Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Former 49ers GM believes 5th-round pick Talanoa Hufanga was a steal

May 5, 2021 at 3:59 PM--

When Talanoa Hufanga spoke with reporters last week, shortly after being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, he came off as incredibly likable. The former USC safety was so grateful to be headed to the NFL.

"This is such a blessing," he said. "Truly, I thank God for this opportunity."

Hufanga's family comes from humble beginnings, so making it to the NFL means a lot.

"It's just a blessing. My family has been through a lot," he continued. "My dad grew up on an island where he grew up with dirt floors. When you make that transition, and I got to see where he grew up and see what it was like, you're grateful for these opportunities and how we can live our life. How I can better our lifestyle as well. That's what drives me."

Scot McCloughan recently spoke with Matt Barrows of The Athletic to break down the 49ers' most recent draft class. The former 49ers general manager believes the team got a steal in the former Trojan. McCloughan had a third-round grade on Hufanga. San Francisco got him with its last of three fifth-round picks.

"He'll play some safety, which is fine," McCloughan told Barrows. "But I saw him as like a nickel 'backer/will (linebacker)/box guy. He's a big guy. And when he brings it, he brings it. He plays big. As you can see, he loves contact.

"Now, if you put him strictly at pure safety, he's going to get into a little trouble in coverages if you don't protect him. But I liked him. I think he'll be lights out on special teams, and I think he'll be a backup safety/nickel 'backer who has a chance to be a starter in two to three years.

"You can see it on tape. You can tell he's the alpha. He made a lot of plays, in the run game especially. He enjoys the game. He enjoys physicality."

Hufanga was the last of three defensive backs drafted by the 49ers. The team selected Ambry Thomas of Michigan in the third round and Deommodore Lenoir in the fifth round.

As for playing on special teams, Hufanga is very open to that and willing to do whatever it takes to prove himself to coaches.

"You have to have an open mindset to be versatile," Hufanga said. "Any way you can get on the field and be ready for special teams as well. I think that's a big component. This is a big, big statement, but it's something I've always preached. Being a special teams Pro Bowler in my first year is a goal of mine."

Somewhere, special teams coordinator Richard Hightower smiled.

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