USC Trojans Top NFL Draft Prospects for 2013 and Beyond


NFL Mocks is getting ready for another year of scouting. Look out.

We are kicking off this Spring/Summer with the USC Trojans, who are projected to be one of the best young teams in the country. The Trojans have a dynamic offensive attack and a young but very talented defensive unit. They might not have a ton of top NFL prospects eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft, but they are definitely top heavy with a Heisman candidate at Quarterback and an exciting receiver. Here we go!

7 Matt Barkley, Quarterback, Senior  6’2″ 230 pounds

Barkley has been a celebrity at USC ever since he signed on to play for the Trojans, and what a career it’s been for him. He had a fantastic junior season, in which he really out-played a couple of Heisman candidates. At the end of last season, I think the Trojans were playing the NCAA’s version of the role that the Giants played in the NFL, where they were just white hot at the end of last year. Barkley was a huge reason why. His leadership, poise, moxie, and overall football intelligence are very impressive to me. Barkley has a chance to be the number one pick in the draft this year, and I think there’s a really good shot of that happening. He has a strong arm, makes smart plays, and like I said before–the intangibles are there in spades. Barkley will come into the NFL with something pretty rare, especially at a college like USC–he will have four years of starting experience, barring injury. His ability to make plays is uncanny, and he doesn’t just lock in on one receiver. Barkley has a pair of dynamic weapons in junior Robert Woods and sophomore Marquise Hill, and both had over 1,000 yards in 2011. Last year, Barkley completed over 69 percent of his passes with an outstanding TD/INT ratio of 39:7. The thing I’m most impressed by is the fact that Barkley chose to return to school. He could have been a top three to five pick in the 2012 draft, but he chose to finish at USC what he intended to go there for in the first place–end with a championship victory. Barkley has never played in the college postseason. We don’t know what he’s made of in bowl game situations. All we know is that Barkley has grown and matured as a prospect to a height that not many players get to see. He is a big time QB prospect with all the tools to play right away in the NFL, and I think he could be a star someday. He is a humble, down to earth kid living a dream at USC. He has a really bright future ahead of him.

22 Curtis McNeal, Running Back, Senior  5’7″ 190 pounds

McNeal won’t time with blazing speed at the Combine (or maybe he will) but he is a very intriguing running back prospect. He is very short but has a good build for a guy his size, and he is willing to got up the gut and play a physical game. He doesn’t have elite speed comparable to to that of a smaller back like Chris Rainey, but he can definitely make people miss and is quick to the hole. In his first year as the featured back, he ran for 1,005 yards and six touchdowns, averaging nearly seven yards per carry in the process. He is quick to the hole and is very tough to bring down in the open field because he is so low to the ground and is much more powerful than you would expect. I am interested to see if his game translates to the NFL, because he appears to be headed on the right track. One area where he will hopefully get more exposure is in the passing game. Last year, he only had three receptions for 19 yards. Redshirted as a freshman in 2008, and was academically ineligible in 2010 after playing some as a reshirt freshman in 2009. He is a threat to take any play the distance every time he touches the ball, and had runs of 43, 44, 61, 73, and 79 yards. Very interesting player who could be had in the mid-late rounds simply because of his size.

2 Robert Woods, Wide Receiver, Junior  6’1″ 190 pounds

Woods is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the country at the wide receiver position, and could be a top 15 pick in 2013. He doesn’t have ideal elite size like an Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson, but he plays bigger than his listed height and is a really tough player to cover. He has incredible quickness in and out of his breaks, and is typically a sure-handed target. There were four games in 2011 where Woods went over 10 receptions, and it was pretty much an outlier if he was at five or under. One of Woods’ best assets is his ability to make plays after the catch. He is almost unstoppable when near the red zone, and finds ways to get open despite being the team’s top receiver. Woods got a start as a freshman in 2010 as a return specialist as well, and he has upside in that area going forward. He is a very good kick returner. One of my biggest concerns with Woods is his weight. I don’t know if he’s added weight this offseason at all, but I am not sure 185-190 is going to be acceptable in the NFL. Despite that fact, I think he has a ton of upside and is a dynamic receiver who catches pretty much anything thrown his way. He really does an incredible job of adjusting to balls in the air, and USC uses him in a variety of ways. I like that they are able to get him the ball with space to move, which some NFL team will also likely do when he gets drafted. He doesn’t have any one skill that really stands out, but he is a really good receiver who has potential to be a Reggie Wayne type of player in the NFL.

