Should Su’a Cravens forgo his senior season at USC for the NFL or return to accomplish the goals he set out to achieve when he joined the Trojans?
The junior hybrid linebacker-safety, who is set to announce his NFL decision Wednesday, has been the linchpin for USC’s defense in 2016, but the talent which saw him capable of starting successfully as a true freshman is exactly what could propel him to success in the NFL.
After USC’s loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game, Cravens told reporters that his decision to stay or go would be based on a few factors: fulfilling college goals, draft stock and position.
After the conference title game Cravens indicated that one of the things holding him back from making a choice one way or another was the memory of football goals he’d written down in his journal for his dad. One of those goals was to be a first team All-American for the Trojans.
Unfortunately, Cravens is on the outside looking in when it comes to first team All-American status. He was been listed as third team player by the AP and an honorable mention by Sports Illustrated but could not secure a first team nod from relevant sources.
USC acknowledges All-American first teamers from five sources — AP, FWAA, Coaches, Walter Camp and Sporting News — none of which honored Cravens at that level.
Stay or Go? Stay. Cravens had a strong enough season to warrant national attention, but USC’s struggles on defense and his inbetweener position likely contributed to his lack of All-American recognition. An improved Trojan defense in 2016 and senior class resume would give him a decent chance of making it onto USC’s wall of All-Americans.
Cravens flat out said it loud and clear: “I’m not leaving if I’m not first round. I didn’t come here to start as a freshman, get freshman All-American and all of these accolades to be a second day guy. I want to be a first day guy.”
The trouble is that Craven’s draft stock is tough to pin down.
CBS Sports projects Cravens as a second round pick as a linebacker. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller mocked Cravens as the 26th pick to the Vikings in his latest first round draft. Walter Football placed Cravens in the second round as the 41st pick.
Since he submitted for a draft evaluation, Cravens will at least have a clearer idea of where NFL scouts project him to go. In the end his decision will likely answer that question for us.
Still, while Rotoworld’s Josh Norris tweeted last week that all “all indications (and sources) point to [Cravens] turning pro” his current draft projections would suggest a more cloudy proposition.
Stay or Go? Go. Though Cravens will surely be risking missing out on first round status there is no guarantee that another year in college will improve his stock. Ultimately, draft position matters much less than pro production.
Cravens was adamant that he intends to play safety at the next level despite filling in at weakside linebacker for the Trojans the last two years.
“Everyone thinks I’m an inside linebacker. I came to play safety and that’s what I plan on playing,” Cravens said. “If I feel like I need to spend another year to solidify that, then that’s what I’ll do.”
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Despite Cravens desire to play safety, an NFC scout told Lance Zierlein of NFL.com that Cravens will be a 4-3 outside linebacker or a 3-4 inside linebacker when he gets to the pros.
As a hybrid player in an age of hybrid players, Cravens can use his “tweener’ status to his advantage but when it comes to draft evaluations it could come down to differences in opinion about whether his future is in the secondary or in the box.
Stay or Go? Go. Another season at linebacker for USC will solidify the reality that Cravens will be drafted as a linebacker. But book-ending his Trojan career as a safety would only prove to NFL scouts that Cravens is a versatile athlete — something they already know today. Whether or not Cravens becomes an pro linebacker or safety will not hinge on a 2016 season at USC.