Dec 7, 2013; Fresno, CA, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr (4) prepares to throw a pass against the Utah State Aggies in the third quarter at Bulldog Stadium. The Bulldogs defeated the Aggies 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft Prospect Preview - Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

#20 Fresno State v. #25 USC  Saturday December 21st, 3:30 EST – ABC

The Vegas Bowl will be the premier game during a jam-packed Saturday to kick-off the bowl season. From a NFL Draft perspective, the match up of Fresno’s offense vs. USC’s defense is about as good as it gets. Derek Carr is a possible Top 5 pick, and he will face off against the best defense he’s ever seen. Even with future NFLers Morgan Breslin and Lamar Dawson out, USC’s defense is still loaded with likely 2014 draft picks (DLs George Uko, Devon Kennard, LB Hayes Pullard, DBs Dion Bailey, Josh Shaw). Not to mention Top 2015 and 2016 prospects DE Leonard Williams and LB/S Su’a Cravens. Good thing for Carr is that he has plethora of weapons with Davonte Adams, Isaiah Burse and Josh Harper (questionable). Carr also has a potential draft pick and fat guy touchdown extraordinaire LT Austin Wentworth protecting him. On the otherside of the ball, look for an improved USC offense featuring receivers Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor to have big games against a struggling Fresno defense. This game should set a high bar for the rest of bowl season.

Fresno State Offense

Quarterback #4 Derek Carr (6’3” 210lb SR) is the most NFL ready QB in college right now. He’s experienced (5yr), and got all the tools to be successful at the next level including good vision, sound decision-making, and a cannon arm. He delivers the ball with confidence on short, intermediate and deep throws. Many see him as a bigger Drew Brees. The concerns with Carr are his lack of touch on the ball, back foot throws, and that he plays in a spread system against inferior competition. USC will be the toughest defense he’s faced all year, and will give him a great opportunity to showcase his talents before the draft. USC brings a lot of pressure up the middle behind Leonard Williams. Carr will have to make accurate throws under pressure. He’ll also, have to look out for Dion Bailey patrolling the middle of the field. If he continues to do his thing against USC, Carr will start to get mentioned as a With The First Pick candidate. Current Projection: High 1st Round

Wide Receiver #15 Davante Adams (6’2” 200lb rSO) has been Carr’s #1 target for the last two years. Adams has decent size and speed, but his ball awareness is off the charts. In jump ball scenarios Adams plays like he’s 6’6” and always seems to come down with it.  He will likely face off against USC CB Josh Shaw (6’1” 190 JR) who is a physical corner. This will be a good chance for Adams to show he’s ready physically for the NFL. With Carr leaving, now might be the best time for Adams to jump to the NFL as well. Current Projection: 2nd Round

USC Defense

Defensive End #94 Leonard Williams (6’5” 270lb SO) has put himself in the conversation for #1 overall in 2015. He has a quick burst that enables him to penetrate to get a lot of of TFLs. He can really disrupt an offenses rhythm in the run game. He’s second on the team in tackles, which is amazing for defensive end. He dominated G Kevin Danser in their win over Stanford. He should have even better results against a much weaker Fresno offensive line. Current Projection: 2015 1st Round

Middle Linebacker #10 Hayes Pullard (6’1” 235lb JR) is the cornerstone of the USC defense. The junior linebacker isn’t flashy, he covers his responsibilities and tends to force offenses away from him. Against the run, he takes on blockers, sheds them, and makes the tackle. He doesn’t blitz a lot, but affects the passing game with his coverage. His coverage skills will be on display against Fresno’s spread passing attack. Current Projection: 2nd Round

Strong Safety #18 Dion Bailey (6’0” 210lb JR) has all the physical attributes to play in the NFL. He played linebacker his first two years, and has now switched to safety in Clancy Pendergast’s defense. With his size, he’s Bailey is better suited at safety, but there has been a learning curve. As expected his coverage skills are improving. Sometimes he seems to play the man, when he should be playing his responsibility. But once the ball is in the air and he’s near the ball, he’s going after it (5 INT, 6 PBU). He had a critical INT against Stanford. NFL teams will love his tackling skills. If he continues to improve he looks like a Donte Whitner type safety. He also could be a key special teams contributor, which is always a plus for the 53-man roster. Current Projection: 3rd Round

USC Offense

Wide Receiver #9 Marqise Lee (6’0” 195lb JR) was projected as a potential Top 10 pick coming into 2013. But in reality, he was never really on the level of AJ Green or Julio Jones. Also, considering the circumstances, his production was bound to drop. USC lost it’s longtime starting QB, Matt Barkley, and a 2nd round WR, Robert Woods. That combined with Lee’s injury against Arizona State, has made his stock drop in the view of prognosticators. But when healthy, Lee is still an excellent receiver. He runs crisp routes, and can make guys miss once he catches the ball. He’s got great hands and good footwork, as he displayed by making catches along the sideline against Stanford. Lee is extremely good against man coverage, and can beat anyone in the open field. The attention Lee has gotten, has freed up fellow receiver Nelson Agholor who is having a breakout year. Fresno’s only good cover corner LJ Jones is questionable for the Las Vegas Bowl, so look for big things from Marqise Lee. Current Projection: Late 1st Round

Fresno State Defense

Free Safety #13 Derron Smith (5’11” 194lb JR) has been one of the bright spots on what was a tough year for the Fresno State defense. Smith is a dynamic ball hawk (6 INTs) with good tackling skills (69). He plays all over the field in Fresno’s defense, taking on different responsibilities on every play. He has the speed to keep up with receivers running downfield as long as he recognizes the deep threat. Smith is very aggressive, and some times can get caught stepping up as a receiver runs by him. Against USC, he can’t afford to make those kind of mistakes with the threat of Lee and Agholor going deep. In the NFL, special teams will be his best bet to make an immediate impact. As refines his game and bulks up he could eventually be a starter. Current Projection: 6th Round

Tags: Derek Carr Fresno State Bulldogs Football Marqise Lee NFL Draft USC Trojans Football

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