Trojan NFL draft preview

Dwayne Jarrett

Overall, this year's draft obviously won't be the Trojan display that the 2006 NFL draft was when seemingly every third pick was from USC. This year, there is a legitimate chance that only four Trojans will be drafted, although there could be as many as nine new Trojans cashing NFL paychecks next season.

Dwayne Jarrett

Measurables – 6'4.7" and 213 pounds, 4.62 in the 40-yard dash, 290-pound bench press, 400-pound squat, 36.5-inch vertical, 32.5-inch arm length, 9.5-inch hands

2006 Statistics – 70 receptions for 1,015 yards and 12 touchdowns. Became USC's first two-time All-American first-team wide receiver after being named to the Associated Press and Walter Camp first teams. Leaves USC with the school career record of 216 receptions and the Pac-10 conference record of 41 career touchdown catches.

Positives – Dwayne Jarrett is arguably the most polished pass catcher in this year's draft. He may not be the best overall wide receiver, but in terms of simply making catches, whether easy or difficult, I'd put my money on Jarrett. The control that he has over his body is simply astounding. He has the ability to get his feet in bounds along the sideline or shield the ball from defenders across the middle. So many receivers with Jarrett's size don't understand how to utilize it to their advantage, but it's obvious that Jarrett does. He is also great at getting in and out of breaks quickly, which will be extremely important for him in the NFL because of his lack of straightaway speed. The speed thing will continue to come up all the way through Saturday, but hopefully teams will understand that Jarrett's game speed is at an entirely different level than his track speed. His ability and willingness to block in the running game is also a huge asset for Jarrett.

Negatives - Dwayne Jarrett is the latest in a long line of recent Trojans to find out that the NFL values combine numbers much more than college production numbers. His 40 time didn't exactly blow NFL personnel away and there's a fairly serious rumor floating around some circles that Jarrett is something of a head case, taking practices off and pouting when the ball doesn't come his way during games. I have absolutely no idea how those rumors were started or why people think they are founded in fact, but they are certainly present in just about every scouting report on the Trojan receiver. But even with the speed and attitude concerns, the biggest problem for Jarrett in the NFL looks to be going up against more aggressive and stronger cornerbacks. Jarrett struggles occasionally against strong jams at the line of scrimmage and will need to become more of a physical presence without the ball at the next level.

Draft Projection – Different mock drafts have Jarrett going anywhere from a top 15 pick to the middle of round three. There's probably no chance of either of those actually happening. With Norm Chow involved in Tennessee, there's always the chance of the Titans grabbing Jarrett at 19, and plenty of Super Bowl contenders would love nothing more than to grab a proven winner like Jarrett at the bottom of the first round. That probable fall might actually turn into a blessing for Jarrett, who would then be immediately paired with (more than likely) a far more competent quarterback than if he was taken at the top of the draft. If he manages to fall out of the first round entirely, phone lines will be jammed with teams looking to trade up and grab him as a terrific value pick.

Ryan Kalil

Measurables – 6'3" and 299 pounds, 4.96 40-yard draft, 34 bench reps at 225 pounds, 26" vertical jump, 8'8" broad jump, 4.34 20-yard shuttle, 7.50 three cone drill

2006 Statistics – Did not allow a quarterback sack or pressure all season. Named first-team All-American by The NFL Draft Report and Pro Football Weekly. Unanimously named to All-Pac 10 Conference first-team. Won the Morris Trophy, given to the Pac-10's best offensive lineman in a vote by the conference's defensive linemen. Was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy and was named USC's Most Inspirational Player.

Positives – Ryan Kalil is easily the best center prospect in the 2007 draft, but with the added ability to play either guard position, Kalil might be the best interior offensive line prospect in the draft. He has an absolutely brilliant football mind and as nice as he is off the field is as tough as he is on it. His quick burst off the ball helps him get to the second level easily in the run game or set up quickly on a pass. He possesses an innate understanding of leverage and positioning and is able to offset his smallish frame with perfect positioning and a surprising and necessary mean streak.

Negatives – The only knock on Kalil heading into the draft is his size. In an era where NFL offensive linemen's jerseys double as tablecloths, Kalil will enter the league fairly undersized. Scouts say that he could show more consistency in latching on to a defender once he gets to the second level, but most of them admit that anything other than size issues with Kalil would be considered nitpicking. He is probably the safest offensive line pick outside of Wisconsin's Joe Thomas.

Draft Projection – After the 2007 Rose Bowl, the consensus was that Dwayne Jarrett would be the first Trojan drafted this coming weekend. But after combines, senior bowls and months of studying, it's Ryan Kalil who might have himself in the pole position for first Trojan taken. His versatility, knowledge of the game and consistent play will make him one of the safest and surest picks of the first round. Unlike several Trojans over the past few years, Ryan Kalil has actually seen his draft stock rise constantly since he made his final college snap. Scouts Inc. has Kalil listed as their 28th ranked prospect and fourth rated lineman, behind tackles Joe Thomas, Levi Brown and Joe Staley.

Steve Smith

Measurables – 5'11" and 199 pounds, 4.44 40-yard dash, 38-inch vertical jump, 10-foot broad jump,

2006 Statistics – 71 receptions for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns. Smith's 190 catches for 3,019 yard and 22 touchdowns rank him fifth, fourth and sixth respectively, all time at USC.

Positives – Like Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith is able to haul in just about any ball thrown his way. He spent this past season working on his route running and his physicality both off the line and against re-routes. He has a smoothness about him in both running routes and catching passes that makes him an inviting target for quarterbacks. Smith also displays excellent body control moving in and out of breaks as well as catching the ball along the sideline or for first downs. He possesses a quick burst off the line and can get to top speed quickly. He can be effective against both man and zone with his ability to read coverages quickly. Smith is also a willing and capable blocker, though he is much better downfield than at the line of scrimmage.

Negatives – Smith may have run a faster 40-yard dash than Dwayne Jarrett, but his straightaway speed still doesn't have scouts buzzing. He can be described as quicker than he is fast, able to separate from defenders but unable to keep the separation for long. Obviously, his height doesn't put him among the taller wide receivers, so he will probably be chosen after some receivers who aren't as skilled overall. He is willing to go over the middle, but some scouts wonder how he will take the punishment required of that kind of receiver in the NFL. Smith also suffered through a nagging left ankle sprain for most of last season.

Draft Projection – Smith will probably be anywhere from the 4th to the 8th wide receiver selected on Saturday. The best thing for Smith, however, is that by coming back for his senior season, he moved himself well into the first three rounds and a much nicer paycheck. Smith is a much better receiver than Ohio State's Anthony Gonzalez, but Gonzalez' 40 time of 4.29 might push Smith down the board a bit. By all accounts, however, not seeing Smith's name come off the board by the close of the second round would be slightly shocking.

Dallas Sartz

Measurables – 6'5" and 235 pounds, 4.58 40-yard dash, 33.5" vertical jump, 9'3" broad jump, bench pressed 225 pounds 20 times, 360-pound bench press, 500-pound squat

2006 Statistics – 70 tackles (41 solo), seven sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and five pass deflections.

Positives – A two-time defensive captain, Dallas Sartz is one of the more cerebral players in this year's draft. He has a frame that, while somewhat thin now, could take on more weight without costing him any quickness. With this year's crackdown on head cases and personality risks, Sartz should shine as an example of what a team-first player should be. His instincts in the run game aren't perfect, but he'll show up in the backfield several times a game to snuff out running plays. In the passing game, Sartz became a force this season. His perfect timing on blitzing plays was illustrated by his team-high seven sacks and his ability to run with both tight ends and tailbacks down the field is a necessity at the next level. His desire to consistently get better at all phases of the game should have his next coach praising him as much as Pete Carroll did.

