USC Football Mailbag: Are any Trojan linemen draft prospects? (5/3)

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

Reign of Troy’s USC football mailbag looks at the Trojans’ future draft prospects on the offensive line and disappointments from the 2018 NFL Draft.

Does USC football have top draft prospects on the roster in 2018? Who disappointed in the 2018 NFL Draft? And what’s the future of the offensive coordinator position?

Questions abound for USC going into the 2018 season.

We tackle some of them in this week’s mailbag…

Q: Of the projected top 7 OL for 2018, how many and who might be a top 3 round NFL draftee? — @pasadenamac

A: First this requires a look at USC’s top seven offensive lineman.

The top six are easy enough to pick: right tackle Chuma Edoga, right guard Andrew Vorhees, center Toa Lobendahn, left guard Chris Brown and one of Austin Jackson or Clayton Johnston at left tackle.

The seventh man in the lineup may very well be left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, who will serve as Brown’s understudy this season but could be USC’s first choice in replacing either guard if necessary.

Now, from those seven, is there a potential draft pick in the first three rounds of an upcoming NFL Draft?

SEE MORE: Five potential first round draft picks for USC

Jackson stands out as a Day 1 or 2 prospect down the line. He’s entering his sophomore season though, and his pro prospects remain a little ways away.

Vorhees, Brown and Johnston could be draftable players, and perfectly serviceable college players, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call them potential high draft picks. It’s too early to say on Vera-Tucker, who has yet to take a college snap.

Lobendahn might have been at one stage in his career, but his injury record will hurt his draft stock greatly, probably pushing him well out of that three-round window.

That just leaves Edoga, whose draft prospects hinge more firmly on the 2018 season than anyone else’s. Edoga has a worrying history of nagging injuries, which he’s been able to play through to his credit. He also has shown some behavioral red flags on the field. But he has the physical traits to intrigue NFL scouts.

So we’ll call it 1.5 top three round draft prospects on USC’s offensive line in 2018.

On the one hand, that’s a concern as the Trojans don’t seem to be producing top-level offensive linemen—the key to any strong program.

On the other hand, draft grades don’t necessarily correlate to college football wins. UCLA had two offensive linemen drafted, one in the opening 15 picks, and still posted a losing record.

Q: Who’s the biggest draft disappointment? — @dgeske

A: Without a doubt it’s Deontay Burnett. When he declared for the NFL Draft his prospects were somewhat limited, but he was still getting a fifth-round grade from reputable sources. To go undrafted is a definite let down.

The hamstring injury he sustained before his draft preparations could really begin played a major role in the way things played out. To be fair, that issue cropped up after he declared and he couldn’t have known it would happen.

There’s two sides to this situation. The first accepts that Burnett was never going to be a major NFL prospect. The Nickell Robey-Coleman comparisons are apt. And Burnett could very well go on to carve out a role for himself just like the undersized Rams cornerback has.

CHECK OUT: Five USC pros who found success after going undrafted

Still, it’s just as reasonable to look at Burnett’s fate and acknowledge he’d have been helped by another year in college. Sure, he wouldn’t have gotten bigger, faster or stronger, but he’d have been able to put down some proven production to bolster his stock.

It’s on him to work with the hand fate dealt him.

Q: What’s the over-under on Helton naming Drevno OC as soon as Tee leaves after next season? — @JackDFoley

A: That’s assuming a couple of things right off the bat: That Martin will leave and that Drevno will stay.

It seems more likely that Drevno is an offensive line coach in waiting, with Neil Callaway approaching retirement age. Alternatively, USC could just be a layover for Drevo, who could take any number of paths to an OC gig, an NFL job or an offensive line job in the case Callaway sticks around.

Having said that, Drevno is the assistant coach on the staff who would make the most sense to take over for Martin. Clay Helton’s habits certainly point to it.

Of course, he could always give new quarterbacks coach Bryan Ellis a go.

Q: Are any of the quarterbacks stepping up? Anyone? Anyone at all? — @SoCalGael

A: Wide receiver Tyler Vaughns is out there slinging it.

So is bling longsnapper Jake Olsen.

Truth is, each of USC’s quarterbacks will have ample opportunity over the next few months to step up. Matt Fink and Jack Sears can both take their game up a level while JT Daniels is certainly talking the talk of a starting quarterback.

Someone will have the job come September.