Below are notable USC Trojans eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft. The team, as with many incarnations of the Trojans, has a great deal of talent. But all eyes will remain on Redshirt Sophomore Quarterback Sam Darnold, who led the team to an epic Rose Bowl victory over Penn State last winter.
Quarterback Sam Darnold – 6040, 225 – Redshirt Sophomore
Darnold enters the season as my top eligible Quarterback prospect. That’s right, ahead of Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and all other comers. Darnold’s delivery is going to be a huge issue for some evaluators unless it’s cleaned up this season; but regardless I think what we saw down the stretch last year with Darnold’s play was pretty spectacular. I expect him to be every bit as good this year, as he was impressive with his effectiveness and placement in key game situations and under pressure.
Darnold’s schedule is light in terms of competition through the PAC-12 and I expect he’ll carry this team towards a College Football Playoff slot.
Running Back Ronald Jones II – 6010, 195 – Junior
Jones runs with great burst and aggression toward tacklers in the open field, but what stands out the most about him is his effectiveness as a slashing style runner. Jones is confident and quick with his decision to press into the line of scrimmage. As a result, his strong balance and ability to string together cuts allows him to break big gains. Jones eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards with less than 160 carries last season while sharing the load with Justin Davis. A more focused share of carries should yield a production outburst this year.
Defensive Lineman Rasheem Green – 6050, 280 – Junior
Linebacker Porter Gustin – 6050, 260 – Junior
Heavy hitting OLB who led the team in tackles for loss last season with 13.0. Gustin isn’t the most fluid or loose rush player but his play diagnosis and ability to keep contain in the run game is a huge plus. Gustin wins with strength and power; when he does produce it’s often as a result of resetting the line of scrimmage cleanly and disengaging into pursuit. Gustin’s development is going to key around him making the most of a physical skill-set that will not lend itself especially well to flattening and cornering on passing downs.
Linebacker Cameron Smith – 6020, 245 – Junior
The Junior LB will be suspended for the 1st half of USC’s season opener vs. Western Michigan after a targeting penalty incurred in the Rose Bowl, but odds are he’ll still likely finish as the team’s leading tackler in the game. Smith led the team last season and has 22 career starts to his name entering his third year with the program.
Cornerback Iman Marshall – 6010, 200 – Junior
Illustrated excellent ball skills down the field in 2016. Second on the team in interceptions (3) to Adoree’ Jackson, Marshall checks a lot of boxes already. He trusts his technique when playing off coverage and has a natural ability to flip back and locate the football when tracking receivers deep down the field.