The USC football program has produced the most overall NFL Draft picks and first rounders. But don’t look now, Notre Dame and Ohio State are looming.
For years, USC football has been considered the ultimate NFL factory. It’s easy to see why — the Trojans boast the most picks overall and the most first-rounders in NFL Draft history.
USC’s sports information department cites 496 all-time NFL draft picks, ahead of Notre Dame’s 493. On top of that, the Trojans’ 79 first rounders outpace Ohio State’s 74 coming into the 2017 NFL Draft weekend.
Are USC’s records in danger this year though? The simple answer, for now, is no.
Most recently, Leonard Williams and Nelson Agholor added to Troy’s count two years ago when the former was taken by the New York Jets and the latter got picked by the Philadelphia Eagles. Even though USC failed to add to the tally in 2016, the first round record is likely to stand for another year.
Ohio State has moved quickly up the list with 74 picks and last year alone the Buckeyes had five selections in the first round, including eventual Rookie of the Year and first-team All-Pro, Ezekiel Elliott.
Now, two OSU defensive backs are expected to go in the first round: Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore. If not for an allegation of sexual assault against Gareon Conley, who has yet to be charged with a crime but could fall out of the draft entirely while the investigation takes its course, there might have been a third.
But that won’t be enough to overtake the Trojans just yet. Even if Hooker, Lattimore and Conley were to be selected, despite the legal trouble for the third, Ohio State could only step within two picks of USC’s record.
Adoree’ Jackson could help bolster the Trojans’ standing even further this year, but where he goes is anyone’s guess.
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NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah has the 2016 Thorpe Award winner going 28th to the Dallas Cowboys, while Charley Casserly projects him to Green Bay at No. 29. Both Bucky Brooks and Maurice Jones-Drew have him as the last pick of the first round to the New Orleans Saints.
As for USC’s other record for the most overall picks, that one should also remain intact.
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The Trojans come into the 2017 NFL Draft with a three-man advantage on the Irish and that should only grow.
Notre Dame expects at least three players to be drafted: DeShone Kizer, Jarron Jones and Isaac Rochell. Defenders James Onwualu and Cole Luke could sneak into the later rounds as well.
However, USC should match even the most generous Irish total with at least six draftees including Jackson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Zach Banner, Chad Wheeler, Damien Mama and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu. Justin Davis is also expected to hear his name called while Darreus Rogers, Leon McQuay III and Taylor McNamara could draw a surprise pick on Day 3.
Since no other school comes close to approaching USC or Notre Dame’s draft numbers, so long as the Trojans stay ahead of the Irish, the record will be safe.