Local players selected in the 2011 NFL draft:
What makes him special: Smith, 20, has all the potential in the world. He's durable and strong with very quick feet and the brute strength to push back at the line of scrimmage and the speed and agility to keep doing it in pass protection.
On the flip side: He started for only two years at USC and was academically ineligible for his only opportunity to start a bowl game in his college career; more of a quiet worker type than an outspoken leader.
How he'll fit in: Cowboys left tackle Doug Free is a restricted free agent and stands to get paid in large quantities this offseason. Right tackle Marc Colombo is injury-prone, aging and not all that talented to begin with. Tackle was the Cowboys' No. 1 need entering the draft, so the Smith selection makes a ton of sense.
What makes him special: Smith is as pure a shutdown corner prospect as you'll get in the draft nowadays, a perfect combination of size, speed and awareness in the secondary. His final two college seasons saw him allow only 11 total completions.
On the flip side: Character issues, including minor-in-possession tickets and at least one positive test for marijuana, are a huge concern for the former Colton Yellowjacket and the only reason he dropped out of the early part of the first round. He switched agents midway through the pre-draft process and declined an invite to the Senior Bowl.
How he'll fit in: Both of the Ravens' cornerbacks, Chris Carr and Josh Wilson, are expected to be free agents this offseason. Baltimore gets Domonique Foxworth back after he missed the 2010 season because of a knee injury, but there's room for Smith to move right in and start. The Ravens just promoted their secondary coach to defensive coordinator, and in the past they've showed an affinity for blitzing linebackers and safeties and leaving their cornerbacks in one-on-one coverage.
What makes him special: Ayers was a two-year starter who was extraordinarily productive as a Bruin. His pass-rushing skills are NFL-ready, and, despite his lineman-esque weight, he's capable dropping back into coverage as well.
On the flip side: His NFL combine 40-yard dash time was a disappointment. He improved upon it at UCLA's pro day in late March, but his workout numbers were, in general, not the best.
How he'll fit in: The Titans are in need of pass rushers, quite simply. Aging linebacker-turned-end Jason Babin put up 12.5 sacks in 2010, but no other Tennessee defender totaled more than three. Ayers, who will join former UCLA corner Alterraun Verner in Nashville, could beat that as a rookie.
What makes him special: Young, a super-productive former receiver and defensive back at Los Angeles University High, caught 150 balls for more than 2,200 yards during his final two seasons as a Bronco. His return skills are also a positive.
On the flip side: His route-running is considered a weakness, and that's only amplified for a receiver of his size who will probably first have to make his mark lining up in the slot in the NFL.
How he'll fit in: Detroit has two solid starter-caliber receivers in Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson, but the Lions couldn't find a legitimate third receiver in 2010. Adding Young with an emerging star at tight end in Brandon Pettigrew, this offense could be on the upswing.
What makes him special: He led the country as a sophomore in 2009 with 10 interceptions and followed it up with three picks and four passes defensed as a junior last season. He started all 37 games of his UCLA career and was voted team captain as a junior.
On the flip side: He's a bit undersized to be an NFL safety and didn't have quite as good a year last season as was expected. He was the best safety available in the 2011 draft, by most accounts, but not exactly a high-upside pick.
How he'll fit in: One of the Broncos' biggest needs entering into the weekend was a rangy, ballhawking safety to replace the aging Brian Dawkins in their secondary. In Moore, they get exactly that -- a young player who will develop into the role, take on leadership duties over time and stay out of trouble.
What makes him special: Vereen spent two years as Jahvid Best's backup at Cal after enrolling at the school in the same class as the current Detroit Lion, but when he got his chance to shine this year, he did -- carrying the ball 231 times for nearly 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns. He caught 74 passes out of the backfield in his three-year Bears career and is a capable receiver and pass protector.
On the flip side: Size is not his strong suit. He measured in at just under 5-9 at the NFL combine in Indianapolis and weighs considerably less than the prototypical pro running back. His speed hovers around average, as does his agility.
How he'll fit in: NFL teams raved about his performance in predraft interviews, so it makes a lot of sense that the Patriots pulled the trigger on him higher than most mock drafts had him projected. He enters a New England backfield with two capable young runners in BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead but no stars at the position.
