Realistic Expectations for Talanoa Hufanga

He will play right away on special teams, and has the potential to be one of the 49ers' best punt and kickoff cover men.
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Unrealistic fans expect 49ers rookie fifth-round pick Talanoa Hufanga to be the next Troy Polamalu.

Here's the connection: They're both Polynesian strong safeties who played at USC. Polamalu even trains Hufanga. But that's where the connection ends.

Hufanga is not the next Polamalu. Polamalu was a first-round pick and a freak athlete who ran a 4.33 40-yard dash. Hufanga ran a 4.64. Not close.

Polamalu could play almost any position in the secondary plus linebacker, too. And he could cover. Hufanga can't cover. He does not have the athletic ability to mirror college receivers, let alone professional ones.

Which means Hufanga cannot play all over the defense -- I don't even think he can play safety for the 49ers. Safeties have to cover. So Hufanga is nothing like Polamalu.

But Hufanga still can prove useful to the 49ers. He will play right away on special teams, and has the potential to be one of the 49ers' best punt and kickoff cover men.

Plus, he might be able to move to weakside linebacker. 

The 49ers list Hufanga at 215 pounds, which seems small for a linebacker. But the 49ers like small linebackers. One of the their primary backup linebackers -- Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles -- weighs just 210 pounds. The 49ers signed him as a undrafted free agent in 2019 out of Arizona, where he was a strong safety. So the 49ers have a history of converting Pac 12 safeties into NFL linebackers.

Expect the 49ers to try Hufanga at safety initially, but then move him to linebacker sooner rather than later.