could have speed limitations for the NFL
Could be a backup-, special teams-caliber player
Summary: The SEC, Big XII and ACC came close to playing something of a normal seasons in 2020, but the Big Ten and Pac-12 lost a lot of games to the pandemic and delayed the starts of their seasons. As a result. it was more difficult for players in those conferences to break out. Hufanga was player who was able to accomplish that difficult task though, dominating the Pac-12 in 2020 with tremendous production of 62 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, one pass broken up and four passes intercepted over only six games. In 2019, he collected 90 tackles with 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and three passes defended. Hufanga totaled 51 tackles and four passes defended as a freshman.
Hufanga could compete at strong safety for the NFL. He might start out as a backup and develop into a starter, but he will need to develop more versatility in pass coverage. Currently, Hufanga is a solid zone safety in the short to intermediate part of the field. He has solid route recognition and vision to flow to the correct receiver. Hufanga also showed improved ball skills and awareness as a junior compared to his previous seasons, so he has upside in that regard. Hufanga also could play some man coverage on the average tight end, but he lacks the twitch and speed to go man-to-man on a good receiving tight end or a slot receiver. Another limitation is downfield, as Hufanga does not have range and speed to be a deep free safety who can lock down the back portion of the field.
Hufanga is a tough run defender who will deliver some hard hits and plays downhill. With his size and strength, Hufanga could contribute as the eighth man in the box and serve as a red-zone/goal-line run defender. He does a nice job of dodging blocks and getting to the ball-carrier when working through trash.
Hufanga could lack the speed and coverage ability to develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber safety, but he could grow into being a decent starter. Durability is a concern with Hufanga, as he already suffered a concussion, two broken collarbones and a dislocated shoulder. With his aggressive and physical play, staying healthy is a real concern for Hufanga.
In the 2021 NFL Draft, Hufanga could go as high as the third round. He should not slide lower than the early rounds of Day 3.
Player Comparison: Deone Buccanon. Buccanon (6-1, 211) and Hufanga are almost identical in size and possess a similar physical style of play. Both have pass-coverage limitations for the NFL. Buccanon was a huge reach and bust for Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim as a first-round pick, but Buccanon has managed to stick in the NFL as a rotational backup. Hufanga could follow a similar track if he can stay healthy.