USC safety T.J. McDonald has been selected by the St. Louis Rams in the 2013 NFL Draft with the 71st pick of the draft, which fell in the third round.
Enter the draft, McDonald had a fourth round draft projection, though he went higher, going in the third. He joins a Rams draft class that has Tavon Austin and Alex Ogletree.
Going into his senior season, there was cause for some concern that McDonald could regress a la Taylor Mays in his senior season. While McDonald didn’t become a defensive liability like Mays in 2009, he didn’t put up the numbers in terms of interceptions that some expected, considering he was one of the top free safeties in the country.
McDonald had just two interceptions on the season, but where he vastly improved was in his ability to stop the run and play up in the box. As part of Monte Kiffin’s adaptations to his Tampa-2-but-really-a-Tampa-2 defense, McDonald was often pulled into the box as an extra linebacker, which boosted his tackle total tremendously, as he totaled 110 tackles as a senior, up from 67 the year before.
His success playing up and against the run would suggest that McDonald’s future isn’t necessarily tied to him playing deep as a free safety, as his ability to use his body and play up against the run is where his value peaks.