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Adoree' Jackson says he's going to make his own NFL mock draft. Will it include him?

Adoree' Jackson says he's going to make his own NFL mock draft. Will it include him?
USC's Adoree' Jackson runs away from Notre Dame defenders on a 52-yard touchdown reception on Nov. 26. (Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)

Most everything Adoree’ Jackson does, he does fast. When speaking, the USC cornerback is typically energetic and voluble, squeezing more words into each minute than any of his teammates do.

Only one recent topic has slowed him down. After the Rose Bowl, Jackson must decide whether to return to USC for his senior season or enter the NFL draft.

The prospect appears to make him uncomfortable. When asked Wednesday about the looming decision, Jackson cringed a little. He turned his head sideways and spoke into a closed fist resting on his shoulder. He looked like a Secret Service agent in the movies speaking into a microphone on his collar.

"I'm just focused on playing ball at this point," said Jackson, who at the team banquet Wednesday was named the Trojans' most valuable player. "I'm not even worried about the draft."

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Jackson is one of two USC underclassmen with the potential to be a high draft pick. Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said a day earlier that he, like Jackson, would make a decision after the Rose Bowl. If Jackson were to stay, Smith-Schuster said, he'd be more likely to do the same.

As a senior, Jackson would probably be an early Heisman Trophy contender. He said winning a national championship is important to him.

"There's still a lot to accomplish here," Jackson said.

In the past, Jackson has said his track career could influence his decision. He trained last summer in an attempt to qualify for the Olympics in the long jump, and he has expressed a desire to compete in the track and field world championships in London in August. But his thinking has changed, he said. He probably wouldn't train with the track team even if he returned.

"I'm cool on track right now," Jackson said. "I mean, I would go out there and jump if they needed me to. But I don't need to be working out and long jumping."

He revealed little else of his thinking. Serious deliberations, he said, won't commence until after the bowl game.

He will also wait until then to discuss his future with Coach Clay Helton, who players say has built a reputation for bluntness in his evaluations.

Last season, Helton talked with offensive tackle Zach Banner, then a junior, around the end of the regular season. He advised Banner to return. In a meeting, Helton laid out the ways Banner would benefit from another season in college, and Banner said he trusted it.

"If you're a three-and-done dude, he's going to tell you you're a three-and-done dude," Banner said. "If not, he's going to advise you to come back. But then again, he's not going to hate you if you make a decision to leave."

Helton said he evaluates a player's physical and mental maturity. A player leaving early, he said, should be close to fully developed.

" 'NFL' stands for 'not for long,'" Helton said. "You've got to be ready. They like finished products."

Each player's situation is different, and Helton said the NFL sometimes makes more sense for a player for personal or financial reasons.

Helton thought defensive end Leonard Williams, who was considering returning for the 2015 season, was ready. In such a case, Helton was willing to "help him pack his bags," the coach said.

"If they choose to stay, you're the happiest head coach in the country," Helton said. "And if they choose to go you hug their neck and say, 'Thank you.'"

USC has filed paperwork with the NFL to receive evaluations of Jackson and Smith-Schuster. After the season, an advisory board will respond with one of three grades: likely first-round pick, likely second-round pick or likely to go anywhere from the third round to undrafted.

Jackson said he didn't have a target round that would sway his decision. And he did not lend much credence to mock drafts, which often become objects of obsession for fans at this time of the year.

After Wednesday's practice, Jackson was asked if he'd checked any.

"I don't know what a mock draft looks like," Jackson said. "Like what is — I don't know."

It's where they project where you'd be drafted.

"Yeah, I don't really care about that. That probably doesn't play a factor in my opinion," Jackson said. "Hey, who comes up with the mock draft?"

Everybody. Whoever wants to.

"Who's everybody?" Jackson said. "So I can make one?"

Yes.

"All right," Jackson said. "I'm gonna make one tonight."

He did not say where he'd rank himself. Nor whether it would be high enough to entice him to the NFL.

Quick hits

At USC’s banquet, Quarterback Sam Darnold was named the Trojans’ most inspirational player. Quarterback Max Browne, who is transferring, won the team’s academic award. …  Offensive tackle Nathan Smith was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. Helton said Smith would have surgery as soon as possible to potentially return by September. … USC will receive draft evaluations on three other underclassmen (the NFL allows five per team), but Helton declined to specify which three. ... Helton was named one of nine finalists for Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award. … The coach said he spoke with former USC coach Lane Kiffin to congratulate him on being named Florida Atlantic’s head coach.

Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand

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