The 2014 NFL Draft
Thursday May 8 – Saturday, May 10, 2014
Radio City Music Hall, New York City
TV: ESPN and NFL Network, starting Thursday at 5:00 p.m. PT
FIRST PICK: Houston Texans
In just a few days, a bunch of football players from Los Angeles’ two major institutions of higher learning, along with hundreds of other college football players around the country, will once and for all find out if they will have a job in the NFL.
Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M are the two biggest names in this year’s crop of pro football newbies, and despite some pundits saying that they may not be as good as advertised, their names will be called within the first 20 minutes on Thursday night.
However, that doesn’t mean that UCLA and USC are complete sludges when it comes to the Bruins and Trojans who’ve either exhausted their eligibility or decided to leave school early to plead their case to the 32 NFL teams, as there are some outstanding prospects among those two teams.
The NFL Combine in Indianapolis has been held, as has Pro Day on the campuses in Westwood and just south of Downtown L.A.
Now it’s time to speculate and make a few predictions as to who will get drafted and how high they will go – these are who I consider the top three prospects for the Bruins and the Trojans:
1. Anthony Barr, LB
23.5 sacks and 41.5 tackles for loss during his last two seasons as a Bruin. Consensus All-American in 2013. First team all-Pac-12 in 2012 and ’13.
Barr was an absolute beast for Jim Mora; his hit on USC’s Matt Barkley in 2012, which ended the Trojan quarterback’s college career, will forever be remembered.
Prediction: Considered by many to be the top linebacker available, he will be taken early in the first round, quite possibly within the first ten picks.
2. Xavier Sua-Filo, OG
All-Pac-12 first team in 2012 and 2013. Declared his eligibility for the NFL draft a year early, but as he spent two years on a Mormon mission, he is about the same age as most seniors.
Sua-Filo was clearly UCLA’s best offensive lineman the past two seasons; at 6’4″ and 307 pounds, he is seen as versatile as he started 19 games at left tackle and 21 at left guard.
Prediction: Could go anywhere from low first round at best to third round at worst; if taken in the 1st round, he would be the first Bruin OL since Jonathan Odgen in 1996 to go that high.
3. Jordan Zumwalt, LB
All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention in 2013. Co-MVP of the 2013 Hyundai Sun Bowl.
93 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss in 2013.
Prediction: Third round at best, more likely 5th or 6th round.
Other Bruin notables who are most likely 5th-7th round picks at best: Cassius Marsh (DE), Shaq Evans (WR)
1. Marqise Lee, WR
2012: Biletnikoff Award winner (first USC player to win that award), unanimous All-American, and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year.
248 receptions for 3,655 yards and 29 touchdowns during his three years as a Trojan. As expected, declared for the NFL draft a year early.
Widely acknowledged as one of the best receivers in USC history, even though his 2013 numbers – 57 catches, 791 yards and four TDs – didn’t match his 2011 and 2012 stats, Lee is far and away the best prospect the Trojans have in this draft.
Prediction: If the NFL teams go by “What have you done for me lately?”, Lee could slip into the second round. Otherwise, he’s a definite middle first rounder.
2. Dion Bailey, LB/S
Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year at linebacker in 2011, recording 181 tackles at that position during 2011 and 2012.
Moved to safety in 2013, making 61 tackles and five interceptions and earning second team all-Pac-12 honors.
Prediction: Bailey has definitely showed his versatility while at USC, which NFL teams will love. I see him playing on special teams at the least.
Though he won’t go in the first round, he’ll catch on somewhere, probably in the middle rounds; I say 4th or 5th round at worst.
3. Xavier Grimble, TE
All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention in 2012 and 2013.
Caught 69 passes for 731 yards and 11 touchdowns during his three seasons at USC; like Lee, Bailey and 95 other underclassmen around the nation, Grimble is forgoing his senior year to enter the draft.
Prediction: Fifth round at best as though Uko will be useful to a lot of teams, he just hasn’t caught enough exciting buzz to be talked about as a high draft pick.
Other Trojan notables who are most likely 5th-7th round picks at best: George Uko (DE), Devon Kennard (OLB), Morgan Breslin (OLB), Silas Redd (RB)
Although I could be completely wrong, that’s how I see things as the festivities in New York fast approach.
Of course it should go without saying that I wish all of these guys the best of luck as their fates are decided.