NFL Combine 2019 Preview: USC’s Iman Marshall looking to prove CB chops

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

Four-year USC starter Iman Marshall needs to prove he’s worth a pick as a cornerback when he takes the field at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

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The 2019 NFL Combine holds a major opportunity for USC defensive back Iman Marshall, whose future at cornerback may be at stake.

The Trojan will be joined by four other USC teammates this weekend in Indianapolis as testing by pro scouts continues.

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Does Marshall have what it takes to stand out?

USC resume

Marshall has been a consistent presence at cornerback for the Trojans, earning a starting job two weeks into his freshman season and never relinquished it. He finished out his Trojan career with 48 starts in 50 appearances.

The corner was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention in both 2016 and 2017, though he didn’t reach his true potential until his senior season. It only netted him an All-Pac-12 second team selection, but he was one of USC’s top performers in 2018.

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In 12 games, he posted 48 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, a team-best nine deflections and a forced fumble. All the while, he locked down his side of the field, going against some of the best receivers in the Pac-12.

Scouting report and draft stock

At USC, Marshall proved he could hold his own at cornerback in an aggressive scheme which put him on his own regularly. And opposing quarterbacks were wary of targeting him as a result. He also proved exceptional in run defense on the outside, developing into a sure and aggressive tackler.

At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Marshall’s size and physicality has never been in question. But the debate has always followed him around: Is he more suited to play safety?

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That question isn’t going away with NFL scouts now making the evaluation.

On the one hand, Marshall’s size is an advantage matching up with some receivers. However, Lance Zierlein of expects the DB to shift to safety “due to a lack of functional long speed and athleticism.” There, his “size, toughness and tools” would be a strength, especially covering tight ends.

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Marshall appears to be a mid-round prospect. Chad Reutter of put him in the third round of his three-round mock draft. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report slotted him into the fifth round of his post-Super Bowl Mock Draft. He also has a fifth-round projection in the latest Walter Football Mock Draft.

Combine expectations

Marshall was a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster and he used his opportunity well with a strong week of practice.

The NFL Combine will be another chance to showoff his skills, and perhaps answer doubts about his speed.

A quick enough 40-yard dash might make Marshall’s case for staying at cornerback, while positional drills going against NFL hopefuls at receiver could also give him a boost in that regard.