What makes him special: Casey is, plain and simple, consistent. He was the most dominant Trojans defensive linemen his last two years at USC and was often able to pressure opposing quarterbacks on his own.
On the flip side: He doesn't look like a dominant NFL player. His measurables are average at best, and a lot of teams in the league seem to think he can't be a star.
How he'll fit in: Tennessee needs a better pass rush. Casey will help a ton as they attempt to have their front seven lead them through the inherent struggles of a mini-rebuilding effort.
What makes him special: Pettis, Aaron Corp's No. 1 receiver at Orange Lutheran who put up great numbers in high school and in college, is the classic possession receiver type. His experience with the consistent Broncos will help him transition to the next level, too, and NFL teams know that.
On the flip side: With that possession receiver tag comes a similarly noteworthy tag of Pettis' relative lack of speed when it comes to the league.
How he'll fit in: He was a touchdown machine throughout college. St. Louis' Sam Bradford had a great rookie year but can certainly use the added security a red zone threat like Pettis can provide.
What makes him special: Wright's a good character guy and a talented prospect who has all the size and speed measurables teams want to see in corner prospects. Going in the third round was a bit of a pleasant surprise for the Colton native, who was a mid-round prospect in December but vaulted up the boards with a great predraft season.
On the flip side: He only started for just over a year at USC at didn't have the senior year some expected him to, dropping a few potential interceptions in 2010 and failing to be a true big-play corner.
How he'll fit in: Wright was one of four defensive players to go to the Chargers on the first two days of the draft, part of a concerted effort to upgrade a defensive unit that already experienced quite a bit of success in 2010.
What makes him special: Marsh, a 1,600-yard rusher as a senior at Royal, spent two years as a running back at Utah State before switching over to corner and has all the raw tools to be a successful corner in the NFL.
On the flip side: He's, at the same time, only played corner for two years. With that comes a risk, one the Eagles were clearly willing to take.
How he'll fit in: It was widely known before the draft that Philadelphia hoped to take a corner to address obvious needs heading into the weekend. They solved that with the selection of Marsh.
What makes him special: Brown wasn't ultra-productive at Rancho Cucamonga High but became a big-time contributor by his second season as an Aztec, going on to showcase solid hands and superior route-running ability by his senior year. He developed a positive reputation as a competitor at SDSU and played his best in his biggest games.
On the flip side: In the NFL, players of Brown's size are typically expected to have blazing speed to account for corners that will be defending them with similar height-weight measurables and thus usually able to stop them. His speed is average or maybe a tad above-average but not noteworthy, and he also missed nearly half of his junior season with a thumb injury.
How he'll fit in: It's the classic case of a local kid staying local, with the Southern Californian Brown earning the opportunity to stay a couple hours away from home at the first stop of his NFL career. The Chargers have talent at receiver but not a Brown-like talent, save for 32-year-old Patrick Crayton, so he could end up functioning well with Malcom Floyd in the long term.
Round 3, Pick 93, Chicago Bears
Chris Conte, California (Loyola HS), S, 6-3, 212
What makes him special: Conte, who won a CIF Division I championship as a junior receiver/safety at Los Angeles Loyola, has the height and weight teams love to see in a primo safety prospect. He practiced and played hard at Cal and did similarly well when finally given a chance to start as a senior in 2010 after posting up-and-down performances in starting opportunities his first three years.
On the flip side: There are no standout skills for Conte, who had just one pick as a senior, one forced fumble and two tackles for a loss. He couldn't crack Cal's full-time starting lineup, despite a middling depth chart in the secondary, until his senior year. And he gained a reputation among some in the Pac-10 as a sucker for the play-action fake.
How he'll fit in: It doesn't look like Chicago's going to resign Danieal Manning this offseason, so the Conte pick is prudent in that sense. But the Bears took safety Major Wright in the third round of last year's draft, and they also have the rock-solid Chris Harris holding it down at strong safety.
What makes him special: The Crespi product is a natural run stopper. Strong and well-built, he was a force in the front for Stanford since 2006 and a force for the Celts, too, going way back. He never got hurt at the college level but did skip a year for a church mission, something NFL teams usually look very highly upon.