78 Khaled Holmes, Offensive Lineman, Senior  6’4″ 305 pounds

Holmes is considered one of the top senior interior line prospects in the country going into 2012. He started all of 2010 at right guard for the Trojans and is entering his second straight year as the starting center in 2012. Holmes was named to the 2nd team All-Pac-12 team last year, and did a great job after making the transition to center. Also an Academic All-American candidate who will anchor the Trojans’ front line. Pre-season Outland Trophy watch list name to look out for and a guy who could gain a ton of exposure this year as the starting center who snaps to one of the best QBs in the country.

96 Wes Horton, Defensive End, Senior  6’5″ 265 pounds

The first thing that stands out to me about Horton is his great size. 6’5″ 265 is already pretty ideal size for a speed rushing defensive end, but he has the type of frame that he can grow into and become a powerful force at the next level. Looks like he has really good quickness off the snap, and uses his length to bull rush offensive linemen. He will have to develop some other moves in the NFL to get past bigger, more powerful offensive linemen. Definitely has the tools to be a very good pass rusher, but only eight sacks in his career so far. With Nick Perry headed to the NFL, Horton will have a chance to shine. Plays both on the strong and weak side, and also has played standing up in a two-point stance. I don’t really see him as an outside linebacker at the next level, but he will certainly have experience standing up. Dropping in coverage is another story. Does a really good job lowering his shoulder coming off the edge and displays really natural pass rushing skills. He could be poised for a huge breakout season in 2012 if he can stay healthy.

42 Devon Kennard, Defensive End, Senior  6’3″ 260 pounds

Originally started his career at USC as a defensive end, then started at middle linebacker, and then moved back to defensive end in 2011. He has a lot of upside in this area, but he needs to have a productive senior year if he wants to be picked in the first two days of the draft. He has really good size to play either defensive end position in a 4-3 scheme, and because of his experience playing middle linebacker, he also has scheme versatility to play in a 3-4 as an outside rush linebacker. If he can show substantial increase in his pass rush skills, he could very well be a second day pick. Playing at USC, he will have plenty of opportunities to show his skills as USC likely will be playing most games with a huge lead. Really has good instincts and may honestly be the best fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker working downhill.

14 Isiah Wiley, Cornerback, Senior  6’0″ 185 pounds

There is not a ton of information out there right now about Wiley, but I think there will be. He is a very talented football player who will enter his senior season as his first full year as a starter for the Trojans. He started the final six games of 2011 after seeing most of his action on special teams, but he showcased some very promising ability. Has the size and versatility to double as a safety in the NFL, and was an All-American at Arizona Western Junior College. He should emerge this year as a draftable cornerback prospect, perhaps even one of the better ones in the country.

29 Jawanza Starling, Safety, Senior  6’1″ 200 pounds

Starling is one of USC’s top workout warriors and should really impress at the team’s pro day, but he is a little bit better at working out than he is staying on the field. Unfortunately, the talented Starling has had some problems with injuries throughout his career, but he has started for USC for three years which carries some serious weight for me. I think Starling has upside as a special teams player in the NFL and could develop into a decent starting safety. Had 48 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and two fumble recoveries in 2011 and should build off of that progress this year.

7 T.J. McDonald, Safety, Senior  6’3″ 205

All-American safety who returns for his senior year after potentially entering the 2012 draft and being a first round pick. He is a pre-season Thorpe Award watch list candidate and is one of the best defensive backs in the entire class of 2013. He is a really good size/speed combination guy, and is really good at diagnosing plays. He has six interceptions over the last couple of years and is continually getting better at playing the ball in the air. Has the ability to hit like a ton of bricks. Good football bloodline as his father was a captain and All-American at USC. McDonald was also a captain of USC’s football team last year, and likely will be in the same role in 2012. Really good working downhill, and will continue to get better playing in a downhill role.