Raiders

2 USC Prospects Raiders Should Target in 2021’s Draft

The Las Vegas Raiders front office will most likely be watching film from hundreds of prospects between now and draft day. Not all of them will be legitimate candidates though, as the Silver and Black have only five selections. However, there are two potential picks from USC that fans should keep their eyes on.

The Raiders’ brass will have thousands of hours of film to watch more than 200 prospects from a few dozen schools during draft season. That’s the joy of being a head coach and general manager in the NFL. The amount of work that goes into the draft process is extensive and can be exhausting.

The Raiders’ brass will not be able to look at every prospect from every school. After all, the front office will most likely make a big board of about 125 guys. Draft boards are a ranking system that each team puts together to try to decide whom they will be drafting.

They discard and sometimes have to choose between prospects they have ranked close to one another. There is a wide range of names from a variety of colleges. Here are a couple of names from USC that are worth watching out for.

Jay Tufele, DT

Standing at 6’3″ and weighing 315 pounds, Jay Tufele is a mountain of a man. The junior prospect decided to sit out the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. That decision could possibly impact his overall draft ranking, as it’ll be difficult for teams to see if he has cleaned up any of the issues he had during his freshman and sophomore seasons.

Tufele is technically sound but lacking some athleticism. His primary weapon is his strength and explosiveness he utilizes to get off the ball quickly. The Utah native is not by any stretch of the imagination a sack machine. In two seasons at USC, he only racked up 6.5 quarterback takedowns. Where Tufele is valuable is in the run game. He possesses the ability to beat a single block and disrupt the backfield. This causes teams to double team him which would in turn free up his linebackers to come in and secure the tackle fairly uninterrupted.

While the Raiders need a couple of talented pass rushers, they also have to add depth to their front four rotation. Tufele should go somewhere in the late second or third rounds. If he falls to Day 3, the Raiders could look to add him as a rotational depth piece to a lackluster defensive line.

Related: There’s Nothing Wrong With Raiders Wanting to Upgrade QB position

Talanoa Hufanga, S

Talanoa Hufanga is a safety by trade but may profile as a linebacker in the NFL. At 6’1″ and 215 pounds, he would a little light for a full-time linebacker. However, he is a prime candidate for a hybrid safety-linebacker role. Raiders fans might be wary of this as there is still a bitter taste when talking about Tanner Muse. Nevertheless, the USC product, unlike Muse, is projected as an eventual starter and is more technically sound.

Hufanga is also more athletic than Muse and could be a solid option as a nickel-package linebacker. He loves going downhill when given the opportunity. Also, he isn’t as much of a liability in zone coverage as incumbent Johnathan Abram. The Oregon native is not going to be a player you use in single high sets, as he does lack some ball skill and top-end speed to cover sideline to sideline.

Don’t let his four interceptions from last season fool you. Two of them were simply being in the right place at the right time. On the other hand, learning a new position shouldn’t pose a problem for him, as he’s done it before. In high school, he played safety, quarterback, and wide receiver and was given the “ATH” designation.

With the selection of Muse last year, it’s clear that Jon Gruden wants a hybrid option for his defense and Hufanga could possibly fill that role. There is some concern with injuries and this could allow him to slip into the fourth or fifth round making the selection a little easier for the Raiders.

The Bottom Line

Solid depth, especially on the defense, has come back to the Raiders a few times over the past couple of seasons. Tufele and Hufanga do have some rough edges that need smoothing out but that is to be expected for a couple of prospects that could be available later in the draft. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is one of the best teachers in the league, which makes these selections a little more plausible. Keep an eye out for these names as they could be wearing Silver and Black in the near future.

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Top Photo: Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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