USC football defensive tackle Jay Tufele is featured as one of the Top 25 prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Even if there were live sports to consume this summer, the talk of NFL circles would still drift towards next year’s draft. Fortunately for USC football, there are Trojans drawing attention.
Defensive tackle Jay Tufele is chief among those.
Already featured in multiple mock draft first rounds, Tufele got another nod of approval this week from ESPN’s Mel Kiper.
The draft guru rates Tufele No. 22 on his 2021 NFL Draft Big Board.
Kiper praised Tufele for his “quickness off the snap” and “raw strength.”
“I think he could be in for a big season,” Kiper wrote.
That’s what USC is hoping for after a relatively muted All-Pac-12 first-team campaign in 2019. While slowed at times with nagging injuries, Tufele had 4.5 sacks and 41 tackles. He was the anchor of the Trojan defensive line, but his impact could grow significantly.
If Tufele takes another step forward in his development, he could secure a first-round grade for 2021.
As it stands, Kiper rates him third among defensive tackles in the class. He sits behind Florida State’s Marvin Wilson and LSU’s Tyler Shelvin.
Tufele wasn’t the only Trojan mentioned by Kiper. Alijah Vera-Tucker also got a brief mention as the fifth-best guard available.
For Vera-Tucker, his prospects as a guard or a tackle could be the key to his eventual draft selection.
Vera-Tucker was USC’s most reliable offensive lineman in 2019. The Trojans need him to continue that trend while also making a position switch. Early plans have Vera-Tucker transitioning to tackle to fill the gap left by Austin Jackson.
Two USC prospects didn’t make the cut in Kiper’s Top 25 or Top 5 position grades. Still, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and safety Talanoa Hufanga could work there way in with strong enough 2020 campaigns.