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Football: NFL draft capsules

4/26/2011

With Thursday's NFL Draft quickly approaching, here's an extensive look at the nine former Trojans we expect could hear their names called at some point in the weekend:

Tyron Smith, Offensive Tackle, 6’5, 307 lbs

In college: Smith was a two-year starter for the Trojans at right tackle, playing mostly in the neighborhood of 285 pounds. He's bulked up quite a bit now. A big-time prospect out of Rancho Verde High in the Inland Empire, he played right away as a true freshman, getting reserve snaps behind Butch Lewis, and then seized the job as an 18-year-old true sophomore. He was the most dependable player on the Trojans' line last season but didn't all-out shine so much as he did simply provide steady protection. The one game he missed -- at home against Notre Dame -- was notable in that it might have been USC's worst line performance of the year.

Where he could go: Smith is projected as a surefire Top-20 pick and a good bet to go in the Top 10. The Dallas Cowboys, who pick ninth, have long been rumored as a team heavily interested in Smith, and head coach Jason Garrett only confirmed those suspicions when he showed up for USC's Pro Day last month and kept his eye on the tackle the whole time.

Jurrell Casey, Defensive Tackle, 6’1, 300 lbs

In college: Casey was a dependable two year starter for the Trojans, an All-Pac-10 performer in his junior year and Service Team Defensive Player as a first-year freshman. He made the biggest news of his USC tenure when he proclaimed that Oregon was overrated leading up to the Trojans' matchup with the Ducks last October, but he managed to -- despite his not-so-impressive frame -- continuously rush the passer and serve as a solid run-game obstacle while a Trojan.

Where he could go: It was originally thought that Casey could sneak his way into the late first round, but he's now believed to be more of a second or third round guy. Represented by super-agent Drew Rosenhaus, Casey pulled his hamstring running the 40-yard dash at USC's Pro Day last month but returned to do individual drills in another display of his overall toughness. Plenty have him going in the middle of the second round, but some NFL Draft prognosticators, ESPN's Mel Kiper included, don't even have Casey going in the top three rounds.

Shareece Wright, Cornerback, 5’11, 185 lbs

In college: Wright was supposed to start for the Trojans in 2008 and did, twice, before suffering a neck fracture and redshirting the season. He was supposed to start for the Trojans in 2009 but didn't, instead sitting out the year while academically ineligible. He finally started all 13 of USC's games in 2010 and was solid as a senior leader but was never able to develop himself into a true playmaker. Say what you will about Wright, but he was never afraid to get himself into the mix as a tackler. A felony charge against him in September 2008 was later dropped entirely and Wright has explained the incident in full detail to anyone who will listen.

Where he could go: He has been thrown around as a potentially great fit for a Cover-2 Defense, possessing a nice blend of coverage and tackling skills. Running the 40-yard dash in the mid-4.4's, he's quick enough to be a starting corner in the NFL -- and he appears smart enough, too. The question is where an NFL team will first be willing to expend a selection

Ronald Johnson, Receiver, 5’11, 199 lbs

In college: Johnson was a highly-touted receiver prospect out of Michigan but never quite fulfilled the expectations placed on him upon his arrival. He had a great sophomore year as a slot receiver -- 33 catches for 570 yards -- but was slowed in 2009 because of a broken collarbone and was outshined as a senior by freshman Robert Woods. Still, Johnson was a valuable and potent college receiver and a special returner, at times, and was regarded as a hard worker while at USC.

Where he could go: The fourth round seems like a reasonable projection for the speedy receiver, who will probably get his first chance in the NFL in the return game and could then find himself logging offensive time in four- or five-receiver packages later on.

Stanley Havili, Fullback, 6’0, 227 lbs

In college: Havili is the epitome of a good character guy. Perhaps the most ringing endorsement of that assertion is the simple fact that teammates welcomed him back to practice after just a one-day suspension when he got in a fight with T.J. Bryant last August that resulted in Bryant missing a month with a broken cheekbone. He was a four-year starter at fullback for the Trojans and a consistent receiving threat out of the backfield -- he has the most catches as a back in school history at 84 -- who also showed NFL-caliber blocking and running ability when given the opportunity.

