Talanoa Hufanga – Safety, USC
By the numbers:
6’1″, 215 pounds.
2020: 62 tackles (5.5 for loss), five passes broken up, four interceptions and two forced fumbles in six games played.
The most noticeable part of Talanoa Hufanga’s (tal-uh-NOE-uh who-FAWN-guh) game is his physicality. He plays a tough brand of football and does his best work as a box safety near the line of scrimmage. He’s a hard-hitting player who takes great angles, has good form and packs a punch. Hufanga also has a high football IQ, which shows up in zone coverage and on misdirection run plays. He’s rarely out of place.
Another one of Hufanga’s calling cards is his versatility. USC used him in a multitude of roles last season, and he thrived in just about all of them. He projects best as a box safety or safety-linebacker hybrid in sub-packages, but he has solid experience everywhere. He came off the edge as a pass-rusher, worked out of the slot and was a single-high safety on many occasions. That ability to be shuffled around will come in handy at the next level.
While Hufanga spent a fair amount of time in Cover 1 and Cover 3 shells at USC, asking him to hold down a deep zone is risky. Despite having a great first step and adequate overall acceleration, his top-end speed isn’t great. A lack of range is easily the biggest thing that’s missing in Hufanga’s profile. This might limit him to that box safety or hybrid role for the most part at the next level.
Hufanga holds his own in shallow zone coverage but doesn’t have the most fluid hips in man. He can keep up with tight ends and is plenty physical, although running backs may give him some trouble. Injuries are a minor concern with Hufanga, as he’s suffered multiple collarbone breaks and had shoulder surgery during his collegiate career.
How Hufanga fits with the Chiefs:
If Daniel Sorensen departs via free agency, the Chiefs will need a player to fill that third safety role that Steve Spagnuolo covets. Hufanga makes good sense as that player and with Juan Thornhill looking more like himself, he’d form a three-headed monster along with Tyrann Mathieu. Hufanga plays with a competitive chip on his shoulder that many players can’t dream of having. His versatility makes him a good fit in a Chiefs defense that values players who can be used in a variety of roles.
Hufanga is an NFL-ready player. He understands his limitations and if he ends up on a team that plays to his strengths, he will reward them. He’s best suited to play near the line of scrimmage, where his instincts and “hunting” nature can be utilized. With that said, his versatility is a major plus. As a seasoned prospect who should make an immediate impact at the next level immediately, Hufanga grades out as a late second-round pick.