USC-centric NFL draft preview

The 2012 NFL draft begins tomorrow, Thursday.

USC has two players expected to be taken in the first round, two more players who should definitely be picked at some point over the draft's three days and three other prospects who stand a chance of being selected.

We break down those seven players' draft stock here, in order of their projected selection:

LT Matt Kalil

The two-year USC starter was looked at as a virtual lock to go No. 3 overall to the Minnesota Vikings for quite some time, but there has been recent speculation that his stock is dropping. Still, an absolute worst-case scenario would have Kalil going sixth to St. Louis or seventh to Jacksonville. There's no way he falls out of the top eight, which would make him the highest USC selection since Mark Sanchez went fifth to the Jets in 2009.

DE Nick Perry

Scouts' and experts' opinions on Perry appear varied. Some have him scratching the top half of the first round and some have him falling near the end of the bottom half. The physical specimen still seems like a great bet to be picked at some point among the top 32 picks. One of the factors that will decide how he goes is whether teams will select him as a 4-3 end or 3-4 outside linebacker, which are both possibilities considering his skill set.

DT DaJohn Harris

Harris has some work-ethic issues and medical concerns with sleep apnea and a patent foramen ovale, but he also has the potential to be a starting defensive tackle at the next level, and that should get him picked somewhere in the fourth or fifth rounds, which means he'll probably have to wait until Saturday to be selected with the draft's format. Harris never had a truly consistent long stretch with the Trojans, but he showed flashes on a number of occasions.

TE Rhett Ellison

Ellison looks like a third tight end at the next level, and there's always a demand for that to some extent. He should be selected, although most mock drafts have him going around the sixth round. If he does indeed get selected, he'll have his blocking skills to thank. There aren't many other draft-eligible tight ends who can block like he can at 6-5 and 250 pounds.

DT Christian Tupou

Tupou's draft stock is a perfect case study in how good college players can be valued very little at the next level. Compare his college performance to former USC defensive tackle Hebron Fangupo's and Tupou comes out comfortably on top, yet the BYU product Fangupo is much more likely to be selected this weekend because of his bigger frame. Tupou, four years younger than Fangupo, could get a late look but is more likely to latch on as an undrafted free agent.

RB Marc Tyler

Tyler didn't run the 40-yard dash fast enough at the NFL Combine or USC's Pro Day to warrant any sort of high selection in the draft, but he demonstrated enough ability in five years with the Trojans to make a late-round pick possible. He's ideally sized for a running back at about 5-11 and 220 pounds, but teams are going to be worried about the speed and about the off-field issues he encountered at school.

LB Chris Galippo

Galippo's college career never quite panned out, especially considering how high he was ranked as a 2007 recruit. Chronic back problems probably played a sizable role in that. But he has the smarts to tempt teams, and at the very least he'll get a shot to make a team in training camp as a undrafted free agent.

There's always a (small) chance one of the other draft-eligible seniors could be selected, like receiver Brandon Carswell or linebacker Shane Horton. Former USC receiver David Ausberry was surprisingly selected in the seventh round by the Oakland Raiders last season in an example of that.