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NFL Draft: Robert Woods looking to break USC’s pro drought at receiver

Southern Californisplit end Robert Woods heads upfield as Notre Dame linebacker Prince Shembo gives chase first half an NCAA college

Southern California split end Robert Woods heads upfield as Notre Dame linebacker Prince Shembo gives chase in the first half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

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USC has produced some legendary receivers, including Lynn Swann and Keyshawn Johnson.

But their recent run at the position hasn’t yielded much, at least not for the NFL’s tastes. Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett are among the disappointments.

So how will Robert Woods fare?

He’s not big (6 foot), he’s not fast (4.51 in the 40-yard dash), and he really doesn’t stand out in any measurable way.

But Woods was remarkably consistent for the Trojans, catching 250 passes for 2,933 yards and 32 receiving touchdowns in his three seasons. His most brilliant season was his second, when he hauled in 111 catches for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns.

“I think my experience,” Woods said at the NFL combine when asked what his strengths are. “I’ve been doing it for three years now. I’d say my knowledge of the game — I know every position — my route-running ability, and my hands.”

The latter is sometimes questioned. So is his ability to return kickoffs and punts, which he did at USC, given his average athleticism.

But Woods is a fearless and unselfish player, the type NFL coaches favor.

Asked who he would compare his game to, Woods mentioned Reggie Wayne.

“He’s smaller, one type of receiver,” Woods said. “He’s not like a Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald, but he’s making plays all around the field, and I can see myself similar to him.”

After his brilliant sophomore season, Woods’ production dipped last season but the Trojans struggled all around.

The preseason No. 1, USC finished 7-6 last season.

“We had a rough year,” Woods said. “We all kept thinking positive, after every loss. We still had faith in our team that we could still get to a bowl game and win every game.

“Our whole thing was, ‘OK, let’s just win the last four or the last three.’ Unfortunately, we lost them at the end, but we still had a positive outlook.”

Now Woods assumes the same optimistic approach to his NFL career.

“It’s really an honor to get paid and allowed to do something that I enjoy, that I love doing,” he said.

For once, receiver doesn’t appear a strong position of need since the team’s top three are Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett. And while the Bears added Martellus Bennett via free agency, it would seem possible that they could add a young tight end to groom, if the opportunity presents itself.

FIVE OF INTEREST

TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame: He’s the complete package and would be tempting if he’s available for the Bears.

TE Zach Ertz, Stanford: Considered an upgrade over Coby Fleener, but he isn’t an elite athlete.

WR Robert Woods, USC: Polished and productive in college, he seems like the sort of receiver who could be productive in the Bears’ new, quick-hitting offense.

WR Ryan Swopes, Texas A&M: NFL ready, he’s a smart player with plenty of athletic advantages.

TE Travis Kelce, Cincinnati: He’s a well-rounded tight end with good size and speed.

THE THREE BEST

WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia: Some compare him to Percy Harvin or Randall Cobb, two players the Bears are plenty familiar with.

TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame: Considered the top tight end, he has a brilliant career for the Fighting Irish.

WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee: He’s a smooth player who can jump up and outmuscle defenders.

THE THREE SLEEPERS

TE Jordan Reid, Florida: A tad undersized (he’s 6-3), but he’s compared to former Gator Aaron Hernandez.

TE Dion Sims, Michigan State: Tantalizing measurables (6-5, 262 pounds with sub 4.7 speed), but he wasn’t all that productive for the Spartans.

WR Marquise Goodwin, Texas: He’s 5-9, and he’s an absolute blazer with the potential to handle returns.



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