The complete list of 333 NFL draft hopefuls to be invited to the Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis was announced on Thursday, and it includes six players from UCLA and six from USC. There is no better stage in the country for draft hopefuls to show off their skills, take a few tests, run a 40-yard dash, and interview with NFL teams as they look to convince General Managers and coaches why the deserve to play for their teams.
The headliner for Southern Cal will be quarterback Matt Barkley. Once believed to have a good chance at being the number one overall pick once he declared for the draft, Barkley returned to USC for his senior season and many onlookers felt he put up disappointing statistics while getting hurt by the end of the year and missing the final two games. Barkley finished with 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, but nine of those interceptions came over his final four starts. He did, however, help lead a 51-point outburst against #2 Oregon, though the Trojans lost 62-51.
There are still many people that believe Barkley is still the best quarterback available in the draft, over the likes of Geno Smith of West Virginia, but there are others that think he could fall to the second round. A strong showing at the combine would go a long way to solidifying his first round status.
Robey, an underclassman, is the 19th-ranked CB by NFL Draft Scout and projected to go between the 5th and 6th rounds. He should be one of the fastest players in Indianapolis. At 5'8", 168 lbs, he's also destined to be one of the smallest players in the draft.
SS Jawanza Starling, 6'1", 202 lbs, is the 10th-ranked strong safety by NFL Draft Scout. The stout safety could be a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent. McDonald, the senior opposite of Starling at FS, is ranked 6th at his position and he could solidify a selection in the top three rounds with a strong combine.
Center Khaled Holmes, listed at 6'3", 305 lbs, could find himself taken in the middle rounds.
Finally for USC, Robert Woods was a bit overshadowed by the younger Marqise Lee playing opposite of him, but Woods could still find himself taken in the 1st round of the draft. The 6'1, 190 lb receiver would do well to showcase a 40-yard dash better than 4.40, and that will make everyone forget that his numbers took a step back in 2012. Woods had 1,292 yards two years ago, but finished with 73 catches for 813 yards in his final season. Lee might be the best receiver in the country, but Woods is still a fine NFL draft prospect.
Now what do the Bruins have to offer with their six invitees to Indy?
UCLA's draft hopefuls are headlined by running back Johnathan Franklin, a senior that totaled 1,734 rushing yards in 2012 with 13 touchdowns, plus 33 catches for 323 yards and another two scores. His 2,000 total yards from scrimmage should solidify Franklin's chances of getting taken in the top three rounds and he could be seen by teams as an every-down back in the NFL.
Jones, a 6'4", 280 lb senior, is hoping that there will be no doubt about his first round grade after the combine. He is rated as the 5th-best defensive end right now but his large frame could see him play on the inside for some NFL teams. That versatility would only serve Jones well and a "strong" combine (emphasis on showcasing power) along with speed will serve Datone well.
The 6'7", 257 lb Fauria has a good football bloodline, but a strong class of tight ends ahead of him and perhaps an underwhelming season (41 catches for 578 yards) could leave him as an undrafted free agent. A good combine will help his cause of seeing some team call on his 6'7" height during the draft.
Hester, Baca, and Locke are all players that could also fall into the 6th-7th-UDFA discussion but will get their chances in Indy to show that they truly belong among those names called in April during the draft. If not, they will likely all still find themselves on some NFL team by May and much like Barkley, Franklin, Woods, and Jones, have a shot at proving their worth at the next level.
That continues on February 20th in Indianapolis when the NFL combine kicks off.