The USC Trojans have something to brag about — offensive linemen going in the first round in back-to-back years, Austin Jackson last year going 18th overall to the Miami Dolphins, and Alijah Vera-Tucker going 14th overall to the New York Jets this year after they traded up to get him.
Vera-Tucker joins Jackson as well as a unique group in the list of former Trojans to go in the first round of the draft — Sam Darnold in 2018, Adoree Jackson in 2017, as well as Leonard Williams and Nelson Agholor in 2015 — just to name a few.
Vera-Tucker is tasked with helping protect the second overall pick — quarterback Zach Wilson out of BYU. They are joining a team that went 2-14 last season led by Darnold, who got traded to Carolina last month.
He was named to the 2020 Phil Steele All-American honorable mention, All-Pac-12 first team, AP All-Pac-12 first team, Pro Football Focus All-Pac-12 first team, and Phil Steele All-Pac-12 first team. He also won the 2020 Morris Trophy as the top Pac-12 offensive lineman.
Day 2 of the 2021 NFL draft saw no Trojans going in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. The remaining Trojan players had to wait for another day before hearing their name called.
Day 3 started off with a bang as defensive tackle Jay Tufele was drafted to open the 4th round with the 106th pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Soon after, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown was drafted with the 112th pick by the Detroit Lions — a great place to go for him to team up with former Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
Tufele opted out of his junior year last season due to the coronavirus pandemic. He made the All-Pac-12 first team as a sophomore in 2019 with 41 tackles and four and a half sacks.
St. Brown led the team in receptions as a junior last season and made the All-Pac-12 first team with 41 catches for 478 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Trojans’ consensus All-American first-team safety, Talanoa Hufanga, was projected by College Football News to go 126th overall and Bleacher Report to go 135th in the draft. He was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the 5th round with the 180th pick.
He was awarded a ton of accolades at the end of last season — consensus All-American plus the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, the Polynesian Co-College Player of the Year, and a finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy.
Yet he still dropped so far down the draft board.
He led USC last season in tackles with 62, including five and a half for losses and three sacks, interceptions with four, and forced fumbles with two. He was ranked second nationally in interceptions with point-7 a game.
Nonetheless, he was picked and is staying in California to face the Rams twice a year.
A handful of picks later, the Philadelphia Eagles selected defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu in the 6th round with the 189th pick.
He joined several teammates on the All-Pac-12 first team last season and had 23 tackles with three and a half for losses.
The 6th round continued, then the 7th round went on.
Crushed 💔 never knew I could feel this way.
— OG (@OlaijahGriffin) May 1, 2021
Vaughns finished last season strong with 33 receptions, 406 yards, and three touchdowns, while Griffin had 22 tackles, three deflections, and an interception.
It’s not the end of the road for them as both signed UDFA contracts shortly after the draft ended. Vaughns will join former teammate Michael Pittman Jr. with the Indianapolis Colts. Griffin was signed by the Buffalo Bills.
The five players drafted out of USC also puts their total at 516 all-time choices, which is second-most by any school.
A USC player has been drafted every year since 1939 and the school has the longest active streak with a player drafted in the Top-3 rounds — 20 years.
Congrats to all the Trojans and best of luck in the NFL! Fight On.