It’s the most wonderful time of year—when football fans across the country wonder if their favorite juniors are going to return for their senior season or opt for the big bucks that come along with playing on Sunday.
For USC, scholarship reductions have thinned the ranks of the upperclassmen, and while all juniors are eligible, there are really only a handful for which an early exit for the NFL draft makes sense. For instance, there isn’t a soul on the planet who thinks CB Torin Harris is ready for the NFL.
Now that’s nothing against Torin, despite some boneheaded plays this season, it’s just fact.
Robert Woods, on the other hand, would surprise if he didn’t opt to play on Sundays in 2013.
Let’s dive right in and take a look at four USC juniors who could be better served declaring for the draft a year early (despite Trojan teammates’ and fans’ feelings on the matter).
It seems unlikely that Woods will return to Troy in 2013, and not just because he filed NFL evaluation paperwork. The junior wide receiver didn’t have a productive a year as in 2011, and that could put a little weight behind a decision to return.
However, Woods will still have to contend with Marqise Lee for catches as well as Nelson Agholor and George Farmer—to name just a few of his talented Trojan teammates waiting in the wings for their time to shine.
In 201,1 Robert Woods broke records and took fans’ breath away. He had 111 receptions for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns. He averaged 107.7 yards per game.
2012 has been a different story for Woods. He has 73 catches for 813 yards and 11 touchdowns with a 67.8 yards per game average.
Could Woods come back and hope to reprise his 2011 campaign?
Will he? Doubtful.
The lure of the NFL and the money will be too much for Woods to turn down. Plus, Wood’s speed and hands—no one catches in traffic quite like he does—will make him one of the most attractive receivers in the 2013 and an all-but-guaranteed first-round pick.
Nickell Robey has been a major force on the Trojans defense despite his relative lack of size. The junior cornerback is just 5’8 "and 165 lbs, causing him to slip well past the first and second rounds of the NFL draft. That said, Robey’s size has never hampered him on the field. He is a pure athlete with good instincts, speed and strength.
In 2011, Robey picked off Stanford QB Andrew Luck and returned it for a score. It is that skill that should elevate his NFL draft stock despite his small size. He has proven consistently that he can hang in there with top QB play and the value of the nickel/slot corners continues to be popular in the pass heavy NFL—which is an ideal position for Nickell.
Robey is one of the nation’s tougher CBs despite his size, and he has the speed to also be a star on USC’s track team. Robey, in my opinion, is likely to declare for the draft. His size—coupled with another year where possibly his production falls off—could hurt his draft stock, whereas in 2013 he is primed to go in the second or third round.
DE Morgan Breslin, a JC transfer at the beginning of the 2012 season, was a beast for the Trojan defense and an enigma to fans. Breslin famously denied all interview requests and was even said to be a quiet guy who doesn’t talk much by USC teammates.
At 6’2” and 250 lbs, this talented and flexible defensive end fits the mold for right DE in a 4-3 scheme but has the athleticism to play OLB in a 3-4 defense. With that versatility, Breslin should be in contention for first or second-round consideration should he opt for the 2013 NFL draft.
And finally we come to the case of Penn State transfer RB Silas Redd. Personally, I would be very surprised if Redd opted to exit USC early for the NFL. Like Breslin, he has just one season of play at Troy under his cleats, but he seems the type to stick around.
While Redd put up decent numbers for the Trojans this year, an injury caused a falloff in production in the latter half of the season. Redd is a bigger back who will fit well into an NFL offense—which is not all that dissimilar from the offense USC runs.
It is unlikely that Redd will declare, but if he does, look for him to go in the third or fourth round.