Following an impressive Las Vegas Bowl victory over Fresno State back in 2013, seven Trojans will be attending this month's NFL Draft Combine from Lucas Oil Stadium. The Draft Combine runs from February 22-25, and will be broadcast live on the NFL Network.
Seven former Trojans have received invitations to compete in this month's festivities, including draft-eligible juniors Dion Bailey, Xavier Grimble, Marqise Lee, Marcus Martin and George Uko. Among the 45 players invited from the Pac-12 conference, USC's seven selections put the Trojans behind just Stanford (8 players) in 2014.
Most of these prospects should be in good position to be drafted come May, but could seriously utilize this opportunity to showcase why their talents pushed them forward towards leaving school after three years of college football.
It starts with WR Marqise Lee, who according to CBSsports.com is projected to be drafted in the middle of the first round. Dion Bailey is projected to land in the fourth round as the fifth-best nickelback/safety off the board, while George Uko, Devon Kennard and Marcus Martin fall in the fifth round.
Silas Redd and top-10 TE Xavier Grimble currently have seventh round grades, but that could certainly change following impressive showings at the Draft Combine. Keep in mind that fellow seniors Morgan Breslin, Kevin Graf and Demetrius Wright were not extended invitations to participate.
2013 STATS: 44 SOLO, 17 AST, 61 TKL, 1 SACK, 5 INT's (11 CAREER)
CBS Sports' Rob Rang: Lanky, athletic hybrid defender with extensive starting experience at outside linebacker and safety. Very good diagnosis skills. Reads the action quickly and is rarely out of position. Experience in the box shows as he is comfortable in traffic, showing very good awareness and vision to weave through the trash to get to the ball.
Rang says Bailey compares to current San Diego Chargers Safety Eric Weddle.
"It remains to be seen if Bailey can handle the transition to the NFL as well as the Chargers' All-Pro safety, but like Weddle, Bailey's instincts, fluidity and penchant for big plays made him a consistent and versatile difference-maker at the collegiate level."
2013 STATS: 25 REC, 271 YDS, 10.8 AVG, 30 LONG, 2 TD (11 CAREER)
NFL Prospectus: "Grimble is a good athlete who will test well in his pre-draft workouts. He has good speed and power, able to both run past and run over opposing defenders. He also is a solid blocker, but consistency and focus have been issues," according to NFL.com Draft Expert Mike Huguenin.
2013 STATS: 57 REC, 791 YDS, 13.9 AVG, 80 LONG, 4 TD (29 CAREER)
Rob Rang's Analysis: Lee's build and struggles with injury in 2013 will certainly draw red-flags from scouts but when healthy, his talent is obvious. Further, he's not as polished as his former teammate, Woods. Few can boast Lee's explosiveness, however, which will almost certainly result in his earning a first round selection come May.
2013--1st Team-All-Pac-12 Center
They said I wouldn't squat ,They said I wouldn't run , They said I Wouldn't be ready , YEAH RIGHT!… http://t.co/fy1Z5PDO4F— Marcus Martin (@ScreamMulahASAP) February 9, 2014
At 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, Martin certainly has the size of an NFL lineman. However, interior lineman, particularly centers, aren't as attractive to NFL teams in the draft as offensive tackles are, so it's hard to know where Martin will go in the draft this season. That said, Martin showcased his versatility throughout his career starting at guard and center throughout his three-year career on USC's offensive line.
2013 STATS: 35 SOLO, 26 AST, 61 TKL, 9 SACKS
Bouncing back from injury this past season in a stand-up outside linebacker mold, the fifth-year senior immediately made his presence felt notching nine sacks. His 6-foot-3, 255 pound frame, Kennard could certainly play outside linebacker at the next level, but will need to showcase his versatility in pass coverage during cone drills at the NFL Combine. Kennard's currently projected to be a fifth or sixth round pick, as the 16th-ranked OLB/DE in the 2014 NFL Draft.
2013 STATS: 81 RUSH, 376 YDS, 4.6 AVG, 23 LNG, 1 TD (19 CAREER TD's)
After suffering a season-ending injury against UCLA, Redd capped his injury plagued season with two rushing performances with over 100 yards on the ground. The projected late-seventh round pick will need to impress in the combine in terms of lateral quickness and vision coming out of his injury. A strong showing this month would highly complement his physical gifts to power the rock between the tackles.
2013 STATS: 11 SOLO, 24 AST, 35 TKL, 5 SACKS (12 CAREER)
Rob Rang's Analysis: Naturally large frame with long arms and plenty of room for additional mass. Possesses an explosive initial burst to penetrate gaps and impressive acceleration for a man with his frame. Complementing his burst, Uko has quick, active hands that he jabs constantly at his opponent. But, Boasts more potential than production at this point. Lacks the bulk teams are looking for in a full-time defensive tackle, struggling to anchor in the running game.