Friday, June 2, 2023

2022 NFL Draft: USC star receiver Drake London declares after prolific junior season shortened by injury

USC star receiver Drake London announced Wednesday night that he is declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft following a prolific junior season cut short by injury. London caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games for the Trojans this year before he suffered a fractured ankle in a win over Arizona on Oct. 30.

“It’s been a true blessing to compete as a Trojan over the past three seasons,” London wrote on social media. “You welcomed me with open arms and I will forever be grateful for the love you’ve shown me. I will never forget our time together and all the people I’ve forged lifelong bonds with. To my coaches and teammates, thank you for pushing me each and every day. I would not be in the position I am today without you all.”

London ends his college career with 160 catches for 2,153 yards and 15 touchdowns despite playing in only 22 games over three seasons. The 6-foot-5 former four-star prospect from Moorpark, California was a First-Team selection to the 2021 CBS Sports Midseason All-American team before his injury. 

London played some of his best football against the toughest opposition he faced this season by corralling a total of 31 passes in games against Utah and Notre Dame in October.

“To my family — thank you for being there every step of the way. Your support has fueled me and I’m thankful I have the best support system in the world,” London wrote. “I cannot wait to get started on the next chapter in my life. I’m extremely excited to announce that I am declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft.”

Impact on USC

Getting London back for another season would have been a shock for USC, especially amid the program’s coaching transition from Clay Helton to Lincoln Riley. Given everything that London has proven in the college game, there would have been little incentive for him to return to college, although Riley surely would have found a way to creatively feature such a talented player.

Tahj Washington and Gary Bryant Jr. both upped their productivity in London’s absence and will be solid pieces in the receiving corps — provided they return. Both are 5-foot-11, though, and don’t have London’s imposing frame. Riley had an abundance of riches at receiver this past season at Oklahoma, and he may need to work the transfer portal if his first USC offense is going to sniff that level of talent and depth at the position.

London’s projections

Three CBS Sports draft experts projected London as a first-round pick in mock drafts updated Wednesday, with Ryan Wilson and Chris Trapasso each projecting for him to be selected 30th overall by the Green Bay Packers. Josh Edwards projects London to go 27th to the Tennessee Titans.

USC has seen six receivers taken in the first round during its history, with Nelson Agholor being the most recent in 2015. London ranks as the fifth-best receiver in this draft class, according to CBS Sports’ NFL Draft prospect rankings. But his size could make him particularly compelling for a franchise in need of a big target, as he is the tallest among all the receivers included in the top 100 of the rankings.

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