On the flip side: He had only nine sacks in four full years with the Cardinal, apparently lacking in the final burst teams like to see out of dominant tackles. His work ethic, while not problematic, is not indicative of a future start in the league at this point.
How he'll fit in: Fua was thought to be a surefire 3-4 nose tackle at the next level, but the Panthers aren't expected to run a 3-4 next year, their first under new head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera has run both the 4-3 and 3-4 in the pro ranks but has promised to largely stick to the traditional front with Carolina, so one wonders where exactly Fua will fit. Examining his situation at Stanford, though, Fua did play a little three-technique under coordinator Vic Fangio, who liked to switch up his defenses from time to time.
What makes him special: Looking at his combination of height, weight and speed, Cameron looks like the best tight end prospect in this draft. He's a former basketball player, which NFL teams love to hear when drafting at tight end, and had teams raving throughout the predraft process with his workout performances -- in the weight room and on the field.
On the flip side: Cameron, all his physical talents aside, had only 16 catches in college and one touchdown. And it's not like he was busy playing basketball, either -- he never scored a point at either of his major-college destinations, BYU or USC. He has, as of the draft, just over a year of experience playing tight end, too.
How he'll fit in: The Browns have a top-notch tight end in Benjamin Watson but little else at the position, so Cameron will have the opportunity to a second-slot guy there right away in 2011. His blocking leaves a lot to be desired, though -- which is probably why Cleveland still conveniently has 31-year-old blocking extraordinaire Robert Royal on its roster.
Round 4, Pick 112, St. Louis Rams
Greg Salas, Hawaii (Chino HS), WR, 6-2, 210
What makes him special: Salas was ridiculously productive his final two years at Hawaii after struggling to shine in high school at Chino and in his first two years in the Warriors' system. All told, he totaled 4,345 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns at UH and was one of the keys to a surprise three-loss season for the Warriors in 2010.
On the flip side: Like many Hawaii receivers in recent years, Salas isn't the fastest player in the draft and could face some struggles outracing defensive backs at the next level. The level of competition he was going against in the WAC can't be compared to SEC receivers.
How he'll fit in: Salas is the second local receiver to go to the Rams in the last 24 hours. Boise State's Austin Pettis was the other. The two are similar players, nice-sized big-production types who lack a bit in the speed department, but both make a lot of sense for St. Louis as the Rams try to find Sam Bradford's No. 1 target for the next several years.
What makes him special: Bloodlines are often the first thing mentioned when discussing Matthews, and rightfully so, because the former Duck has perhaps the best of those in all of the draft. A part of the legendary Matthews family, he proved time and again at Oregon that he has the necessary football IQ to succeed in the NFL.
On the flip side: He's undersized for the position and not particularly fast, either. Matthews will often run into issues attempting to defend speedy NFL running backs and tight ends in one-on-one coverage.
How he'll fit in: The Eagles have an interesting history with drafting linebackers over the last several years, but it looks like they'll bring Matthews in as a middle linebacker in the immediate. The incumbent starter at that spot for Philadelphia, Jamar Chaney, was a seventh-rounder in 2010 and doesn't have a strong grasp on the position just yet.
What makes him special: House played football, baseball and track at Palmdale High, where he was an All-Golden League selection his final two years. He was a four-year starter for the Aggies, totaling 11 career interceptions, and looks like he could be a good fit as a press corner in the NFL.
On the flip side: He had some memorably self-confident comments to the press over his years in New Mexico and can come off as too cocky. House doesn't have any elite skills and is more of a do-everything-fairly-well, nothing-great type of prospect.
How he'll fit in: The Packers actually have a lot of talent at corner, with three starting-caliber guys expected to return at the position in 2011 in Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. Luckily for House, Green Bay does run a lot of extra-corner sets, so he could work his way into the dime package as a rookie.
What makes him special: Sherman spent his first two seasons in Palo Alto as a receiver and actually impressed, totaling more than 1200 yards and seven touchdowns those two years. He hurt himself midway through his third year, was granted a medical redshirt and then switched to corner in spring practice and was a fit there for the Cardinal for another two years. His road from Compton Dominguez, where he starred as a receiver, defensive back and triple jumper in track, has been intriguing.
