With four players selected in the 2019 NFL Draft this week, USC matched its output from last year.
But for the first time since 2002, the Trojans didn’t have any prospects taken in the first two rounds.
It was a quiet start to the draft, with offensive tackle Chuma Edoga the only USC player to get the call over the first two days, landing with the New York Jets near the end of the third round.
Day 3 on Saturday was a bit more active with cornerback Iman “Biggie” Marshall, safety Marvell Tell and linebacker Cam Smith following in the later rounds.
The notable exception was outside linebacker Porter Gustin, who was immensely productive when healthy for USC but had injury concerns to overcome and made headlines this week with a failed test for Adderall at the NFL Scouting Combine despite receiving a temporary Therapeutic Use Exemption from the league, according to the LA Times.
Gustin, an accomplished collegiate pass rusher, will surely be among the USC players who get offered undrafted free agent opportunities to try to earn their way into the league.
-The Trojans’ starting right tackle was a fixture for an inconsistent unit the last couple yars, starting 26 games overall for USC. He helped his draft stock with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl in January and was the first Trojan off the board this week. The Jets traded their seventh-round pick to move up a spot and select Edoga, who reunites with former USC quarterback Sam Darnold.I had a little rocky career at USC, but [the Jets] were really just stressing that you have to turn over a new leaf and create a new you. … Just consistency, being consistent and ready to go at all times. This is professional, this is a job now. You can’t be on and off, up and down. You have to be even keeled the whole way.”
-Marshall put it all together as a senior for USC and graded out as one of the stingiest corners in the country according to the advanced metrics. There was buzz in the pre-draft process that teams were interested in him as a safety, but it looks like the Ravens see his potential at cornerback.”He was just the best player available on our board. I know it’s a deep position for us here, but this is a chance to add a quality player. He’s big — almost 6-1, 210 pounds — runs a 4.45. He’s had almost 40 PBUs in his career, 6 INTs — he knows how to play the position. He can play it many ways — press coverage, ability to play zone. Really smart, instinctive football player who’s played a lot of football, and on top of it he’s an outstanding tackler, very physical, aggressive and we think that will project well to [special] teams.”-Tell was a playmaking safety for the Trojans, but he was drafted as a cornerback by the Colts. This was not a total surprise, as like Marshall, there was pre-draft buzz of him flipping positions. “I played corner in high school. I worked on my cover skills a little bit as a safety in college. So it’s not anything foreign to me at all. I’m a lean safety so a lot of guys were wondering if I could play corner, especially with that new wave of longer corners in the league. So I definitely got that a lot. … Honestly, I had a pretty good feeling about the Colts throughout this process. But they kept in contact with me the most out of any other team.”
-Smith, a four-year starter for USC, was one of the most experienced linebackers in the draft and impressed scouts with his football IQ. He was the first defensive player drafted by the Vikings this year.
“I had a feeling in my heart that I could be a Viking because in the last three years at USC we ran the exact same defense and I feel like it will be a perfect fit walking in there. I feel like I wouldn’t have any issues learning the defense. As of right now, I just feel like it was meant to be. …
“I feel like I can do whatever they want me to do to be honest with you. I feel like I have so much more to learn and I can get a lot better and I think that getting there and working with the linebackers coach and some of the veterans there, I just think I can learn a lot. Whatever they need me to do, if it’s play the bigger package and stop the run or even come in and play on third down and do whatever they need. I am really confident in whatever they ask of me. I am just ready to contribute as much as possible.”
The 2019 NFL Scouting Combine was perhaps one of the most memorable in recent history, with incredible feats of athleticism from this year’s NFL hopefuls. Among the impressive prospects in this year’s edition of the “Underwear Olympics” were five former Trojans, most of whom impressed on the big day. Though their performances might not have made national headlines like those of D.K. Metcalf or Montez Sweat, almost all of the former USC standouts’ showings likely boosted their draft stock.
Offensive lineman Chuma Edoga measured in at 6-foot-3 and 308 pounds, along with 34 6/8-inch arms — ideal for a NFL offensive tackle. Concerns about his upper body strength might remain after putting up only 21 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, but he performed well enough to show his athleticism, looking fluid in drills and running a 5.19-second 40-yard dash — in the top half of the Combine’s offensive linemen.
Linebacker Porter Gustin may not have put on the athletic freak show some expected from him, but he turned in a good workout on Sunday. Measuring in at 6-foot-4 and a muscular 255 pounds, Gustin fits the frame for a modern edge rusher. A workout warrior, Gustin put up 31 reps on the bench press, tied for most by any linebacker this year and most by a Trojan since Nick Perry’s 35 back in 2012.
Gustin’s on-field work was impressive as well, as he posted good marks with a 35.5 in the vertical and 10-7 in the broad. His 40-yard dash time was solid, if underwhelming, at 4.69 seconds. There’s a possibility that the injuries that forced him to miss the end of the season are still lingering, but he performed well enough to boost his stock nonetheless. Knowing him, it’s also not too much of a stretch to assume that he impressed scouts in the interview portion of the event as well.
Fellow linebacker Cameron Smith did perhaps the most of any Trojan to shoot up draft boards with his work in Indianapolis last weekend. The widely cited concerns around Smith revolved mostly around his perceived lack of the athleticism necessary for the pros. Though he did weigh in about 7 or 8 pounds less than he would have liked at 238, he alleviated those concerns with impressive athletic testing.
His 4.69-second 40-yard dash, though unspectacular, was enough to prove that he has the necessary speed to run at the pro level, and his 4.23-second 20-yard shuttle was among the top 10 performers at his position. It was in the jump events that Smith shone the brightest, showcasing elite explosiveness that few would have expected from him. Smith jumped a 39-inch vertical — third among all linebackers behind only first round locks Devin Bush and Devin White. Smith also posted a tremendous broad jump of 12-3, good enough to finish in the top five at his position.
Defensive back Iman Marshall measured in at 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds — a good size for a cornerback — although his 30-inch arms might be a concern for some teams at the position. Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Marshall on his way to the combine was whether or not he’d show the necessary long speed to play corner in the NFL, a question he put to rest by running a time of 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Marshall did not participate in any of the other field tests, yet he was among the best performers in the drill portion of the day, showcasing fluid movement abilities and excellent ball skills. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a team look at him as either a safety or a cornerback at the NFL level.
Safety Marvell Tell, despite sitting out of the 40-yard dash due to a nagging ankle issue, may have had one of the most impressive workouts of anyone at this year’s combine. He showed above average size for a safety at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, and his 33-inch arms are a huge asset, a trait NFL teams will not overlook. He placed in the top three among all defensive backs in the four on-field events he participated in and no worse than second in any of them among the safeties. He posted ridiculous marks in both jumps, with a 42 in the vertical and an 11-4 in the broad; both top three among all defensive backs.
Tell’s agility marks were similarly exceptional, with a 6.63-second mark in the three-cone drill and 4.01 in the 20-yard shuttle, both good enough for first among all safeties and second among all defensive backs. Teams will have to wait until USC’s pro day for an answer on his 40 time, but the athletic profile he put on today will undoubtedly help his case. It might even be argued that a team could try to mold him into a cornerback at the next level — he showed all the physical traits to do so.