USC hasn't been quite the elite program of years past since Pete Carroll left, but you wouldn't know from their draft record. They have produced three top 10 picks from the two seasons without Carroll, and seven picks in the first four rounds of the last two drafts.
2012 could see them return to college football's top echelon while placing as many as three players in the draft's first round, possibly even in the draft's top 20.
Let's take a look at the best 2013 NFL draft-eligible Trojans.
QB Matt Barkley
Barkley is somewhat unique among elite quarterback prospects because he doesn't have outstanding tools. He is not the 6'2", 230 lbs. that USC lists him at, and Barkley is not a great athlete. He doesn't have overwhelming arm strength, either.
What Barkley does have is a polished, pro-ready approach and tons of experience. He can read defenses and adjust on the fly. His decisions are outstanding, and his accuracy is among the best in the college game.
Barkley is a high-character leader who can help an organization rebuild while solving the toughest position to fill for a decade.
Projection: Top 5 Pick
WR Robert Woods
Woods is a high quality, well-rounded receiver that starts early in his career in the NFL. His lack of outstanding size at a generous 6'1", 190 lbs. is one of the only things that will probably keep him out of the top 10 picks.
The junior is a technician in his routes with great hands and a "my ball" mentality. Woods' speed is elite when he is not hampered by ankle injuries. He is very quick and elusive in the open field, and he can also break arm tackles.
Woods relishes blocking in the running game and he isn't afraid to work the middle of the field or throw a stiff arm at an oncoming tackler. Woods is also good in the air and laying out to make sprawling catches. He has the profile of a No. 1 receiver in the NFL
Projection: Mid 1st Round
FS T.J. McDonald
Teams that loved Mark Barron but did not land the Alabama safety in the draft this year should be happy to see McDonald coming down the pike this year. He has great natural size at 6'3", 205, and McDonald plays with a lot of functional strength when it comes time to make the tackle.
He reads the play quickly and decisively gets himself into the mix on a lot of plays. McDonald flows well with the play in deep coverage and often finds himself in the right place at the right time, with the good hands to secure the interception.
He is the kind of two-way safety that teams covet very much because they allow a defensive coordinator get more inventive with defensive plays.
Projection: Mid-to-Late 1st Round
CB Nickell Robey
This junior cornerback is extremely aggressive for a 5'8", 165-lb. player. He was All Pac-12 first team as a sophomore and should only get better. He picked Andrew Luck and took it to the house last year, so his ability to hang against top quarterback play is unquestioned.
McDonald comes up and lays hits on backs and receivers, and he closes quickly when the ball is in the air. He reads the quarterback's eyes well and trusts his reads, allowing him to get his hands on a lot of passes. The requisite speed and quicks to hang in the NFL are both there with Robey, but his size will be a detraction from his stock.
Luckily for Robey, the value of nickel/slot corners continues to rise in the pass-happy NFL, and he can fit there. The position is essentially the importance of a starter, and Robey's return abilities also enhance his stock.
Projection: 2nd-3rd Round
The senior center should be one of the first drafted this coming April. He bursts out of his stance and usually jolts his opponent. Holmes is also adept at getting to the second level and finding someone to block immediately, especially by getting low and getting them off of their feet.
He can hold his own against nose tackles at 6'4", 305, and Holmes can wall a big defensive tackle off at that size. He is rarely left on an island in pass-blocking schemes, but he seems at least adequate at getting set up and mirroring a pass-rushing defender.
His athleticism and movement skills will make him an excellent fit for a zone-blocking running team.
Projection: 3rd-4th Round
RB Silas Redd
The junior transfer from Penn State is a compact back with a good burst through the hole. He wastes little time and energy dancing and generally finds and hits a hole with a sense of urgency. Redd has decent quicks and vision to find creases. He is strong through his cuts and loses little speed and momentum through his open-field moves.
Redd is cut out to run between the tackles in the NFL, even though he is only 5'10", 200 lbs. He looks like a solid change-of-pace or committee back in the NFL
Projection: 4th-5th Round
DE Wes Horton
Horton has the long-limbed frame and athleticism to garner interest as a late-round developmental prospect. The senior runs like a linebacker and is very fluid for a 6'5", 255-lb. end. Holmes gets pushed around versus the run and has trouble shedding blocks.
He can turn and run downfield in coverage, which makes him an interesting candidate to make the switch to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He is currently injured.
Projection: 7th Round/PFA
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