USC football had four players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft but with no first rounders on the board there were lessons to be learned for future Trojans.
USC football prides itself on having the most draft picks in history, as well as having the most first rounders.
This past week, the former list was added to with four picks, but not the latter. This is in part due to the fact that these draft picks had four different head coaches, several coordinators, and lots of turmoil.
Regardless of those circumstances, there are three takeaways that we can learn from the 2016 NFL Draft:
Don’t declare early unless you are a first round lock
This was Pete Carroll’s policy while he was the head coach at USC, and one that was met with success.
If you are not a for sure top 32 pick, stick around another year, refine your skills, and be more prepared for when the next draft comes.
The NFL is not going anywhere, but draft stocks can greatly vary from year to year.
In the case of Su’a Cravens, it seemed to many USC fans that he would be a first round pick. But he was often seen by scouts as a low-first round, high-second round pick with some saying he might land in the third round.
Given that Cravens was seen by some as a safety and some as a linebacker, he could have come back for another season and labeled himself as one position, which would have made him easier to evaluate.
Know who you are
There is a saying that if you have two quarterbacks you really don’t have one; this is true of “tweeners” as well. If you have two positions (or possibly three) you have to be evaluated twice as much and at the pro level you really can’t play two positions.
As in the case of Cravens, half of the teams saw him as a linebacker and half saw him as a safety. So in reality most teams simply knew that he was a talented playmaker, but that is not enough in most cases to warrant a first round selection.
While the injury certainly dropped his stock, Max Tuerk was still looked as a guy who was versatile but no one knew who he was; they just knew he had tools. If you are not polished at one position but you have a plethora of talents, you will be drafted, but you will drop.
This parallels with current Trojan Adoree’ Jackson, who splits time at cornerback and wide receiver. While his talents are good at both, they may cost him money if he doesn’t settle on one spot.
The NFL Combine matters
Carson Wentz, a quarterback that few knew of before the combine, was able to vault himself into the No. 2 selection because of his strong combine performance.
Likewise, Cody Kessler had a solid combine and was able to land in the third round.
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While scouts watch countless hours of film, the Combine is a place where prospective pros can be evaluated up close and greatly boost a players stock.
Take Kevon Seymour for instance. While he was drafted in the sixth round, had he not performed well at the Combine he likely would have gone undrafted.
Remember that from the Stanford game on, freshman Iman Marshall started every game and Seymour was relegated to being a back-up where he could not be observed as much. With a spectacular 40-yard dash time and solid overall Combine performance, he got himself into the conversation when his on-field play may have left him out to dry.
Simple message, the better your Combine, the better your draft stock.