Shotgun Spratling | USCfootball.com

One long last look at USC's draft

Taking a final look back at the five USC athletes drafted -- through the eyes of their new teams, towns and national experts.

Might be our last chance to do this so here we go.

We take a look at how the Trojans drafted last weekend were and how they are being welcomed to their new teams and towns. In order:

*** ADOREE' JACKSON: As a first-rounder, Adoree' got the benefit of the special treatment afforded first-rounders. He and the Tennessee Titans' other first-rounder, Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis and Adoree' traveled together from Philadelphia to Nashville for the Friday press conference. And shared in hearing their games' praised with the Tennessee media and coaches say with their first-round picks, the Titans addressed all three of their needs -- playmakers at No. 1 wide receiver, an immediate starter at corner and a dynamic special teams playmaker in the open field. And Adoree', they said, will do two of those for them.

And if you were wondered whether you heard that correctly, yes, Adoree' has already been penciled in as the starting corner for the Titans -- in an AFC South where there are few big receivers. And Adoree' told then a story about racing -- and beating -- a train when he was 8 and had to be home right away. "That was a smart decision then and I think I still make those smart decisions now," he said at his press conference. "Obviously it's going to have an impact for us," Tennessee coach Mike Mularkey said. "Adding speed, adding guys that can score in all three phases, actually, is a plus for us."

At the press conference, Adoree' and Davis shared identical No. 1 jerseys but when the season starts, Adoree' will be wearing No. 25. That's the same No. 25 USC alum LenDale White wore for the Titans. "I texted him as soon as I figured out what number I was getting," Adoree' said, "and he was just congratulating me,said how proud he was of me and he was, like, 'You know, I wore that number so you've got to turn up.' I texted him back: 'All right, I got you.' "

And then in talking about going against the other first-round draft pick every day, Adoree' sounded like Clay Helton: "Iron sharpens iron," he said, "so it's going to be great for us to get to battle against each other. That's a great competitor. Not only size,he has speed, has quickness and has great hands. So when you have that combination, it makes everything else around you easy.     

And then there's this. A question asked all draftees: Historical person you'd most like to meet? Adoree's answer: "The guy who invented Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. A genius. That's my favorite candy. I eat like it ain't nothing."

Here's Pro Football Focus' take on Adoree' going to the Titans: "The Titans had an obvious need at cornerback, but Adoree’ Jackson seems a slight reach with a player the caliber of LSU’s Tre’Davious White still on the board. The Titans have to love Jackson’s 4.42-second combine 40-yard dash, and the fact that he was our top-graded returner in the country, with four total return touchdowns in 2016. In terms of his play in coverage, Jackson picked off five passes and broke up another seven last year, but also gave up seven touchdowns (five in USC’s last four games)."

*** JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER: As a second-rounder for the Steelers, JuJu was treated like a first-rounder Saturday in Pittsburgh. Some of that might be the fact that he's only the second wide receiver (Calvin Sweeney was the other in 1979) from USC taken by the Steelers since one Lynn Swann started his Hall of Fame journey back in 1974. And Lynn was the man who vouched for JuJu to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gerry Dulac. “He’s a different kind of receiver than what the Steelers already have in their lineup,” Lynn told Dulac. “He can play physical. He’ll go up and fight for the ball. In addition to A.B., he’ll be that other receiver who can go down the field and get the ball.”

That toughness quality was singled out by Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley“He’s very competitive and passionate about what he does. He’s not a guy that’s afraid to stick his nose in there and block safeties and even some linebackers. He plays with a great passion, which is one of the exciting things about him.” Lynn said “I spoke to him this morning and I essentially told him he’s going to enjoy Pittsburgh, he’s going to enjoy the people of Pittsburgh. It’s a great organization to play for. He can thrive if he’s having success on the field. He can have even more success off the field in Pittsburgh.”

Dulac notes that despite all the wide receiver talent and high NFL Draft picks, USC hasn't had an All-Pro receiver since Keyshawn Johnson, who was drafted in 1996, before JuJu, the youngest player in the draft, was born. “In the last few years we’ve had good success with young guys like that,” Haley said. “We feel like we are getting them early enough to really make an impact on their development.