On the flip side: There might have been a reason why Sherman started out as a receiver -- his hips, and the movement in them, are not what NFL teams typically like to see out of their cornerbacks. He's well-sized for the position, for sure.
How he'll fit in: Sherman shows a nose for the big play in clutch situations. Nobody knows that better than Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who witnessed his new corner make a memorable 4th-down grab in Stanford's 2007 upset over USC at the Coliseum and then produce a pick six in 2009 as the Trojans attempted to make a season-saving comeback. Seattle got two total interceptions from its starting corners in 2010, so the playmaking Sherman should be a nice addition.
Round 5, Pick 162, Pittsburgh Steelers
Chris Carter, Fresno State (Fontana Kaiser HS), LB, 6-2, 241
What makes him special: Carter, who was inducted into the San Bernardino Hall of Fame after a senior season which saw him amass 21 sacks for Kaiser, totaled 19 sacks in four years in Fresno. He earned a starting job for the Bulldogs by his sophomore year and never let up, leading the FSU defense his final two seasons. Carter broke his hand before the 2009 season but didn't sit out a game -- NFL scouts love that.
On the flip side: He was a college DE in the WAC. Making the transition to a 3-4 OLB in the Steelers' system won't be a walk in the park. Playing weakside linebacker in the East-West Shrine Game looked like a huge transition for him, and he struggled with diagnosing some receiver and tight end routes.
How he'll fit in: He'll have time to develop in the Pittsburgh defense while watching from some of the best in the business. The Steelers have two great outside linebackers in LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, and Carter can follow Woodley's path in making the transition from defensive end to linebacker.
What makes him special: Johnson is a big-play receiver who came to USC as a highly-touted Michigan prep prospect and got scouts around the country talking after an impressive sophomore season working with Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez in 2008. His punt return skills are NFL ready and his work ethic was notable around the USC program.
On the flip side: His numbers never vaulted to the level expected out of him. His best season came in 2010, when he had 692 receiving yards on 64 catches and failed to stretch a lot of his plays into high-yardage gainers, as he had done previously. His speed looks good on film but was timed in the low 4.4's -- an issue when dealing with a slight guy such as Johnson.
How he'll fit in: Johnson's receivers coach with San Francisco will be none other than John Morton, who held the same post for the Trojans all four years Johnson was at USC. The Michigan native enters an interesting situation with the 49ers, where new coach Jim Harbaugh has several talented players but little cohesiveness. Still, it looks like Johnson's first opportunity will come in the return game.
What makes him special: Carter's a solid, good character guy who performed well in his first year as a starter for the Bruins in 2010, producing some big games in UCLA's most important contests against Arizona, Washington State and Washington. He started to get on the collective radars of NFL teams with an impressive East-West Shrine Game and kept up the buzz with a great pro day performance at UCLA in March.
On the flip side: He never started a game until his senior, didn't get into the rotation until his sophomore year and only produced 3.5 sacks as a senior. Carter wasn't thought to be a likely selection in the draft and didn't get an invite to the NFL combine in February.
How he'll fit in: The Cardinals primarily run a 3-4 defense, so it appears Carter will get his first chance to crack the lineup as a reserve end backing up guys like Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell for Arizona. His height and weight measurables are on par with those guys.
What makes him special: Bradford had some gigantic games while at USC, including his final game as a Trojan -- when he ran for 212 yards and a touchdown in a win over UCLA. He was buried on the depth chart early in his career but never complained publicly, instead waiting his turn and embracing it when given an opportunity. He's a running back-fullback tweener who could play either at the next level but looks fast enough to make it as a feature back.
On the flip side: He doesn't have much experience carrying the ball, with just over 250 carries at USC, and experienced some serious durability issues throughout his career. He always insisted he was a good pass-catcher out of the backfield but the Trojans' coaching staff didn't seem to think so, and his pass-blocking skills could be a lot better for his size. His instincts are off and on.