Where he could go: Havili has been severely limited in the predraft process because of a shoulder injury that held him out of both the NFL Combine and USC's Pro Day, and he's also been hurt by the perception that he's a bit of a tweener, caught between the running back and fullback positions. His Pro Day weigh-in of 227 would rank him among the lightest fullbacks in the NFL, but he's still considered a likely mid-round selection. At worst, it appears, he'll be a valuable special-teamer at the next level.

Jordan Cameron, Tight End, 6’5, 254 lbs

In college: Cameron started out as a basketball player at BYU before transferring to a junior college and then transferring to USC to play both football and basketball. He played a combined 11 games in 2008 and 2009 as a backup receiver but did not log a catch, and then moved to tight end following the 2009 season. After earning some looks for the starting spot, Cameron settled in as a pass-catching specialist backup. His best came in a road loss to Stanford in October, when he totaled four catches for 24 yards. He also had a touchdown catch in the home opener against Virginia.

Where he could go: Cameron is the classic workout warrior. Despite totaling only 16 catches as a tight end at USC, he's going to be selected in front of loads of prospects with better numbers but worse long-term potential. As far as where he'll be selected, he's one of the hardest prospects in the draft to project -- the type of player who could go higher than any reasonable guess by virtue of a team falling in love and taking a chance. The conservative projection says somewhere in the fourth round, but the standard deviation on that would be quite high.

Kristofer O'Dowd, Center, 6’4, 304 lbs

In college: O'Dowd started as a freshman and earned tons of Freshman All-American honors, started as a sophomore and earned some All-American honors and then, curiously struggled as a junior as he attempted to make a return from an offseason kneecap dislocation. Starting only seven games in 2009, he entered 2010, his senior year, with tempered expectations but managed to stay on the field and stay effective throughout. He was known as a positive locker room guy while at USC.

Where he could go: The issue with O'Dowd is his knees and his potential -- specifically, how much does he have left. Classic linemen like him often peak earlier on in their careers than most football players, and the knee troubles only add more uncertainty. But O'Dowd has managed to piece together a very impressive workout season and is now just about a sure bet to be drafted, probably sometime in the later rounds.

Allen Bradford, Running Back, 5’11, 242 lbs

In college: Bradford was overshadowed by a ton of similarly talented Trojan running backs during his first few years at USC, only to finally break out in an October 2009 shootout win over Oregon State. From that point on, he went back and forth between top-notch starter and backup afterthought, expected to start throughout 2010 but losing his job to Marc Tyler in fall camp. Bradford still managed to have three monster games last season, including in his final collegiate game against UCLA.

Where he could go: The interesting thing about Bradford and one advantage he has over backs who started two, three of four years in college is that his body is still very fresh. He has never been a workhorse but displays most every sign of being able to do that in the NFL. For example: Bradford totaled 267 carries in five seasons at USC; in Mark Ingram's Heisman-winning 2009 campaign, he carried the ball 271 times that year alone. Will NFL teams value that unused-ness -- and corresponding likelihood of a long career -- enough to draft Bradford in the mid-rounds? It's possible, but the big guy should be selected at some point over the weekend.

Malcolm Smith, Linebacker, 6'1, 225 lbs

In college: Smith was a two-year starter at weakside linebacker at USC and, showed signs of being a big-play guy on the defense. He was somewhat troubled by injuries, undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his ankle in 2010 and missing two games with a knee sprain last season, but he managed to stay on the field most of the time. The highlight of his college career was probably a 15-tackle day against UCLA as a junior, accompanied by a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown that earned him some National and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Where he could go: Smith, the brother of New York Giants receiver Steve Smith, did not receive an invite to the NFL Combine but continued to prepare on his own and stood out at USC's Pro Day last month. His numbers there included 28 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press and a 4.47-second 40-yard dash, and he also looked polished in position drills. He has had visits with the Bears, Seahawks and Jets over the last few weeks and stands to get looks from all three teams, plus others, as a potential late-round selection.