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'Prospecting:' USC defenders will be coveted

The nature of the New York Giants' draft needs changed drastically in the past week with the four players General Manager Jerry Reese added to the roster.

It is pretty obvious that the Giants are likely to use the April draft to fill offensive needs, either via picks, trades or both.

That said, it is Friday -- meaning it is time once again for the latest installment of our 'Prospecting' series leading up to the draft. I had reached out to our friends over at Conquest Chronicles, SBN's USC blog, a couple of weeks ago for some info on the bevy of Trojan defensive players who could be selected in the first couple of rounds.

Here is a breakdown, and it still might apply to the Giants as a linebacker might still be on their radar in Day 1.

Brian Cushing, LB

Brian Cushing plays the SLB position, but he is able to play MLB. He is fast with great instincts. He has also played the "elephant" position at SC where he is lined up as a defensive end. He can play inside or outside in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme.

Cushing is an aggressive, intense player that does a great job of bringing his body through the ball carrier on tackles and has an intimidation factor

Cushing identifies the play quickly and is not easily fooled by misdirection plays…he stays at home. He can get penetration even when going up against a Tight end. He is a full speed, downhill player who can change direction quickly while also being able to go sideline to sideline with the uncanny ability to open field tackles for his size. Though there have been times when he has taken himself out the play

He is seen to do well in avoiding blocks and his aggressiveness comes out when taking on blockers but he does need to work on shedding blockers. He can drop back into coverage fairly effectively but he can get caught short in certain coverage schemes.

He has had some injury issues as he missed half the 2005 season with a shoulder injury. Missed most of 2007 with an ankle injury.

Rey Maualuga, LB

Rey Maualuga is the other intimidating linebacker at USC. He reminds many of another former USC linebacker, Junior Seau. He is natural at the position having the ability to key in and find the football quickly. He reads play action and he has exceptional reaction skills. Great size and power with tremendous instincts.

Like Cushing he is also a downhill player who can change direction quickly. Because of his aggressive style of play he also overplays the ball on occasion just like Cushing. That aggressiveness has produced some explosive hits (see the UCLA game in 2006).

He is great at dropping into coverage and disrupting routes and getting his hands on the ball. He particularly adept at sniffing out screen plays. His speed also puts a lot of pressure on opposing offensive lines where he can collapse the pocket quickly. His ability to rush the passer is impressive. His big play ability will keep him of the field for all three downs.

Maualuga is a pretty sturdy player suffering a hip pointer in 2007 that limited his playing time against Notre Dame and he suffered a hamstring injury at the NFL combine.

Clay Matthews, LB

Clay Matthews has been the biggest surprise this season. Matthews is a former walk-on who was under the radar at the start of his senior season. He got his start on special teams in freshman season and he took off from there. He comes from a solid football tree where his father (Clay Jr.), grandfather (Clay Sr.) and uncle (Bruce) all played in the NFL.

Mathews is in that "high speed, low drag" style of play where he just continues to move. He is a tough, versatile player that can play either outside LB or DE. His ability on special teams is very impressive, as he makes impact plays and always finds the ball carrier. He can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Because of his great range and instincts he can play all 3 LB positions.

He is disruptive on the ends and makes a lot of plays in the backfield. Very opportunistic and always around the ball. He too can be too aggressive at times and will have match-up problems in coverage. Less than stellar hands/ball skills. Because of his speed he is a great blitzer but he will try run around blocks instead of through them.

Fili Moala, DT

Fili Moala started the season a being rumored to be the #1 overall pick in this year's draft. Many of us thought that was premature.

He is agile and quick to react and get to where the ball is going. Decent speed, he has solid tackling skills with the ability to hold onto a player to finish the tackle. Good range and mobility makes him versatile enough to play inside in a 4-3 or outside in a 3-4.

Moves well to the outside and can change direction quickly. He has excellent ability at getting initial penetration. He has decent speed and can close quickly. He gets his hands up effectively in throwing lanes. Lets blockers get under him and control him too much. He sometimes plays too tall and disappears at times. Needs to bulk up and get stronger. A good get but not a first-rounder

This Week's Mock Drafts

  • National Football Post: Round 1 (29th), Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina.
  • Draft Tek: Round 1, Percy Harvin, WR, Florida; Round 2 (45th), Patrick Chung, SS, Oregon; Round 2 (60th), Phil Loadholt, OT, Oklahoma.
  • Saturdays2Sundays: Round 1, Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers; Round 2, Phil Loadholt, OT, Oklahoma; Round 2, Marcus Freeman, OLB, Ohio State.
  • Draft Ace: Round 1, Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State; Round 2, Paul Kruger, DE, Utah; Coye Francies, CB, San Jose State.
  • Draft Dog: Round 1, Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland.
  • Pat Kirwin, Round 1, Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers.

Are you guys noticing a trend here? Wide receiver first in every mock. As the Giants are constructed now, that makes perfect sense. Question is, which one do you prefer?