USC, king of producing NFL draft picks, had a historically poor showing this year

USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson blocks against Notre Dame on Oct. 12, 2019, in South Bend, Ind.
USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson was selected 18th overall in the NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins on Thursday.
(Joe Robbins / Getty Images)

In the annals of NFL draft history, no school has had more success translating talent into picks than USC.

The Trojans entered this year’s draft with a record 509 players selected, five more than any other program. Their 81 first-round selections were tied with Ohio State for the most.

But that place atop the pantheon of college football nearly slipped from USC’s grasp this weekend, as just two Trojans were picked in the draft, the fewest for USC since 2002. Only once in the modern draft era (1998) has USC had fewer than two players picked.

Left tackle Austin Jackson was selected 18th overall by the Miami Dolphins and wideout Michael Pittman Jr. landed on the Indianapolis Colts with the 34th pick. Not since 2015 have the Trojans had two players selected that high.

But Pittman’s selection early Friday marked the conclusion of USC’s involvement in this draft. Linebacker John Houston, defensive end Christian Rector and offensive tackle Drew Richmond were not drafted, but Houston signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent Saturday. Rector and Richmond also are expected to sign soon.

USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. was selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the second pick of the second round in the NFL draft.

April 24, 2020


Quiet draft aside, USC still has a tenuous hold on history. Though now its long-held record hangs by just a thread. With six players drafted this weekend, Notre Dame has pulled within one of USC’s record of 511.

Its record total of first-rounders already fell Thursday, when Ohio State saw three players drafted in the round, including two in the top three. That’s not counting overall top pick Joe Burrow, who transferred from Ohio State to Louisiana State. The Buckeyes now have 84 to USC’s 82 first-round selections.

While Ohio State surpassed USC in first-round picks and Notre Dame drew ever closer to stealing away its overall record, LSU was the big winner of this draft. The Tigers, led by former USC assistant Ed Orgeron, had a record-tying 14 players selected, three more than USC has had in a single draft.

In spite of its premier program having just two players selected, the Pac-12 was surpassed only by the Southeastern Conference (63) and Big Ten (47) in terms of players drafted with 32. Utah led the conference with seven picks, while Oregon (four), California (three), Colorado (three), Oregon State (three) and UCLA (three) all had more players drafted than USC.