49ers

Hufanga was steal in 2021 NFL draft, ex-49ers GM believes

49ers
Talanoa Hufanga

With their third and final pick of the fifth round in the 2021 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected USC safety Talanoa Hufanga. Former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan believes San Francisco got an absolute steal at pick No. 180.

"I saw him as like a nickel ‘backer/will (linebacker)/box guy," McCloughan said to The Athletic's Matt Barrows. "He’s a big guy. And when he brings it, he brings it. He plays big. As you can see, he loves contact."

Hufanga was named the Pac-12's Defensive Player of the Year last season and was an AP First-Team All-American. He finished his junior year with 62 tackles -- 5.5 for loss -- along with four interceptions and three sacks. 

The former USC Trojan became the first safety selected by the 49ers since 2017. McCloughan believes the only thing could stop him at the next level is if the 49ers don't use him correctly.

"Now, if you put him strictly at pure safety, he’s going to get into a little trouble in coverages if you don’t protect him," McCloughan said. "But I liked him. I think he’ll be lights out on special teams, and I think he’ll be a backup safety/nickel ‘backer who has a chance to be a starter in two to three years."

REALTED: Hufanga's play style reminds 49ers of player they know well

That's great value late in the fifth round. Even with eye-opening stats, McCloughan believes Hufanga's film plays even better than his numbers. 

 

Hufanga likely will begin his career as a special teams contributor. But if he progresses like McCloughan envisions he will, this truly could be a major steal of the draft. 

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