Pro Day buzz: Thompson at USC

Ted Thompson, with his penchant for trading back, had to like what he saw at the Trojans' workouts on Wednesday. First-round linebackers Rey Maualuga, Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing all could be had by trading back in the first round, as could defensive end prospect Fili Moala in the second round.

If there's one thing we know about the NFL draft, it's that general manager Ted Thompson likes to trade down.

In his four drafts with the Packers, he has traded back 13 times, including out of the first round last year.

We point this out because Thompson was in attendance during USC's pro day on Wednesday in Los Angeles. While the Packers obviously would have no interest in selecting quarterback Mark Sanchez, the Trojans' other top prospects all would be available by trading down.

Middle linebacker is not a position of need, but if Thompson loved Rey Maualuga's potential to turn into a Ray Lewis-type force, he could select him at No. 9 or roll the dice and move back a couple of spots in the first round.

Outside linebacker is a much bigger need. The Packers have Aaron Kampman on one side, but neither Brandon Chillar, Brady Poppinga, Jeremy Thompson nor Jason Hunter seem to have the potential to seize control of the spot opposite Kampman.

So, Thompson could trade back several spots in the first round if he wanted the Trojans' Brian Cushing or Clay Matthews to line up on the outside.

In the second round, 6-foot-4, 303-pound defensive lineman Fili Moala has the ability to line up as an immediate starter at the end position opposite Cullen Jenkins. Grabbing Moala would be too early with the 41st overall pick, so again, Thompson could trade back 10 or maybe even 15 spots to get Moala if he was impressed by what he heard and saw on Wednesday.

None of the Trojans' top prospects disappointed in the most-watched pro day of the spring.

The menacing 249-pound Maualuga, who strained a hamstring while running his 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine in February and was unable to test in the other events, ran his 40 in 4.69 seconds on Wednesday. It wasn't the type of time that will send him rocketing up teams' draft boards, but Lewis' 40 time coming out of college was 4.7. What Maualuga did during his All-American senior season and his strong performance at the Senior Mobile are all the scouts need to know.

"Of all the other linebackers, I had the most to prove," Maualuga said. "This whole month I had to prepare myself to come out here and be at the same level as the rest of these guys. I gave everything that I got, whether it was a 100 percent or not, I felt I did good."

Matthews probably has passed Cushing on most teams' draft boards. Not only did he run a faster 40 on Wednesday (4.58 seconds compared to 4.67), but he looked better in coverage drills, according to our spies on the scene. While Cushing is more seasoned, Matthews — who didn't become a starter until early in his senior season — has a bigger upside and is seen as a better pass rusher.

Plus, he was voted USC's top special-teams performer for two seasons.

"I have always believed in myself and believed that I could be in this position one day," he said. "But to come from a being walk-on and a guy that wasn't even rated before the season, to now being projected to hopefully a first round draft pick is humbling."

Said Trojans coach Pete Carroll: "He's the best special teams guy we've ever seen here. He's a hell of a football player."

Get a "hell of a football player" and an extra draft pick to boot? Sounds like something that's right up Thompson's alley.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport


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