Here's how it happened even though the Steelers, as Dulac said, "didn’t have a pressing need at wide receiver," they took one who, as JuJu said, had no idea they were interested in him and only talked to him for 15 minutes at the Combine. "He had the highest grade of any player still on their board," Dulac said. "It was a classic example of taking the best player available."

Pro Football Focus'  take on JuJu to the Steelers: "Smith-Schuster is a 215-pound wide receiver who can win with speed or strength. Smith-Schuster will be a different type of target than Antonio Brown for Pittsburgh, and it pays to have different styles of pass catchers in the NFL. The former USC Trojan recorded 20 receiving TDs over the past two seasons and contributed 384 yards after the catch in 2016."

*** ZACH BANNER: Not as much hometown hype for the Day 3 guys but here's the take on fourth-rounder Zach in the Indianapolis Star from Colts Senior Scout Dave Razzano: "He has really nice feet and gets his hands on people -- what he does is gets his hands up really quickly and stymies people. So he's really productive. He's played in that big Division I program at USC for a long time. And of course, he has the right DNA -- his dad was Lincoln Kennedy. He's much bigger than his dad but he's efficient in pass protection and we really like him. We're excited. He does really well against good players like Takk McKinley of UCLA. When you watch him against speed rushers he's hard to get around. That's where you become sold on his abilities. As big as he is, there's a tendency to think he's not moving well. But he is. He's a good athlete for his size. So against the best competition, that's normally where he plays his best football."

PFF's take doesn't exactly agree with the Indy scout's: "Banner can contribute at tackle in the Colts’ gap scheme, though he’s had his issues in pass protection against speed rushers."

*** LEON MCQUAY: No more safety for Leon, whose sixth-round draft selection makes him the lone DB taken by the Chiefs, who will install him as a corner and nickel. “He does have ball skills,” said Chiefs scout Trey Koziol. “With his length, speed and athleticism, he can go up and play the ball. He has a lot of physical tools.”

“Wherever the coaches need me, I’m open to anything,” McQuay told the Kansas City Star, describing his game as “very instinctive, I like to be around the ball, and probably the thing I do best is play fast.” It didn't hurt that he had a 4.45 hand-timed 40 to his credit or that he's 6-foot-1 plus.

Here's the Chiefs' scout Koziol's evaluation of Leon as a corner/nickel: “Just (because of) the movement skills, the hips, the athleticism, the speed, the length . . . he played lots of coverage at USC against the slot receiver . . . I know he got a little bit dinged up toward the middle of the season there. That’s a talented defensive backfield. They’ve got a lot of good players there . . . when coach Clancy Pendergast came back in 2016, he found a role again . . . He does have ball skills; he’s got five career interceptions ... he can go up and play the ball and has really good hips, especially for a 6-1 guy, and has comfort in off-man and press . . . he’s smart and plays the game with his eyes . . . a tremendously bright kid; his ability to see things from a safety role, conceptually, when you’re asking him to play zone coverage is only going to help him, experience-wise . . . needs to work on his footwork and technique to adequately make the change . . . especially transitioning to corner, I think that’s something the coaches will be excited to work on him with.”

*** STEVIE TU'IKOLOVATU: Great headline in the Tampa Bay Times after the Buccaneers selected Stevie T. in the seventh round: "2017 NFL draft, Day 3: Buccaneers take a running back (finally) -- and a very big and very old man." In fact, at 25 years and 10 months, Stevie is the oldest player ever drafted by the Bucs. Only 40 Bucs have played in their first NFL game at age 26 or older and no one in the last two seasons. And he is a run-stopping fit for what Tampa Bay needs. So that's very good for Stevie, the nation's No. 2 interior run-stopper statistically according to PFF.  

Here's what PFF had to say about it: "Tampa Bay has been searching for a space-eating nose tackle next to Gerald McCoy for multiple seasons, and they’ve finally found their solution. Tu’ikolovatu generated only 13 QB pressures last season (one knockdown), but dominated against the ground game. He totaled 37 defensive stops without missing a tackle, ranking second in the class with a run-stop percentage of 12.6."

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


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