The USC Trojans only put two players directly into the NFL last season, Austin Jackson and Michael Pittman, in what was one of the school’s lowest NFL outputs in recent memory.
That shouldn’t be an issue again in 2021, however, with the Trojans expected to get at least five players taken in the NFL draft. As many as seven could be selected if Tyler Vaughns finds his way onto the draft board in the seventh round.
The group is led by offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, a versatile tackle who is expected to play guard at the next level and seems likely to get selected in the middle of the first round.
Defensive tackle Jay Tufele and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown could each sneak into round two, while key players Marlon Tuipulotu, Talanoa Hufanga, Olaijah Griffin and Tyler Vaughns could all hear their name called before the end of the draft as well.
Here is a look at each NFL draft hopeful from USC.
Jay Tufele — Defensive Tackle
It’s hard to say whether opting out of the 2020 season helped or hurt Jay Tufele’s draft stock, which will now depend on how teams weigh that variable. Regardless, he should get plenty of attention as a pass rushing interior defensive tackle prospect.
Potential Fits: Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York Giants
Tufele is a tricky guy to pin down. Much of Tufele’s worth is going to be judged based on 2019 and earlier. This is because Tufele opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. Tufele could very much be one of the first interior linemen taken in the draft even with these factors working against him. Tufele is big, he’s coachable, and he’s hungry to prove that he belongs in the NFL. But one of the biggest factors playing into his draft position is his athleticism. For his size, Tufele is incredibly agile and nimble. Combine that with his work ethic, and boom — that’s an impressive package. One team is going to get a special player it can mold into a productive performer who will enjoy a lengthy NFL career.