Shotgun Spratling | USCfootball.com

NFL COMBINE . . . USC BY THE NUMBERS

With the NFL Combine list released today, we take a look at USC's 8-man participant group along with the rest of USC's 2017 opponents and figure out what it means, if anything.

It's hardly an exact science and neither are the numbers. Not exact and not exactly scientific.

But one set of numbers we've seen note that something like just over a third of NFL Combine participants do not get drafted and nearly one in seven who do get drafted didn't get invited to the Combine. So there.

And yet, here we're going with a look at USC's 2017 Combine eight-man class who are among the 330 prospects invited to show their stuff in Indianapolis Feb. 28 through March 6. Here's the link to the full list.

The USC group is: OL Zach Banner, RB Justin Davis, CB Adoree' Jackson, OL Damien Mama, WR Darreus Rogers, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, DL Steve Tu'ikolovatu and OL Chad Wheeler.

Not a bad group. Although the terms "good" and "bad" are very much relative here. Sure, you'd like to see a decent number of your guys get the call and not get overlooked. And yet, a really high number for the 2017 Combine isn't necessarily good news for the Fall of 2017.

You'd like to see a big enough number but not the biggest one. We're talking Michigan here. The Wolverines lead the way with 14 participants in Indy, where Jim Harbaugh's guys -- despite all this veteran talent -- did not make it for the Big Ten championship game. Penn State and Wisconsin did.

And those two -- between them -- will send just eight total to the Combine with Penn State having just two and Wisconsin six. So that's really good news for the Nittany Lions next fall. Not so good for the Wolverines who had a senior team fade at the end, losing to Ohio State and now losing all these guys to the NFL.

The only other teams with double-digit Combine participants are, as expected, the SEC talent factories at Alabama and LSU, both with 10. Again, no surprise. Both just reload with talent and will do so again. Not as big a hit on them. LSU still needs to find a quarterback and Bama an offensive coordinator.

As for USC, the eight-man group ties the Trojans for seventh-most at the Combine behind Clemson, Miami and Texas A&M with nine apiece. So clearly the numbers here are not a predictor from that trio -- one the national champ, the other two still struggling a bit.

Tied with USC are a wide range of programs -- Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State and the only other Pac-12 program in the group -- Utah. Of the group, USC had the best finish. Completing the Top 15 Combine programs are Louisville, North Carolina and one other Pac-12 program -- Washington with seven apiece.

So what do the numbers tell us? Well, it's inside the numbers that matters. Utah losing four O-linemen and running back Joe Williams will make it tougher for the Utes to grind it out the way Kyle Whittingham always wants to.

And for a Washington team USC could only meet in the championship game, losing safety Budda Baker and corners Sidney Jones and Kevin King won't help the Huskies' matchup against Sam Darnold nor will the loss of speedy wide receiver John Ross for a UW team that would need to put points on the board.

Although there's no question, USC loses the most talent in the Pac-12 on both sides of the ball. But that might not be saying all that much.

The rest of the nine Pac-12 programs will have a mere 23 players at the Combine led by UCLA's five. South champ Colorado has four, the same as Stanford. Oregon State and Cal have three apiece, Washington State two while Arizona State and Oregon have one each. Arizona? Nobody.

Not a great show for the Pac-12 when the top two teams in the SEC, the Big Ten and the ACC all have just about as many Combine prospects as the bottom nine teams in the Pac-12. How do some of those programs ever recruit an NFL-hopeful player with that kind of recent history?

Nor is it a boom Combine year for USC's three 2017 nonconference opponents. Texas has just one, indicating this was a young Longhorn team. And that one was by far their best player -- running back D'onta Foreman. Western Michigan will have two in Indy including All-American wide receiver Corey Davis while Notre Dame will have a surprisingly small haul of just three -- although maybe not too surprising when you look at the Irish' 4-8 season. And one of those is star quarterback DeShone Kizer.

Now for the USC eight. As always, the NFL.com site does a thorough and extensive job analyzing each of them and you really have to read it full. We'll just give you a taste with the "Bottom Line" on each -- and their grades which are pretty workmanlike with nobody off the charts. Here's the grade scale behind them.

9.00-10

Once-in-lifetime player

8.00-9.00

Perennial All-Pro

7.50-7.99

Future All-Pro

7.00-7.49

Pro Bowl to All-Pro ability

6.50-6.99

Good NFL starter with Pro Bowl potential

6.00-6.49

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

5.00

50/50 chance of making the roster

*** Zach Banner, Grade 5.72 : "Rare size, but some teams will question whether he can bend enough to be a functional NFL guard. As a tackle, he lacks quickness to consistently protect the passer, and teams might focus too heavily on that shortcoming. Teams who focus on Banner's strength -- drive blocking -- should be rewarded with a starting right guard who is average in pass protection, but who can help turn run creases into running lanes."

*** Justin Davis, Grade 5:08: "Solid college running back who lacks the physicality to be a consistent interior runner and the blocking ability teams expect from their third down backs. Davis has decent vision and elusiveness once he gets up to the second level, but he lacks early creativity and typically gets what is blocked for him on the first level. He could get drafted on the third day but appears to be a garden-variety, replaceable runner." 

*** Adoree' Jackson, Grade 5:86: "There are two things teams love -- ball production from cornerbacks and return men who can play meaningful snaps on every down. Jackson fits those criteria. His lack of size and length are concerns, but he has the athleticism to step right in as a slot corner on the next level. His combination of coverage and return talent could make him an early impact player."

*** Damien Mama, Grade 5.49: "Power-based guard who can generate movement off the ball, but lacks the balance and bend to be a consistent block sustainer. Smart defenders started to time up Mama's punch in pass protection, so he will need to vary his approach, but he does have the heavy hands and sturdy base to combat bull-rushers and set a shallow anchor. Could start his career as a backup, but has the size and ability to become eventual starter."

*** Darreus Rogers, Grade 5.19: "Rogers is one part vertical receiver with great ball skills and no deep speed and one part possession receiver with below average route-running but very good hand-eye coordination. His size will work in his favor, but his lack of functional play speed could make the back end of a roster his final destination."

*** JuJu Smith-Schuster, Grade 5.85: "Smith-Schuster will get dinged for his lack of speed and separation but he reminds me of Anquan Boldin with his strong hands, physical approach and ability to win the combat catches. JuJu is missing some of the speed traits teams want from their WR1, but he could become a high-volume, possession target with the size to win some 50/50 throws down the field. Teams who have a speed merchant at one spot would be wise to take a look at Smith-Schuster as a physical counterpart."

*** Steve Tu'ikolovatu, Grade 5.5: "Left Utah to earn more playing time at USC and it seemed to pay dividends. With a jarring punch that sets him up for success, he is able to get rid of blockers for quick wins and is a productive tackler once he's free." 

*** Chad Wheeler, Grade 5.46: "A move blocker with the ability to operate confidently in space while lacking the power to whip the man across from him. Lack of core strength and consistent footwork in pass protection could force him to make a move inside to guard for a zone team. Could become an eventual starter, but might be best-suited as a swing tackle on the NFL level." 


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

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