Career Recap: Over the past two seasons, USC fielded had one of the best cornerback tandems in the nation, with Adoree' Jackson and Iman Marshall locking down opposing receivers. Jackson received more headlines in part from the big plays he provided on offense and special teams, but one could make the argument that Marshall is just as good a fit for the NFL with being a bigger cornerback capable of defending big receivers.
The talented Marshall became a starter as a freshman with an impressive debut in 2015. On the year, he had 67 tackles with eight passes broken up and three interceptions, including a two-interception game victimizing UCLA star quarterback Josh Rosen. Marshall stayed consistent as a sophomore with eight breakups, three interceptions and 51 tackles.
2017 Season Outlook: Marshall will see some quality receivers during his junior season. Unfortunately, USC does not play Washington, so Marshall won't go against the Huskies' Dante Pettis, a potential early round wideout from the Pac-12.
In late October however, Marshall will see a receiver prospect who is rated higher than Marshall in Notre Dame's Equanimeous St. Brown. Sources from NFL teams have said that the 6-foot-4, 205-pound St. Brown is a potential first-rounder, and St. Brown made seven receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown last year against USC. Marshall versus St. Brown will be a great draft matchup as both have top-25 potential in the 2018 NFL Draft. St. Brown is the biggest test on Marshall's schedule entering the season.
To end the season, Marshall will take on the best quarterback on his schedule with UCLA's Josh Rosen. Rosen missed last year's game, and Marshall got the better of him when they were freshmen.
Skill-Set Summary: The passing-driven nature of the NFL makes having a true No. 1 cornerback a necessity for any good defense. Marshall has starting corner potential for the next level with his unique skill set of size, quickness, and ball skills.
In pass coverage, Marshall is a very good fit for the pro game. He has the size to battle big receivers along with the ability to play a variety of techniques. Marshall has played a lot of press-man coverage and shows the skill to turn and run with receivers. He also has played off-man and zone coverage, showing nice flexibility with quick feet to be smooth in off-man coverage. Marshall possesses good diagnosis skills and instincts to function well in zone.
The NFL has stayed consistent in recent years in looking to exploit back-shoulder and 50-50 passes with big wideouts making catches over defensive backs. Marshall is an excellent fit to defend those type of receivers and that style of offense. He uses his height and length to blanket wideouts. With his leaping ability and late hands, Marshall is adept at slapping passes away. Many college cornerbacks can panic when the ball is headed their direction, but Marshall is very composed. He does a tremendous job of playing the ball and not grabbing at the receiver. Marshall tracks the ball well to time his leap in order to slap passes away. He has late hands and is very composed to not hold wide receivers or get into their bodies, which helps him avoid pass interference penalties.
As a junior, it will be interesting to see if Marshall is challenged by deep speed receivers. The ultra-fast Adoree' Jackson would typically defend those wide outs for USC, but with Jackson in the NFL, Marshall will be the Trojans' clear No. 1 corner. Marshall is a good athlete, but he is bigger and there is some stiffness to him, so seeing how he handles fast vertical receivers will be watched closely by NFL evaluators.
One of the impressive parts of Marshall's game is his run defense. He is a willing run defender who has good instincts and reads plays well. He is a physical athlete who has no hesitation to fire into the tackle box or run to the line of scrimmage to tackle a running back. Marshall also will dish out some hard hits, and you don't see a lot of cornerbacks who hit as hard as he does. Entering the NFL, Marshall's run defense is a strength and sticks out as unique.
Marshall looks like a first-round prospect who should be a future NFL starter and a potential No. 1 corner for a pro defense.
2018 NFL Draft Expectations: Entering the 2017 season, Marshall could be one of the top cornerback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft.