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Trojan NFL Combine preview

The NFL Combine gets started this week in Indianapolis and it will be an opportunity for six Trojans to put their testing mark and position drill work on display for the league coaches and scouts.

Included in that group of Trojans are a pair of seniors and four underclassmen who declared early.

OLB Uchenna Nwosu was not a surprise to be invited after he was the lone Trojan selected to take part in the Senior Bowl, where he had a very good week of practice. NFL scouts are noticing the versatility that Nwosu brings to the table with the ability to line up at different spots in a defense, and they noticed when he led all linebackers with 13 pass break-ups. If there is a knock against him at the next level it’s his size and strength to set an edge, he’s 6-3, 240, not 6-5, 260, and there’s nothing he’s going to do at the combine to change that. Instead, he’s expected to test well and then perform well in drills. If he does that, we could see Uchenna go on day two of the draft.
NFL.com draft projection: Rounds 3-4
NFL.com grade: 5.62

WR Steven Mitchell was more of a surprise to see him get an invite after a series of injuries nagged at him throughout his USC career. He did play in 11 games as a senior (starting 7) and came away with 41 catches for 644 yards and four scores, and that included some stretches where the USC passing game definitely went up a notch when he was part of the mix. At 5-10, 195 Steven may not have the elite speed that he once had before the injuries but he brings a savviness to his game now and could find a role in the league.
No NFL.com draft projection or grade

Last year NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah famously said the most talked about player at the Combine wasn’t even there, but this year QB Sam Darnold will be there and it’s the official turning the page moment for USC fans to see Sam move on. He’ll definitely be one of the focuses of attention this year, with NFL.com joining most every other mock draft projecting him as a top 3 pick. One team executive said even with the backlash he saw this year Sam is still the most complete QB in the draft with the best make-up to be a pro. He should do well in the team interview sessions when they realize Sam is the real deal, and the on-field throwing should go fine too. UPDATE – It was announced on 2/27 that Sam will not throw at the combine, he will wait until the USC Pro Day on 3/21 to throw.
NFL.com grade: 7.1
Favorite NFL.com evaluation quote “There isn’t a throw he fears”

RB Ronald Jones has a chance to to really up his stock with a good 40 time, either at the combine or at the USC Pro Day. The numbers from his college career show improvement every year, breaking the USC freshman rushing mark previously held by Charles White, going over 1,000 yards as a soph, and then becoming a complete back as a junior with 1,500 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns, while finishing 5th on the all-time USC rushing list. Along the way he added pass blocking and receiving skills but he probably never got full credit for how fast he is. It will also be interesting to see his weight, because durability is one of the few minor concerns about his game.
NFL.com draft projection: Rounds 1-2
NFL.com grade: 6.28

Three years ago Deontay Burnett arrived at USC as a 160-pound blueshirt, and now he is taking part in the NFL Combine. It will be very interesting to see how Deontay performs here and at Pro Day, and how he’s viewed by the NFL personnel folks. There’s no doubt about what Deontay achieved on the football field but no matter what he’s still going to weigh in about 170, and there just aren’t many receivers at that size playing in the league. There are some, however, and Deontay has all intangibles to do it too, it’s just a matter of showing those traits as much as he can starting with this combine because the NFL scouts simply didn’t expect him to declare early and it will be an important impression.
No NFL.com draft projection or grade

I think Rasheem Green has a chance to improve his stock as much as any Trojan at the combine. Don’t get me wrong, his NFL.com draft projection is already at the 1-2 round level, but I think Rasheem can solidify a first-round selection with a good performance in Indianapolis. First of all, scouts are going to see that 6-5, 280 frame and realize that there is good room for growth to go along with the skills that allowed him to get 14 TFL’s and 10 sacks this year. And when they hear from former first-round pick Kenechi Udeze about how Green now prepares like a pro, the future should look bright here for Rasheem.
NFL grade: 6.05

For the record, I’m still surprised Chris Hawkins didn’t earn an invite. A team captain, 2nd on the team in tackles with 88, along with 6.5 TFL, film study leader and the intangible leadership in his mid-season meeting with Clay Helton. He should be in Indy.

Combine workout schedule:

Friday, Mar 2: RB, OL, PK, ST
Saturday, Mar 3: QB, WR, TE
Sunday, Mar 4: DL, LB
Monday, Mar 5: DB

** Combine televised on NFL Network

Garry Paskwietz

A 1988 graduate of USC with a degree in Sports Information. Worked in sports marketing for LA Lakers and Miller Brewing Company. Began covering the Trojans in 1996 with the Trojan Football Fax. Founded WeAreSC in November 1998 with stints at Scout and ESPN. Emmy-winner while covering high school football at Fox Sports West.

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