With less than sixty days remaining until the Tennessee Titans are on the clock to commence the 2016 NFL Draft, things are beginning to heat up in front offices across the NFL. General managers, team scouts, and coaches across the league are sifting through the prospects available in search of the right piece to plug into their franchise.
Last week, from Feb. 23-29, NFL Draft prospects nationwide made their way to Lucas Oil Stadium to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine. Seven former USC Trojans participated in the Combine events; hoping to garner higher draft stock.
The Trojan holding the highest draft projection entering the Combine was former USC linebacker, Su'a Cravens. Cravens, who is projected as a possible first-round selection by many scouting sources, has been compared to Seattle Seahawks safety, Kam Chancellor, by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.
While Cravens was a participant in a majority of the Combine events, he elected not to run the 40-yard dash in front of scouts last week. He made it clear in his interview session that he intends to run the 40-yard dash during his upcoming USC Pro-Day.
“I ran a fast time before I came [to Indianapolis for the Combine] and I guess it surprised my agent and my trainer,” Cravens said to the media. “And they said, ‘Well, we think you can go faster than that.’ So they wanted me to wait till Pro Day.”
Cravens would participate in the on-field workouts. He impressed many scouts in attendance with his "fluidity and athleticism" in navigating the field.
On the bench press, the former All-American only managed to put up 16 repetitions of 225-lbs, which was one of the lower totals for linebackers at the Combine. This resurfaced a major question that scouts have pertaining to Cravens: what position is he exactly?
At USC, Cravens eventually adopted a role as an outside linebacker. However, in an interview with NFL Network during the Combine, Cravens said that playing strong safety would be his position of choice at the next level.
Former Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler also made a showing at the Combine. While Kessler did not blow anyone away with his athleticism, the quarterback did gain positive acclaim from scouts regarding his impressive hand size. Kessler's hand measured out to be 10 7/8" — tying him for the largest hand size among quarterbacks at the Combine. Hand size could prove to be very beneficial for Kessler's draft stock, as more and more coaching staffs are finding value in the metric.
Kessler also participated in the interview portion of the Combine. He drew on the fact that he faced "pretty much every type of adversity" during his time as a Trojan.
Former USC fullback Soma Vainuku and Tre Madden excelled in their bench press performances. Vainuku, a 2013 All-PAC-12 first-teamer, finished his bench press session with 26 repetitions; third-most among fullbacks at the Combine. Madden, who opted to not participate in on-field drills, had the second most repetitions in the running back group at 24.
Arguably the most disappointing outing from a former Trojan came from defensive tackle Antwaun Woods. Woods, whose draft stock was on the rise after a solid NFLPA Bowl performance, reportedly suffered a pectoral injury that prevented him from completing the Combine workouts. The 6-foot, 318-pound prospect looks to heal up and participate at the USC Pro Day to further make an impression on NFL scouts.
Former defensive back Kevon Seymour clocked an impressive 4.39 40-yard dash. The time was the sixth-fastest among defensive backs and eighth-fastest among all participants at the Combine.
Max Tuerk, former All-PAC-12 offensive lineman, is still recovering from an ACL tear he suffered in October. While Tuerk's injury prevented him from any on-field workouts, he still participated in the bench press, interview, and measurements.
Many scouts were impressed with Tuerk's rise in weight; he weighed-in at 298 pounds, after previously being listed at 285. While the bulk in weight is encouraging for Tuerk's draft stock, many scouts are more interested in seeing his athleticism and mobility following the knee injury.
USC will be hosting their Pro-Day on Wednesday, Mar. 23; another opportunity for these NFL hopefuls to boost their draft stock with a strong performance in front of NFL scouts.