USC vs. UCLA: Power Ranking the Top 5 NFL Draft-Eligible Players in Los Angeles
As the annual battle for Los Angeles between USC and UCLA draws near, the city is buzzing with anticipation.
With the Bruins somewhat stumbling into Saturday's match, fans of both programs are wondering if USC can finish the season with the same winning flair they have experienced since Ed Orgeron took over as interim head coach.
One thing is for sure though...UCLA won't make it easy for them.
The Bruins are coming off of a tough loss at home against Arizona State, and they will be looking to right their ship against a Trojan team that has now gone 6-1 since the aforementioned "Coach O" took over for the departed Lane Kiffin.
When both teams take the field this weekend, they will be featuring some players who will be playing their last regular season college game.
Beyond a bowl game, the next time these players will suit up will be for their new NFL employers.
Who are these players?
This slideshow will look at the five top NFL eligible players for both teams and power ranks their likely order when draft day arrives.
So without further delay, here are the five best players the Trojans and Bruins have to offer the pros...
No. 5: Devon Kennard (Outside Linebacker)
When Trojan outside linebacker Devon Kennard came to USC as a 5-star defensive end from Arizona, most people thought it would just be a matter of time before he found stardom for the men of Troy.
However, injuries and a multitude of position changes derailed Kennard in his Trojan career, and it took until his senior season in 2013 for him to really hit his stride.
Now finally completely healthy and thriving in defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's 5-2 alignment, Kennard has been a dominant leader for USC's No. 14 overall ranked defense.
How dominant? Going into the UCLA game, the 6'3", 255 pound Kennard leads the Trojans in sacks with eight and is second on the team with 11.5 tackles for loss to go along with 51 total tackles.
Though initially projected by CBS sports.com and NFL Draft Scout.com to go in the sixth or seventh round, Kennard has likely played his way into a much higher slot.
No.4: George Uko (Defensive End/Tackle)
The NFL always have a thirst for 6'3", 290 pound defensive linemen who are strong enough to work the interior yet quick enough to rush the edge, and that is why if Trojan redshirt junior George Uko chooses to leave for the pros, he will be a hot commodity to be sure.
Uko has been a reliable anchor for a defensive line that has seen its share of injuries and has relied on Uko to stay on the field when his cohorts have struggled with their health.
No. 3: Brett Hundley (Quarterback)
The pros always salivate over 6'3", 222-pound mobile quarterbacks with rocket arms, and so they are drooling over the Bruins' redshirt sophomore, Brett Hundley.
With legitimate 4.6-forty speed, Hundley is a smart field leader who has thrown for over 2600 yards and 22 touchdowns against only nine interceptions.
Hundley has done all of this behind a leaky offensive line which has allowed 31 sacks already in 2013.
Projected to go in the second round, the only question is whether or not the redshirt sophomore makes himself available for the 2014 NFL draft.
No. 2: Marqise Lee (wide Receiver)
At one time, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee was considered an overall top-10 NFL pick in this years draft.
However, a variety of injuries have kept Lee from fulfilling his potential in 2013, and now the pros are casting a wary eye at the electric pass catcher who is reminiscent of Philadelphia wideout DeSean Jackson—without Jackson's head issues.
Limited by those aforementioned injuries, Lee has only caught 44 passes this year, but if the true junior comes out—and he likely will—look for him to be a solid first round choice to be sure.
No. 1: Anthony Barr (Outside Linebacker)
If he had come out last year, UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr would have likely been a high first round draft choice.
But the true senior decided to come back for one last year for the powder blue and gold and the Bruins are awfully glad he did.
Despite being double-teamed more often than not in 2013, Barr has still delivered in a big way this year and his 17 tackles for loss and eight sacks both lead UCLA.
A relentless player with a tremendous nose for the ball, look for Barr to be a top 10 NFL pick in this year's draft.
Though the aforementioned players are likely to be the highest taken in this year's NFL draft, they are by no means the only ones that will be playing on Sundays.
Other Trojans that will be receiving paychecks include but are not limited to:
|Player:||Position:||CBS.com Projected Round:|
|Dion Bailey||Free Safety||2-3|
|Xavier Grimble||Tight End||4|
|Silas Redd||Running Back||4-5|
|Kevin Graf||Offensive Tackle/Guard||7-FA|
Potential Bruins that will be drafted include:
|Player:||Position:||CBS.com Projected Round:|
|Xavier Su'a-Filo||Offensive Guard||3-4|
|Shaquelle Evans||Wide Receiver||7-FA|
|Cassius Marsh||Defensive End||7-FA|
|Jordan Zumwalt||Inside Linebacker||7-FA|
As usual, there will be a bevy of football talent on hand when the Trojans meet the Bruins this Saturday evening in the battle for Los Angeles.
And while the fans will be packed elbow-to-elbow to take in the action, so will the NFL scouts be on hand to assess prospects for this year's draft.
So enjoy these players while you can.
After this year, the next time you will see them will be on Sundays.