USC football Mock Draft roundup: Jay Tufele projected for first round

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC football appears most likely to be represented by Jay Tufele in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

If USC football hopes to put a player in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, writers around the country have zeroed in on one strong candidate: Jay Tufele.

The redshirt junior defensive lineman is by far the most common name that appears for USC in the various 2021 mock drafts that turned up after draft weekend.

Given his 2019 performance, which resulted in an All-Pac-12 first-team nod and USC’s Defensive Lineman of the Year Award, Tufele makes sense as a mock draft selection.

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The most promising of those comes from SBNation, with Dan Kadar projecting Tufele to the Denver Broncos with the 14th pick in the draft.

“Tufele improved as a pass rusher last season, and would be a nice fit on a team that runs a lot of three-down linemen looks,” Kadar wrote.

Over at Sporting News, Vinnie Iyer also likes Tufele in the first, but he has him going to the Green Bay Packers given the potential free agency departure of Kenny Clark.

Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports has another destination for Tufele: Baltimore.

There, Tufele would provide versatility across the line and serve as “one more chess piece on Wink Martindale’s defense.”

A couple more mock drafts agree on Tufele’s ultimate landing spot, which would have Trojan fans biting their fingers on a Thursday night in April hoping to see him selected late.

Both Walter Football and Sports Illustrated feature Tufele as the final pick of the first round, going 32nd to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Walter Cherepinsky credits Tufele as “an extremely athletic and agile 310-pound defensive tackle who could be chosen in the top half of the draft, whenever he declares.”

Kevin Hanson sees the Chiefs looking for “a disruptive interior pass-rusher like Tufele” to fill out their defense at the end of Round 1.

Tufele undoubtedly has the size and explosiveness necessary to turn scouts’ heads. He just needs to produce a truly elite season in 2020 to ensure he’s considered among the top draft picks.

Talanoa Hufanga and Alijah Vera-Tucker

Tufele isn’t the only Trojan who has been mentioned in 2021 mock drafts.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic actually swerved Tufele in his first-round projections, preferring instead Talanoa Hufanga and Alijah Vera-Tucker.

For national observers, that may be a deep cut, but for people closer to the USC program the picks suggest a real sense of the Trojans’ strengths.

Hufanga was by far USC’s best defender in 2019 and Vera-Tucker was the Trojans’ best offensive lineman, outplaying Austin Jackson for most of the season.

For Brugler, the safety could land with the Dallas Cowboys, picking 27th.

“You don’t need to know Hufanga’s number, just follow the ball and that is where he will be,” Brugler wrote accurately.

As for Vera-Tucker, his selection would come at 30th to the San Francisco 49ers.

USC-less Mock Drafts

It’s time to respectfully disagree with Matt Miller of Bleacher Report. Making mock drafts is hard and we don’t expect Trojans to fill the board, but Miller overlooks one key player.

In a first-round which includes eight selections at receiver, Miller missed mentioning Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Sure, Ja’Marr Chase of LSU, Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith of Alabama, and Justyn Ross of Clemson are solid first-round projections.

Still St. Brown warrants some love in the group of Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, LSU’s Terrace Marshall, Purdue’s Rondale Moore, and Ohio State’s Chris Olave.

Is there bias involved in this take? Absolutely. But if there are eight receivers taken in the first in 2021, St. Brown will be one of them.

Charles Power of 247Sports also projects a blank first round for USC in 2021, which is particularly hurtful because he has Ohio State QB Justin Fields, CB Shaun Wade, OG Wyatt Davis, and EDGE Baron Browning all picked up on Day 1.

That would mean the Buckeyes improving their lead over USC in all-time first-rounders to 88-82. Ouch.

Fox Sports’ Jason McIntyre at least has just two Ohio State players in his first-round mock, along with no Trojans.

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