Projecting where USC Trojan draft prospects will be selected in the 2024 NFL Draft

The USC football program has a number of players expected to be taken in the 2024 NFL Draft so let's project where they might be selected.
Sep 30, 2023; Boulder, Colorado, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Brenden Rice (2) runs for a
Sep 30, 2023; Boulder, Colorado, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Brenden Rice (2) runs for a / Chet Strange-USA TODAY Sports

The history of USC Trojans in the NFL Draft is as lengthy and prestigious as that of any school in the nation. In fact, USC can claim draftees all the way back to the second ever NFL Draft in 1937 when offensive tackle Gil Kuhn was taken by the Brooklyn Dodgers with the 93rd overall pick.

Since then, USC has boasted five No. 1 overall picks and that number is likely to increase this year when Caleb Williams is expected to be the first player off the board. What's more, as many as six Trojans are considered potential draft picks this year. So let's take an early guess as to where some of the most coveted Trojans could go in this year's Draft.

USC QB Caleb Williams is almost guaranteed to be the No. 1 overall pick

Caleb Williams is being heralded as the most talented QB in recent memory with some even comparing his natural abilities to those of Patrick Mahomes II. Whether or not he lives up to those lofty expectations will be fascinating to see as will be the landing spot for him in the NFL.

While we all expect Williams to be the first pick in this year's Draft, there is no guarantee that the team that currently holds that pick, the Chicago Bears, will stay in that spot. After all, the Bears did use the No. 11 overall pick on QB Justin Fields in 2021.

Will Chicago trade the first pick and build around Fields or will they make a deal to send their starting QB elsewhere? It would make sense to do the latter given that Williams is considered a once-in-a-generation prospect who could instantly transform a struggling franchise. But the only intrigue surrounding Williams looks to be not where he will be drafted but which city he will next call home.

USC safety Calen Bullock appears destined for the second round

With high-powered passing attacks still ruling the NFL, the safety position remains as valuable as it ever has been. Players with the size to play the run as well as defend bigger receivers and even tight ends are invaluable in the modern game and that's why Calen Bullock will hear his name called early in the Draft.

Teams have to be lusting after his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame knowing that he could easily get to 210 pounds and still retain his athleticism. A skilled man cover player and an intelligent defender who understands offensive concepts and how to anticipate them, he could quarterback a team's defense for years in the NFL.

He will need to prove that he's got the physicality to play closer to the line of scrimmage and stop the run, however. Still, expect Bullock's name to be called early this year, likely in the middle of the second round.

USC wide receiver Brenden Rice could be a third-round pick

The combination of size and speed makes Brenden Rice a lock to be drafted this year. In fact, he could sneak into the second round if there is a run on wide receivers earlier in the Draft.

Rice is a physical mismatch given his wingspan and his speed, both of which will make him successful in the NFL where contested receptions are the norm more so than in college. He also had the propensity for showing out in big games while at USC, an intangible that NFL franchises will love.

There are concerns about his ability to be physical given that his 6-foot-2, 212-pound frame is rather slender. Also, consistencicy is something he's yet to show on a weekly basis. That's why he will likely fall to the early third round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

USC running back MarShawn Lloyd could fall to the fourth round

Running backs continue to be devalued unless they are superstar talents like Bijon Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons was when he was coming out of Texas last year. Thus, the middle rounds are where RBs tend to hear their names called and that will be true of USC's MarShawn Lloyd.

At 5-foot-9 and 217 pounds, he's big enough to pick up blitzers, which is critical in the NFL where linebackers and safeties are so physical and punishing. He also runs with great balance and can pick up tough yards between the tackles, another important skill for life in the NFL.

However, his burst isn't elite and that will hurt him in the eyes of NFL teams who covet big-play backs. Look for Lloyd to fall to the fourth round because of that lack of dynamic explosiveness.

USC Linebacker Eric Gentry might squeeze into the 7th round

Finally, on day three of the Draft, keep an eye on USC linebacker Eric Gentry. The final round is where a ton of linebackers are selected because they are often seen as potential special teams pieces and that could be Genrty's ticket into the NFL.

The lanky 6-foot-6, 215-pounder lacks prototypical size for an NFL linebacker. However, some players of that build, like Markquese Bell of the Dallas Cowboys have carved out a niche for themselves as finesse linebackers on Sundays.

Gentry's speed could prompt a team to take a flyer on him late in the seventh round. If that happens, he will have an opportunity to be a special teams contributor and make an NFL roster.