Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Where USC's draft-eligible prospects stand
By Pedro Moura
USC has seven players who stand at least a decent chance of being selected in April's NFL draft. With none of them participating in this week's Senior Bowl and the four who played in all-star games already done with their commitments, we figured it's time to delve into where they could be selected and what kind of players they could be at the next level -- starting with the clear-cut top prospect.
LT Matt Kalil
Kalil is going to be a top-10 pick, no doubt about it. The only question with him is how high he'll go. Some draft prognosticators have him firmly entrenched in the No. 2 overall spot of the St. Louis Rams, where new coach and USC alum Jeff Fisher would use him to protect quarterback Sam Bradford, who is said to be the reason he picked the Rams job over other options.
He could also go third, sixth, ninth or 10th -- the teams picking in those spots all need offensive tackles. And potential pick trades could leave him going at any of the other slots, too.
DE Nick Perry
All season long, Perry was projected as a second- or third-round selection. Now that draft analysts are seeing his film, though, Perry has moved right up into the thick of the first-round mix. It's gotten to the point now where it'd be a surprise if he wasn't selected in the first round -- especially after next month's NFL Combine.
Is there anyone who stands to benefit more from next month's festivities than Perry? It's doubtful. He could run a sub-4.5 40-yard dash, based on what he's run in college testing. And he'll put up superb bench-press and weight-room numbers for his 6-3, 250-pound frame.
There are only two questions, then: (1) Can he play defensive end in the NFL or is he better suited to a 3-4 outside linebacker spot? (2) How come he didn't produce a bit more with the Trojans? He never had the monster year he and others predicted he would have.
DT DaJohn Harris
It looks like Harris is going to be taken fairly high, which is interesting, because the 6-4, 310-pounder never produced on a consistent basis until his senior season at USC -- and, even then, he wasn't all that consistent in 2011.
But he is exactly the type of player who could emerge into a starting-caliber defensive tackle in the league. And, based on what he did over the weekend in the East-West Shrine Game, it appears likely he'll be a third- or fourth-round selection in April's draft.
DT Christian Tupou
Is he big and wide-bodied enough to play in the NFL? That's the only question with Tupou, because he certainly fulfilled his duties during his three seasons as a starting nose guard for the Trojans.
He didn't produce much, but that's because he wasn't asked to. What he was asked to do was soak up blockers to enable Harris, Perry and the other defensive ends to rush the passer.
His brother, Fenuki, was drafted in the fifth round in 2009 and has bounced around the league some since. Christian Tupou could be picked starting around then but is more likely to go in the sixth or seventh rounds.
RB Marc Tyler
Instinctually, Tyler is a great running back. But he's not very fast and he also has quite a bit of baggage with his one-game suspension.
But he reportedly looked very good in Shrine Game practices. There's no reason he couldn't be picked up in the fifth through seventh rounds, assuming he runs a sub-4.6 40 at the Combine, which he was invited to earlier this month.
Remember, before August, Tyler was supposed to be USC's starting running back in 2011. He did rush for 900-plus yards as a junior.
TE Rhett Ellison
Ellison's situation is similar to Stanley Havili's, in that both players were four-year contributors for USC and true team leaders but displayed little to make most think that they'd be successful at the next level.
As far as special teams go, at least, Ellison was an ace. And it's certainly possible he could learn to be effective in that same manner in the NFL. His production his senior season left more than a little to be desired, but it's also possible he could be a worthwhile blocking H-back-type.
Time will tell. He's a potential late-round selection but could go undrafted, in which case he'll surely latch on with a team for training camp.
LB Chris Galippo
Galippo was as hyped as anybody coming out of high school in the class of 2007. But he never fulfilled the expectations placed upon him, partly because of back issues that pushed his debut and held him back for much of his career.
Even last year, he sat out of spring practice because of lingering worries about the back. And then he lost his starting job to Lamar Dawson in the final month of the season. But the potential is still there, and it wouldn't be surprising to see a team take a chance on him late in the draft if he can run well enough at USC's Pro Day on March 7.
Other USC seniors who could pursue post-college football careers include linebacker Shane Horton, safety Marshall Jones, fullback Ross Cumming, long snapper Chris Pousson, offensive lineman Martin Coleman and receiver Brandon Carswell.