Negatives – Sartz' biggest issues at the next level will be strength and tackling. The improved tackling should come along with improved strength, but right now, he's probably not ready to take on the every down life of an NFL linebacker. Sartz will also need to improve his ability to shed blocks and stay upright in the running game, rather than simply try to overpower blockers.

Projected Round – Dallas Sartz doesn't have the outstanding athletic talent of Miami's Jon Beason, but whichever team ends up with the former Trojan linebacker will know exactly what they are getting. Sartz should have the ability to contribute on special teams almost immediately, but should develop into someone who can play linebacker in this league for several years. He is a very safe early second day pick and could be pleasantly surprised by a team grabbing him late on the first day.

Several other former Trojans could be selected in the late rounds or should receive serious interest as undrafted free agents after the closing bell Sunday afternoon.

Ryan Powdrell played just one game as a Trojan fullback, but that won't stop teams from taking a look. He showed how valuable he could be as a receiving threat out of the backfield and teams looking for a versatile blocking back could do worse than bringing on Powdrell. Unfortunately, the injury he suffered in the season's second game will most likely prevent him from being drafted, but with a full rehab, he could be contributing soon at the next level. He ran a 4.9 40-yard dash at the USC pro day but should continue to round into playing shape. He may not evolve into a hall of fame fullback, but his ability to play linebacker and perform on special teams could make him an attractive prospect.

After suffering through countless setbacks during his USC career, Oscar Lua will look for an NFL team to latch onto, most likely after the draft is concluded.

His knee injuries combined with the play of Rey Maualuga meant that Lua basically played just one full season for the Trojans. Heading into 2006, Lua had control of the middle linebacker spot and was looking to show NFL scouts that he could play that position at the next level. But after yet another injury before the 2006 season, Maualuga was the one showing NFL scouts what he was capable of, while Lua was held to just 36 tackles in a reserve role. In recent workouts, Lua has shown that he is healthy again and has his full range of motion again. He performed very well at USC's pro day, timing anywhere between 4.6 and 4.85 in the 40-yard dash and moving well during the linebacker drills. He's also dropped 15 pounds during the offseason, slimming down from 251 to 236. Lua looks to former Trojan and current NFL standout Lofa Tatupu as inspiration for this coming draft. Tatupu was actually beaten out by Lua heading into the 2003 season, but when injury struck, Tatupu got the nod. Without a full body of work for scouts to study, it's hard for them to project Lua in the draft. But if he is truly healthy again, someone could get an extremely valuable late pick or free agent.

Chris McFoy could be the third Trojan receiver taken in this year's draft. He performed well during the USC pro day and ran a respectable 4.67 40-yard dash on the slow surface. McFoy isn't the flashy wide receiver that teams will build an offense around, but there's no reason that he can't replicate his Trojan career at the next level. He is a third or fourth receiver who can make defenses pay for forgetting about him. He could be in the mix during the late rounds, but teams may pass on him in favor of purer athletes with greater upsides. McFoy's 17 grabs for 182 yards were good for fifth on the team in 2006.

Kyle Williams is another guy who could make some noise as a free agent. Williams ran a 5.43 40 at USC's pro day and has shown steady improvement during his career at USC. He doesn't have the raw athletic ability to go in the opening rounds, but he has the frame and the drive worthy of a late round pick or free agent. Several NFL teams have a habit of taking late flyers on offensive lineman and Williams' name should be in the mix.

This year's defensive tackle class is remarkably thin, which should be good news for Travis Tofi. Tofi probably doesn't yet possess the size that most NFL coaches want in their defensive tackles, but his athleticism is apparent and with so many high profile defensive tackles washing out early in their careers, a guy with a good motor and great work ethic like Tofi could be a reasonable pick in the late rounds.

Erik McKinney is a columnist for WeAreSC.com and he can be reached at erik.mckinney@gmail.com.

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