Heading to Combine, USC alums moving on

Here's a look at how the NFL rates nine Trojans, a number heading to the Combine next week.

For anybody who cares about the NFL Combine, or the USC alums headed to Indianapolis for the Feb. 23-29 get together there, it may pay off to check out the NFL's Combine Web site.

USC has nine players ranked but according to the NFL site, right now it appears that with Tre Madden still rehabbing from foot surgery, USC has just six set to make it there to compete with Delvon Simmons and Anthony Sarao ranked among the top 350 prospects but not among the 300-plus invitees.

Su'a Cravens, listed as an outside linebacker, is USC's top-ranked guy here with a 6.1 grade. Next in line -- surprisingly -- is cornerback Kevon Seymour at 6.0.

And even though running back Madden has no analysis or overview posted for the Combine, he does have one impressive thing going for him -- his grade. At 5.71, Tre is the third-highest-ranked USC player. As he told us before the Holiday Bowl, he's expecting to be back for USC's Pro Day, which this year is March 23.

O-lineman Max Tuerk is next with a grade that drops down to 5.6 but still has him in the Top Three at the center spot. The only other Trojan in the Top Five at his position is Cravens at No. 5 at OLB.

To understand the grades, here's the NFL scale: 9-10 -- a once-in-a-lifetime player; 8-9, a perennial All-Pro; 7.50 to 7.99 -- future All-Pro; 7.0-7.49 -- Pro-Bowl to All-Pro ability; 6.50-6.99 --Good NFL starter with Pro Bowl potential; 6.0-6.49 -- Chance to become good NFL starter; 5.70-5.99 -- Could become early NFL starter; 5.30-5.69 -- Backup or eventual starter; 5.15-5.29 -- Developmental prospect or special teams potential; 5:01-5.14 -- Back end of the roster; 5.0 -- 50-50 chance of making a roster.

Three Trojans don't quite make that bottom grade, all at 4.8 including Simmons and Sarao along with special teams/fullback Soma Vainuku, who is invited.

Above 5.0 and next in line after Tuerk is his longtime roommate, quarterback Cody Kessler, at 5.4. Nose tackle Antwaun Woods comes in right at 5.0.

One thing we like about the way the NFL does this are the little analysis takes for the players. They don't all have them in place yet. But for anyone who has spent years watching these USC players, you realize that the NFL guys are looking at them with a fresh eye and a different take. Here are a few of those.

*** For Cravens, whose 6.1 grade has him well behind the top-ranked OLB -- UCLA's Myles Jack at 7.5, the No. 2 overall player in the entire draft -- although there's a chance Su'a ends up as a hybrid safety, this is what they have to say: Bottom Line:: "Plays with a unique lens that includes his time at the safety position as a freshman. Teams focusing on putting a 'tweener' label on him could be making a huge mistake considering his competitive nature and toughness. Cravens was highly disruptive and productive in each of his three seasons as a starter thanks to his tools/traits to act on his instincts. Cravens will help on special teams immediately and could become an early starter for a 4-­3 defense looking for a playmaking weak­ side linebacker."

*** Next comes Tuerk, who is listed at a slim 269 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame which puts him right at the low end of an O-line prospect but still ranked as the No. 3 center overall: Bottom Line: "Athletic, but undersized center who gives tremendous pound­-for­-pound effort on every rep. Tuerk uses hand strength and plus balance and body control to make up for a lack of power, but his knee injury and below average mass for the position will certainly scare some teams away. Tuerk can handle himself in any scheme but is a fit for primarily zone scheme rushing attacks who don't face many 3­-4 fronts within their division."

*** Seymour comes next and at a strong 6.0 grade, he's the seventh-ranked corner and even though he doesn't yet have an analysis posted, he does have this historical overview: "Seymour expected to pair with super sophomore Adoree' Jackson in 2015 to form one of the best cornerback duos in the country. . . . Knee and ankle injuries cost Seymour playing time in his senior season, however, so he could only start four times in 11 appearances (24 tackles, one interception)."

*** Next up is Kessler, whose 5.4 grade can be looked at a couple of ways. He's not in the same ballpark with the likes of top-rated Jared Goff of Cal at 6.7 or Memphis' Paxton Lynch (6.4) or even North Dakota State's Carson Wentz (6.1) or Michigan State's Connor Cook (5.9) and he's listed slightly behind Ohio State's Cardale Jones and Arkansas' Brandon Allen, both also at 5.4. But Cody is listed ahead of the likes of Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, Alabama's Jake Coker, both at 5.3, Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty (5.2) and Stanford's Kevin Hogan at 5.0 Here's the NFL take on Cody: Bottom Line: "Can orchestrate an offense with confidence and accuracy when operating from a clean pocket, but doesn't appear to have the mentality of a player willing to take the risks necessary to strike with big plays often enough on the pro level. Kessler has moments where it is easy to like him on tape, but the traits and tape look more like those of a good, career backup than playoff starter."

*** No analysis on Woods yet but here's the overview: "Googling the phrase 'low center of gravity' should bring up a picture of Woods. It took him three years to become a full-time starter for the Trojans, redshirting in 2011 and going in and out of the lineup as a freshman and sophomore. Woods earned a larger role in 2014, starting 10 times and making 37 tackles and a sack, but he missed the Holiday Bowl after tearing a pectoral muscle during practice. Things finally came together for Woods in his first team all-conference senior season (41 stops, seven for loss, three sacks), giving scouts enough tape so see he could be the 'immovable object' to halt the 'unstoppable forces' known as NFL running backs."

*** Delvon does have an analysis as they note of the long-bodied Simmons who has physical upsides and downsides -- (strong upper body, thin legs) and a good motor. Here's their take: Bottom Line: "Rotational defensive end best ­suited to play the run rather than rush the passer. Simmons has the size and potentially the strength to play end in a 3­-4, but his arm length is less than what defensive coordinators look for at that position. Simmons probably doesn’t have the base or thickness to play inside on a full-time basis as a pro, so power end in a 4­-3 or 3-­4 five ­technique is his best shot."

*** Sarao comes next and he's a longshot in this analysis: Bottom Line: "Primarily a time­share linebacker who plays steady, but lacks the productivity NFL teams generally look for from draftable linebackers. On tape, his overall speed appears to fall below the acceptable border and he doesn’t thump well enough to make a living in the box. Sarao might need to make it into camp and impress with special teams ability to have a shot."

*** Soma gets a double look as a fullback and a special teams guy. Here's that take: Bottom Line: "While he has the desired size as a hammer­head lead blocker, he doesn’t consistently get blocks secured and his value in the passing game is very little. Vainuku's production on special teams will give him an outside shot to make a roster, but he has to prove to a team he can be a legitimate fullback option as it is unlikely that he will earn a spot as just a special teams ace."

Here's the Combine workout schedule:

*** Friday, Feb. 26: RB, OL, ST

*** Saturday, Feb. 27: QB, WR, TE

*** Sunday, Feb. 28: DL, LB

*** Monday, Feb. 29: DB

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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