What the 2012 draft tells us

The last time USC had as few as three players selected in an NFL draft, as did they did last weekend, the Trojans were coming off a 6-6 season in Pete Carroll's first year on the job.

That was April 2002.

Cornerbacks Kris Richard and Chris Cash went in the third and sixth rounds, respectively. Thus, the common reaction would be to dismiss that year as having nothing to do with this one, when Matt Kalil and Nick Perry each went in the first round and then only tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison was taken among the remaining 231 selections.

But that would be incorrect.

The two years actually share a lot of similarities -- starting with the fact that the talent on both the 2001 and 2011 squads was overwhelmingly backloaded with underclassmen. The lack of draftable talent in 2002 -- along with the success the 2002 team would go on to have -- foreshadowed the five players who would be taken in 2003, including two in the first round.

And the lack of draftable talent in 2012 should foreshadow the many players likely to be selected in 2013, including three potential first-rounders.

Seriously, there could conceivably be 10 USC Trojans selected in next April's draft. Fewer than seven or eight would be a surprise.

Quarterback Matt Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald are both virtual locks to be picked, probably very high. Center Khaled Holmes, running back Curtis McNeal and defensive ends Wes Horton and Devon Kennard will all be taken unless they experience seriously subpar senior seasons. Cornerback Isiah Wiley and safety Jawanza Starling should also have strong cases to be selected.

Then there are the juniors. Receiver Robert Woods will assuredly go high if he declares after his junior season, and cornerback Nickell Robey may take advantage of three years' worth of starting tape and declare following this season. Other even younger players, like linebackers Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey, will also be eligible.

Projecting it out even further, it wouldn't be surprising to see another nine- or 10-man class in 2014, either, with players like Pullard, Bailey and receiver Marqise Lee potentially leading the way.

USC shouldn't have another three-man draft class for quite some time. If it does, that will have meant that Lane Kiffin and his staff missed badly on at least one recruiting class and maybe even two.

So no, it's not really a big deal that the Trojans only had three players taken over the weekend.

All it really means is that Carroll's final recruiting classes while at USC were not up to the standard of his previous several, and, even further, a few of the players in his final couple classes who had promising futures failed to live up to them.