The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
This piece is on Southern California wide receiver Deontay Burnett, who has declared early for the draft. For the total list of all players leaving school early, see our underclassmen tracker.
For more on all the other receivers in the class, see our 2018 NFL draft wide receiver rankings.
Updated as of Mar. 6.
Junior | 6’0″ and 186 Pounds | Born October 4, 1997 (Age: 20) | Projection: Rounds 3-4
Combine numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: DNP | broad: DNP
Productive USC receivers have a long and proud history of leaving school and declaring for the draft as early as possible — in some cases too early (legally and pragmatically).
- 2017 draft: JuJu Smith-Schuster, true junior
- 2015 draft: Nelson Agholor, true junior
- 2014 draft: Marqise Lee, true junior
- 2013 draft: Robert Woods, true junior
- 2010 draft: Damian Williams, redshirt junior
- 2007 draft: Dwayne Jarrett, true junior
- 2005 draft: Mike Williams, true sophomore
The youngest receiver in the draft, Burnett is following in the footsteps of his predecessors and entering the NFL early. Like all of them, he also has a 1,000-yard receiving season on his résumé.
Additionally, Burnett has a great story. A local three-star recruit, Burnett wasn’t a coveted player coming out of high school. He walked on at USC — his dream school — in the hope of earning a blueshirt scholarship, which he eventually was offered. A reserve wideout as a freshman, Burnett emerged as the team’s primary slot receiver in 2016, catching 56 passes for 622 yards and seven touchdowns. With JuJu declaring for the draft and No. 2 wide receiver Darreus Rogers graduating, Burnett last year led all Trojans pass catchers with 86 receptions, 1,114 yards, and nine touchdowns. Before dealing with shoulder and toe injuries in the middle of the season, Burnett opened the year with 33 receptions for 462 yards and five touchdowns through four games, leading all wide receivers with a 91.8 Pro Football Focus rating for the first month.
Built like Paul Richardson and Dede Westbrook, Burnett has struggled at times with press coverage because of his size, and he might not have the speed to beat outside corners deep in the NFL, but he could be ideally suited for the slot, where he played 84.1 percent of his snaps last year and still managed to finish 11th in the nation with 11 deep receptions of 20-plus yards. The product of a program that has sent 15 wideouts to the NFL over the past 15 years, Burnett can solidify his status as a mid-round pick with Day 2 upside if he has a good showing at the USC pro day, as he elected not to participate in the combine drills.
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