Two USC football stars in Mel Kiper’s first 2018 NFL mock draft

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 29: Sam Darnold /

Mel Kiper’s first 2018 NFL mock draft for ESPN features two USC Football stars, with Sam Darnold and Rasheem Green in the first round.

USC Football could see two early entrants to the 2018 NFL Draft justify their departure with first round selections, at least according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper, who dropped his first mock draft of the year on Thursday.

Kiper has quarterback Sam Darnold selected fifth overall by the Denver Broncos, but as the third quarterback to be taken behind Josh Allen of Wyoming and Josh Rosen of UCLA to the Browns and Giants respectively.

With the last pick in the first round, Kiper predicts the New England Patriots will take defensive end Rasheem Green for their 3-4 defensive front.

If Kiper is correct, Darnold and Green would be the first duo of Trojan first rounders since Leonard Williams and Nelson Agholor went to the Jets and Eagles respectively in 2015.

Though Darnold has long been expected to be an early first round selection, the high rating for Green suggests the defensive lineman got good news in his official draft evaluation this Christmas. His decision to leave the Trojans early certainly seems more understandable with a late first round or early second round grade.

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Kiper’s mock draft shows no sign of running back Ronald Jones II, however.

Penn State’s Saquan Barkley comes off the board at No. 4 to Cleveland in Kiper’s estimation, but the Nittany Lion star is the only running back in the first round of the mock draft.

With the likes of Georgia’s Sony Michell and LSU’s Derrius Guice also available at running back, Jones II’s draft position should be one of the most intriguing parts of the draft to track. The Texas Tesla could be the second back picked, sneaking into the first round, or he could tumble late in the second.

Also missing is wide receiver Deontay Burnett, who was the fourth and final Trojan to declare early for the draft.

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None of USC’s senior graduates appear poised for a first round selection either, though outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu could rise up draft boards as the process begins.