The 2021 NFL Draft is not scheduled until the end of April, next year. But for some USC players, that’s already the next step in their football playing careers.
Jay Tufele has already announced his decision to opt out of a potential spring football season with eyes towards preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft. In all likelihood, guard Alijah Vera-Tucker follows suit. And guess what? They both made Todd McShay’s preseason top prospects list.
Tufele and Vera-Tucker are the highest-ranked draft prospects for next year’s draft class, and largely seen with very little left to prove. Tufele could have likely been a first- or second-round choice had he entered the 2020 NFL draft, but rather made the decision to not enter the draft early with intentions on winning a Pac-12 Championship this fall with his Trojan teammates.
While that won’t happen this fall at least, it looks like Tufele’s decision to opt out of the postponed season is a good one.
Tufele checked in as the highest-ranked Trojan on ESPN’s Todd McShay’s recent Top 50 2021 NFL Draft prospects, landing squarely at No. 35. Tufele also saw his name near the top of the defensive tackle prospects as he was the second-ranked DT for this draft class.
At 6’3, 305 pounds and a grade of 84 overall from Scouts Inc., Tufele’s evaluation from McShay was as follows:
Tufele has good size in the middle of the line and flashes the ability to get home to the QB as an interior pass-rusher. He will fight through double-teams and can slip blocks. He needs to grow as a hand fighter in the trenches, though. He had 4.5 sacks and 42 tackles in 2019.
As for Vera-Tucker, this is one of the more favorable rankings on him this offseason, and of course it comes at the hand of one of the best in the business.
McShay ranked AVT at No. 38 overall and as the third-best offensive guard in the class.
At 6’4, 315 pounds, Vera-Tucker is a large man on the interior and McShay had this to say about him:
A 13-game starter at left guard in 2019, Vera-Tucker gets into sound initial position and has the strength to drive defenders off the ball. He has a good feel for angles in zone blocking, but he gets a little top-heavy and falls off blocks late. In pass protection, he gets his hands inside and anchors well.
Tufele was ranked the No. 2 DT prospect behind LSU’s Tyler Shelvin (No. 28 overall) while Vera-Tucker was behind Tennessee’s Trey Smith (No. 15) and Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis (No. 30).
For the full list of top 50 NFL Draft prospects for 2021, read the entire article at ESPN+. (Subscription required.)