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Rams Select T.J. McDonald With the 71st pick in 3rd Round

Posted Apr 26, 2013

 
Overview

McDonald has spent his football life trying to live up to the name his father made for himself as an All-American safety at USC in the mid-1980s and 13-year NFL veteran who won a Super Bowl as a member of the San Francisco 49ers in 1994. T.J. (stands for Tim, Jr.) has never shied away from that pressure, however, earning his own accolades over the past couple of seasons. McDonald’s brother, Tevin, is a true sophomore safety who enrolled at crosstown rival UCLA instead of following his dad and brother as Trojans.


The high school All-American (Tim, Sr. was his head coach at Edison High in Fresno) didn’t get a chance to star because of the team’s deep secondary his true freshman year, but he did play in every game as a reserve and on special teams. The departure of Taylor Mays, however, gave McDonald a chance to fill the leadership and production void as a sophomore. League coaches named him second-team All-Pac-10 in 2010 after he led USC with 89 tackles while also posting three interceptions and four pass breakups. McDonald missed the team’s season finale against UCLA with a right shoulder injury. Multiple media outlets named McDonald to their All-American teams after he started 11 of 12 games in his junior year, missing the first half of the Colorado game for a big hit against to “defenseless” Stanford receiver Chris Owusu the previous week. The 2011 first-team all-conference pick had 67 tackles and three interceptions on the year, and his second career blocked punt helped the team beat Oregon in Eugene. McDonald and the Trojans entered the season with National Championship expectations, but stumbled to a six-loss season with the defense playing particularly bad football down the stretch. McDonald moved into more of a hybrid linebacker/safety role for USC, setting a career high in tackles (112) and tackles for loss (6.5). He also recorded a sack, deflected five passes, and nabbed two interceptions on his way to second-team All-Conference honors.

Analysis

Strengths
NFL bloodlines with pro size and length who has played deep and in the box. Hits like a missile in the middle of the field, uses his shoulder to bring real power into the back or midsection of receivers with closing speed and tenacity. Solid ball skills, looks high and wide passes into his hands and can get down to get his hands under low throws. Physical presence around the line, sticks his head into short-yardage plays and uses his length to stay off lineman blocks and to wrap up running backs in traffic and receivers in the flat. Attacks the alley aggressively when coming downhill from two-high coverages. Does a good job fighting through blocks and making tackles on screens. Tries to lay the kill shot on wide receivers over the middle, but generally a good form tackler against running backs. Height and size come in handy on jump ball situations. Will be a factor on special teams, both using his length on the kick block team and as a strong tackler on coverage units.

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