How he'll fit in: The Buccaneers found a gem running back in the undrafted free agent pile a season ago in Oregon's LeGarrette Blount, but there isn't much else returning in the backfield for Tampa Bay. The only issue is that Bradford appears to be a very similar runner to Blount. Special teams aren't much of an option for Bradford, so he'll have to capitalize in limited first- and second-down opportunities right away. He also could end up sharing time with Earnest Graham at fullback and eventually seizing that spot from the 31-year-old Graham.
Round 6, Pick 197, Green Bay Packers
Ricky Elmore, Arizona (Simi Valley Grace Brethren HS), DE, 6-4, 255
What makes him special: Elmore helped lead Grace Brethren from eight-man football all the way to 11-man CIF Small School competition, earning Ventura County small school defensive lineman of the year honors. He became a sack artist in his final years at Arizona, leading the Pac-10 with 10.5 sacks in the 2010 regular season. Elmore is known as a great teammate and was a special-teams stalwart as a freshman in 2007.
On the flip side: He's small for an NFL defensive end but isn't quick enough to easily convert to a 3-4 outside rush linebacker either. He has struggled against the run in the past and doesn't have the pure quick-twitch tendencies you'd like to see for a throwing-downs exclusive player.
How he'll fit in: Well, Elmore will be converting to linebacker. The Packers run a 3-4, so the Simi Valley native will sit behind All-Pro Clay Matthews and Frank Zombo and work on his coverage skills.
What makes him special: Reed looks like an NFL player, a sometimes-overrated part of the draft process but one certain teams value more than others. Working in tandem with Elmore with the Wildcats, Reed proved a capable run-stopping defensive end during his solid senior season. He played different positions at Rancho Verde in high school, even spending some time as a safety. Speed's not an issue.
On the flip side: Does he have the instincts to switch to the 3-4 defense and play as a rush linebacker? He didn't put up the type of numbers -- six sacks in four years -- that would lend themselves to rendering the move easy, but that would make the most sense for him at the next level.
How he'll fit in: Reed joins former USC end Everson Griffen as recent Minnesota picks on the defensive line. The Vikings rank among the NFL's elite in talent there but could stand to lose two of four starters this offseason in Ray Edwards and Pat Williams, so Reed could provide depth.
What makes him special: Havili is a great competitor, a great leader and a great pass-catcher out of the backfield. He's barely big enough to play fullback in the NFL, if at all, so his mark could be made on special teams at first.
On the flip side: He didn't work out for any NFL teams, to the best of our knowledge, and is still recovering from a shoulder injury that limited him throughout the 2010 season. Not being able to participate in the NFL combine or USC's pro day undoubtedly hurt his draft status.
How he'll fit in: Havili resembles Eagles FB Leonard Weaver, the highest-paid fullback in the NFL, on the field, so he could very well end up learning behind him and eventually replacing him. He'll play on Philadelphia's special-teams units, too.
What makes him special: Ausberry has the perfect combination of size and speed and excelled in the red zone as a Trojan, catching four touchdown passes as a senior in 2010. He's a big target and was a very highly recruited player out of high school.
On the flip side: In four years at USC he caught just 68 passes for 700 yards. His work ethic has been questioned by scouts and he never managed to seize a starting job, despite a number of opportunities.
How he'll fit in: Ausberry's selection makes sense for a Raiders team that often values potential over production, especially when it comes to wide receivers. There's no reason he couldn't be productive at the next level, and the only risk involved is a late seventh-round selection. He's a high-reward type for Oakland.
What makes him special: Smith is a positive character guy and a two-year starter for the Trojans who at times looked like a true playmaking linebacker for USC. The younger brother of New York Giants receiver Steve Smith, he has the bloodlines NFL teams love and the smarts to transition well to the next level.
On the flip side: He has health concerns that prevent him from eating big meals and struggles to gain weight. Smith also was limited by injuries during both of his years starting for the Trojans. His presence in stopping the run needs work to be considered NFL-ready.
How he'll fit in: Smith will head to Seattle to be coached by former USC head coach Pete Carroll. Smith was very close to Carroll during his time at USC. With the Seahawks, he'll compete with Matt McCoy and Will Herring to back up David Hawthorne and Aaron Curry at outside linebacker.