USC might be a couple of wins away from making a strong case for entry into this year's College Football Playoff. One of the big reasons for USC's success this season has been the addition of transfer wide receiver Jordan Addison. Last year's Biletnikoff Award winner, Addison transferred to USC from Pittsburgh (where he caught passes from first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett in 2021).
Looking ahead to the 2023 NFL Draft, NFL teams will have many options at wide receiver in the first round of the selection process. TCU's Quentin Johnston is showcasing phenomenal potential; UNC's Josh Downs has put together some compelling film this season; and players like SMU's Rashee Rice, Tennessee's Jalin Hyatt, Boston College's Zay Flowers, and Iowa State's Xavier Hutchinson have posted tremendous numbers.
Even Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who has barely played due to injury, is considered a likely first-rounder. And although LSU's Kayshon Boutte has struggled a bit in 2022, he will likely hear his name called on Day One as well.
But don't forget about Addison.
After producing otherworldly statistics last season (100 catches for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns in 14 games), Addison has cooled off a bit in 2022. Still, he is on pace to rack up some impressive totals as the season closes. Moreover, Addison is the No. 1 receiver on a team that could make it to the College Football Playoff.
Addison has benefited greatly from playing in USC head coach Lincoln Riley's creative, pass-first offensive scheme this year. It also doesn't hurt that Addison's new quarterback, Caleb Williams, is himself a Heisman candidate who could be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft (look out for Williams and UNC's Drake Maye next season to battle for this slot).
In USC's recent victory over UCLA, Addison showed why he is probably a first-round lock. Addison hauled in a season-high 11 receptions in that game for 178 yards and scored a touchdown. The game could not have been more important—UCLA was ranked going into the game, the USC-UCLA cross-town rivalry is the Pac-12 equivalent of Alabama-Auburn or Michigan-Ohio State, and a loss almost certainly would have knocked the Trojans out of College Football Playoff contention.
Under the bright lights, Addison was fantastic. The game was not decided until late in the fourth quarter, raising the stakes for every snap. But the pressure did not cause Addison to buckle throughout USC's 48-45 victory.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Addison's performance against UCLA was the superb route-running skill he showcased. Addison routinely beat defenders with quick cuts and double moves. On deep routes, Addison was tough to guard. To that end, scouts will be keen to see what time Addison ultimately runs in the 40-yard dash when the pre-draft season is upon us.
Addison also lined up in multiple spots for USC against UCLA, including a sort-of wheel route he ran out of the backfield (!) for a touchdown in the third quarter. That versatility will serve him well in the NFL, where pre-snap motion has recently become all the rage.
To be sure, just because a player is good in college does not mean that the player will be good in the NFL. And given his slender frame, Addison will need to do even more to prove to NFL scouts that he is more than just a collegiate superstar. But against UCLA, Addison showed some flashes of NFL potential that could justify a first-round selection.
In terms of body type, Addison has some NFL comps. DeVonta Smith of the Philadelphia Eagles immediately comes to mind, but Darnell Mooney of the Chicago Bears also somewhat fits the bill. At bottom, Addison may be a bit skinnier than the average pro receiver, but other NFL wideouts have done just fine with a similar frame.
Addison has been fun to watch this season, and USC is back. Watch for Addison to get picked on Day One of the 2023 NFL Draft.