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A look at USC's potential NFL draft picks

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Journey To The Draft: Leonard Williams

Mel Kiper Jr. breaks down some of the strengths and weaknesses of USC defensive end Leonard Williams.

The annual NFL draft takes place this week, and it will be an opportunity for the USC program to add to its nation-leading totals of most first-round choices (77) and most overall choices (487).

The sure thing

Leonard Williams won’t be the first player selected, but he is sure to be among the first few names called to walk across the draft stage and hug it out with the commissioner. One thing you can be sure of when that moment takes place is that Williams will have a wide smile on his face to go with the flowing mane of hair that earned him the nickname "Big Cat." Not only is Williams a fundamentally talented defensive lineman, but he is one of the more down-to-earth stars to come through the USC program in recent years. It says something that Williams doesn’t even have a driver’s license yet and preferred to navigate campus on a skateboard. But don’t think that means he isn’t ready for the next step, at the combine when the defensive linemen were asked who would be the first player from their group picked, the unanimous choice was Williams, and you can be sure he will be No. 78 on the Trojans list of first-round selections.

On the bubble

Though Williams is certain to go in the first round, things are a little more up in the air for receiver Nelson Agholor. Of course, the fact that he is being talked about so much right now as a potential first-day pick is something of a surprise and a reflection of how much his stock has risen during the draft process. Most early projections had him pegged as a second- or third-round pick in a deep draft at his position, but he posted impressive numbers at the combine to go along with his solid body of work at USC and is now listed as the No. 16 pick in the latest mock draftInsider from Todd McShay.

The next group

There are a trio of Trojans who could see an interesting swing in their draft fortunes. They could go as high as the second round or end up in the fourth or fifth round. Josh Shaw heads the group as his physical skills would indicate an early selection, but a variety of factors could result in him falling a bit, the primary issue being his suspension last season. He can play safety or cornerback, as well as special teams. Running back Buck Allen is getting solid evaluations from league personnel, but the problem is teams simply don’t draft a lot of running backs in early rounds these days, and there are a few who will get picked ahead of Buck in this class. Whoever does take him will get a three-down back who is a natural pass-catcher. There hasn’t been a whole lot of buzz about linebacker Hayes Pullard, but his style of play isn’t the type to generate buzz. Instead, Pullard is a steady and productive player who will translate well to the professional level.

Late picks or free agents

As always there are also players who will be waiting out the later rounds to see if they are picked or if they will be looking to sign as a free agent. J.R. Tavai is being looked at primarily as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. It's something he hasn’t done a lot of in his career, but he will definitely get a chance to make the transition. Tight end Randall Telfer has NFL measurables, but his relative lack of production at USC will mean a late choice or free-agent status. Receiver George Farmer is another who can point to a lot of skills, including a 4.35-second time in the 40-yard dash at the Trojans pro day, but with 30 career catches it will be interesting to see if he gets picked. Offensive lineman Aundrey Walker is not likely to get picked, but with his frame and potential he will definitely be in someone’s camp this year. Safety Gerald Bowman also figured to get a look as a free agent, but he is among five men facing assault charges following an incident on Jan. 24 at a Phoenix recreation center, possibly harming his chances of signing with an NFL team.