Timothy Lutes | USCfootball.com

NFL longshot Trojan picks await weekend

A half-dozen Trojans will be hoping to hear their names called this weekend but chances are they'll go off to the NFL as Priority Free Agents. Here's how that breaks down for Leon McQuay (above) and the rest of these veterans who made USC competitive in recent seasons.

Any one of USC's half-dozen NFL hopefuls here could get a call this weekend -- from an NFL team and during the Draft.

And it wouldn't be all that great a surprise. But more than that certainly would. That's just the way the numbers work.

Only four of the USC guys -- Justin Davis, Taylor McNamara, Leon McQuay and Darreus Rodgers -- are listed on the NFL.com big board of draft pospects earning grades and scouting reports.

Wide receivers De'Quan Hampton and Isaac Whitney, as strong as their Pro Day showings were, are not even among the 499 players profiled on that NFL.com list. And even if a player is on the list, he has barely a 50 percent chance of becoming one of the 253 players who will hear their names called.

One by one, we'll take a look at their chances.

JUSTIN DAVIS: Pro Football Focus in its latest Top 300 NFL Draft Prospects rankings has Justin at No. 288, just past that 253 number for those who will be selected. CBS Sports has Justin as their 269th player, and No. 24 running back and on the cusp of getting drafted. But the folks at NFL.com aren't as impressed. They have Justin as their 43rd ranked running back.

There are things to like, PFF says, about the 6-foot-1, 208-pounder with a 4.49 time in the 40 -- and some not so much. "Davis showcased his ability when he can get into space with the fourth-highest elusive rating in the draft class . . . he had major issues in pass protection, though, as he allowed one pressure roughly every three snaps in pass pro, the worst mark among draft-eligible backs with a significant number of snaps in pass protection."

Here's how the NFL.com site calls it. Justin's pluses: "High school sprinter and long-jumper with desired speed and athleticism" . . . "will hide behind blockers while he probes for points of entry along LOS" . . . "nimble feet" . . . "quick to cut downhill as zone runner" . . . "agility to stop on a dime" . . . "good open field vision and elusiveness, consistent and reliable."

But then there's this: "Needs more weight to be an early-down running back" . . . "back-side tacklers run him down" . . .  "will need to play with more consistent suddenness on the next level" . . . "gives into tackle rather than imposing his will" . . . and "ball security issues with three fumbles in 109 carries this year."

PFF's bottom line: "Solid college running back who lacks the physicality to be a consistent interior runner . . . could get drafted on the third day but appears to be a garden-variety, replaceable runner."

TAYLOR MCNAMARA: CBS has Taylor as their No. 545 player and no. 36 tight end who will go undrafted. NFL.com has him as their 25th ranked tight end but still a free agent. The good, according to NFL.com: "Shows an ability to sink and dig out the low throw" . . . "can make contested catches over the middle" . . . "undersized, but utilizes desired footwork and technique as a blocker". . . "strong hands against outside linebackers." And the bad: "not enough wiggle in open field to create much more than what he catches if traffic near" . . . "needs to look for throws a little more quickly" . . . "too small to make a living along line of scrimmage" and "can be overwhelmed by size."

NFL.com's bottom line: "Need for more bulk as a blocker with decent athleticism and a willingness to work at his blocking, McNamara has a chance to make it into camp and catch a team's eye if he can stand out on special teams."

LEON MCQUAY: Did not get to test as much after the season as he'd have hoped with a hamstring. But of the six USC players here, the senior safety who starred at the end in both this year's Rose Bowl and the Holiday Bowl two years ago against Nebraska is the lone projected draftee. Fox Sports has Leon going in the seventh round at No. 222 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in his home state. CBS Sports has him as the 19th ranked free safety and the 390th player overall.

His strengths, NFL.com says, are: "good makeup speed" . . . "some cover talent from the slot, should be able to cover matchup tight ends" . . . "big hands and quality ball skills" . . . "consistent at raking catches out of receiver's hands" . . . "diagnoses running plays well" . . . "rushes downhill to a contain angle on sweep plays" . . . "quality closing burst to the perimeter." But on the flip side: "a little slow to find his accelerator after opening hips to turn and run" . . . "can be a victim of tunnel vision in coverage" . . . "loses track of coverage responsibilities at times against play-action" . . . "consistency as a tackler is an issue" . . . "at times will overrun the tackle" and "needs to do a better job of wrapping up."

NFL.com's bottom line: "McQuay isn't an easy player to slot. He has the athleticism, ball skills and speed to play the high safety role, but his inconsistent field awareness is a concern. McQuay's issues with missed and broken tackles open concerns about playing him near the line of scrimmage. If he tests well, teams may see McQuay as a hybrid corner/safety who can compete for a spot as a big cover defender in sub-packages."

DARREUS ROGERS, who made so many big, tough catches in his career for USC, seems to be getting shockingly low ratings because of his speed -- or lack thereof. No major ranking has him getting picked and CBS has Darreus numerically as the 105th wide receiver and No. 788 overall, for whatever those numbers are worth. NFL.com has him as the No. 55 wide receiver.

CBS likes Darreus' "early quickness against press coverage" . . . "sly hand usage doesn't allow cornerbacks to crowd him" . . . "puts smaller defenders in his hip pocket" . . . "ball skills are his biggest weapon" with "well-timed leaps and strong hands to climb over defenders and win the high-point throws" . . . "excellent body control and balance in mid-air" . . . "good arm extension with soft, reliable hands" . . . "excels with contested catches" and "competitive runner after the catch." But then there's this: "looks slow on tape . . . timed speed pro day even more abysmal than the tape" . . . "limited number of explosive catches" . . . and "too eager to default to contested catches rather than work to create separation.".

NFL.com's bottom line from one NFC West Coast scout: "I see some of the good things he does, but it almost doesn't even matter to me because I know our coaches are going to want him off the board as soon as they see his 40 time. I don't know if he'll break a 4.65." Darreus ran a 4.90.

DE'QUAN HAMPTON did not get invited to the Combine but the big wide receiver did manage to get the job done at USC's Pro Day. Despite checking in at 6-3 and 223 pounds, Hampton managed a 41.5-inch vertical leap that would have been third-best of all players at the Combine, an 11.0-foot broad jump that would have been 11th overall at the Combine, 21 reps on the bench press that would have been second for all wide receivers at the Combine and put up a 4.66 time in the 40. And he does have that two-TD-catch game against UCLA to fall back on as an example of what he could do when given the chance. But CBS has him as the 123rd-ranked wide receiver, a ridiculously low placing, and the No. 871 prospect overall.

"I knew I was going to kill it," De'Quan said at USC's Pro Day. "A lot of teams are saying they'll stay in touch." 

ISAAC WHITNEY, at 6-3 and 220 pounds, ripped off a 40 time at USC's Pro Day of 4.41, better than Adoree's at the Combine and good enough for 11th best at the Combine. His 36-inch vertical would have been 12th among wide receivers there. And his 10-6 broad jump would have been 12th at the Combine. But without a great deal of playing time his senior season, Isaac ends up as CBS' 111th-ranked wide receiver, again a way too low rating. And an overall No. 806 for CBS.     


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


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