USC wide receiver Amon-ra St. Brown declares for the NFL draft
USC’s top receiver has joined the parade of Trojans leaving early for the NFL.
It was a foregone conclusion that Amon-ra St. Brown would declare for the draft following USC’s shortened 2020 season. On Saturday, he made his departure official, becoming the fifth Trojan to announce his intent to leave USC for the NFL.
“These past three years have been some of the most memorable of my life,” St. Brown said in a statement. “While I have had a tough time grappling with a decision over the last few weeks, I have decided to forego my senior season and declare for the 2021 draft.”
St. Brown led the Trojans in receptions this season and as a freshman in 2018, emerging as an almost instant playmaker on USC’s offense. One of the top recruits in the nation, out of Santa Ana Mater Dei High, his arrival alone marked one of the most significant recruiting victories of coach Clay Helton’s tenure at USC.
Defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu is the fourth USC football player to declare for the NFL draft in the last week.
His production over three seasons largely lived up to that hype. He finished his career with 178 receptions, 2,270 yards, and 17 total touchdowns. This season, over just six games, St. Brown paced all Pac-12 receivers with seven touchdowns, scoring four of those in a single-quarter explosion against Washington State.
If the conference had postponed its season to spring, St. Brown likely would have left for the NFL already. Instead, St. Brown, who was voted a team captain, wound up playing a central role in USC’s plea to Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow the 2020 season to move forward. With the Pac-12 the last remaining conference to approve a football season, the receiver called Helton in late September and got the ball rolling on a letter that was eventually published and sent to Newsom.
The recent history of Trojan receivers making the leap to the NFL over the past decade has been largely triumphant. After being drafted in the second round by the Indianapolis Colts last spring, Michael Pittman Jr. had a successful debut season in 2020. Before him, Steelers wideout and former Trojan Juju Smith-Schuster was also selected in the second round. He’s since emerged as one of the NFL’s best young receivers, even earning a Pro Bowl invite in 2018.
St. Brown could very well be drafted higher than either; though, he doesn’t have the same size as Pittman Jr. or physicality as Smith-Schuster. His consistent production and versatility should, however, make him one of the top wideout prospects in a draft class chock full of talent at the position.
Paul Westphal, the player from Aviation High in Redondo who became an All-American at USC before a professional career as a player and coach, has died.
His exit marks the fifth Trojan starter to leave USC early for the NFL, joining Alijah Vera-Tucker, the Trojans’ top offensive lineman, Talanoa Hufanga, their top safety, Marlon Tuipulotu, their top defensive tackle, and top cornerback Olaijah Griffin.
Jay Tufele, who would have started at defensive tackle, declared for the NFL before the season.
USC should have a much easier task in filling the hole at receiver than at those other positions. Young wideouts Drake London and Bru McCoy should have little trouble stepping in as the Trojans’ top playmakers at the position next season, while freshman slot receiver Gary Bryant Jr. will likely step into a much larger role.
Senior wideout Tyler Vaughns could also opt to return, if he decides to take advantage of the eligibility relief granted by the NCAA due to the pandemic. But Vaughns briefly considered leaving last season and is a likely candidate to join St. Brown in leaving for the NFL.
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