Last year I did a preview of the NFL Draft in relation to the Ducks that participated in the Oregon Pro Day. Let it be known that I would make a terrible NFL Scout (I know, contain your excitement). I predicted between 3 and 5 Ducks would be drafted. After three days of NFL draft extravaganza exactly 1 former Oregon player was drafted to the pro ranks.
However, the combined effects of the lockout, new salary cap, and larger practice squads meant the rookie free agency period was kind to some former Ducks. 9 signed some form of free agent contract. In total 4 of last year’s Oregon draft class ended their first NFL season on an active NFL (roster Mathews, Paysinger, Maehl, Bair). 2 more finished the season on Practice Squads (Davis, TJIII), and two were on CFL rosters (Rowe and Lewis).
No one went out and proved me wrong like Spencer Paysinger, though. I predicted he would be playing in the UFL. Instead, he was an active player on the Super Bowl Champion Giants.
Desspite of my lack of successful prognostication, I’ve decided to give it a shot once more with this year’s class. Oregon held its pro day on March 15 this year. In total 12 players participated. As with last year I’ll offer predictions for everyone, but focus my efforts on those most likely to make an NFL roster next year.
LaMichael James, RB
Perhaps you've heard of him? Since the confetti fell on the Rose Bowl, folks have been wondering what kind of NFL career LMJ will have. In that time, depending on who you ask, James has run the 40 in something between 4.21 and 5.63 seconds. But outside of the headline number, he's been very good in workouts. James brings speed, instincts, elusiveness, and fearlessness. Unfortunately, like so many of his Oregon teammates during the past 3 years he lacks "prototypical NFL size."
A solid combine and good pro day have cemented James’ athletic prowess. Since 3 running backs were selected in the top 5 picks in 2005, the number of teams selecting RBs high in the draft has declined significantly. But some team out there is going to want to add James to its running back by committee. And I think his talent gets him drafted in the mid 2nd to early 3rd rounds.
Possible drafting teams: Tampa Bay, Oakland, Cleveland
Darron Thomas, QB
DT’s decision to leave for the draft shocked many. Normally you don't leave school early for the draft unless you are going to get drafted high; or you are Javes Lewis. When he’s not bumming rides, Darron’s evolved into a leader among the team. His mechanics and accuracy are the question marks but in my opinion he’s done the right thing by throwing at the Combine and all other opportunities, showing he’s willing to adapt.
Darron’s a project QB, and I think he’s as aware of that fact as anyone. He’s aiming to be a late round draft pick, but in this day and age of the NFL, where many teams are only keeping two QBs, I think he’s more likely to be a free agent signing and spending the year on a practice squad of a team that has a solid but senior QB.
Possible drafting/signing teams: New Orleans, Oakland, Houtson
Eddie Pleasant, S
2011 was the year that the transition to Safety finally all came together for Eddie. His pass coverage skills developed and he got his hands on 3 interceptions. His range and toughness are his best assets and could provide solid depth right away. Scouts seam incredibly divided on him though.
I think the mystique of the Oregon Safety helps him out on draft day. He can be an effective special teamer right away, and has versatility and leadership that coaches love. He won’t be selected until the last day of the draft, but he’ll be drafted. He will the proceed to spending 2012 blowing up fools on kickoff coverage, and working his way into the safety rotation.
Possible drafting teams: Buffalo, New Orleans, Dallas
Josh Kaddu, LB
Last year he was the third LB behind Matthews and Paysinger. This year Michael Clay was the star. But over that stretch Kaddu has quietly put together an impressive resume. Improving statistically each year, and not missing a start in the past two, Josh earned all Pac-12 honours this year. And then he went out and had a great showing at the East-West Shrine game.
CBS sports absolutely fell in love with Josh at the Shrine game, and now project him to be drafted in the third. ESPN has not even evaluated him. I think he falls somewhere in the middle. Injuring himself (minor hamstring pull) at the Oregon pro day will hurt since he also wasn’t healthy for the combine. Still I think somebody takes a flier on him.
Possible drafting teams: Cincinnati; Detroit; Seattle
Lavasier Tuinei, WR
LT is a big body receiver, who got better each year at Oregon. At this stage I almost consider him a poor man’s Vincent Jackson, a guy without elite speed, but is a legitimate deep threat because of the body control he possesses. He’s never put up big yards, but 10 touchdowns this year and playing the best game of his career in the Rose Bowl opened the door. He wasn't invited to the combine, but LT once again made the most of his opportunity at Oregon's Pro Day showing off good measurables.
He’s a ways down most draft boards I’ve seen, but possessing good measurable, a willingness to block, and playing probably the best game of his career in his last outing as a Duck I think push him into the later rounds of the draft. Two weeks ago I thought the seventh round may be his ceiling, but after the pro day, I could see him drawing attention earlier and going as early as the fifth.
Possible drafting teams: Washington, Miami, Philadelphia
David Paulson, TE
The receiving Tight End is in vogue in the NFL. Who wouldn’t want a Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski dominating the middle of the field for them? Despite filling that role for the Ducks, making the transition to the NFL will be tough for David. He doesn’t measure up well against the other TEs in the draft; he's smaller than most and had a decidedly average combine. Despite finishing the regular season strong, a very quiet Rose Bowl won’t help his draft stock.
We all love David for his hands of glue, interior blocking, and what’s going on between his ears, but it’s going to be a tough go for him in the NFL. Special teams play is going to be his calling early on, where hopefully he can add some size and provide some versatility in multi tight end sets. I think he signs on as a free agent and adds some weight on a practice squad.
Possible drafting/signing teams: Seattle, Houston, San Francisco
Mark Asper, OG
In terms of NFL size, Asper is streets ahead of last year’s offensive line prospects (Jordan Holmes and Bo Thran). He’s played multiple positions along the right side of the line and is a three year starter. Unfortunately his age is working against him and will be 27 before the end of the NFL season.
My prediction for 2012: Signs with a zone blocking team (Houston, Washington) as a free agent, but doesn’t make the last round of cuts. Becomes a late season addition to provide some depth to the BC Lions.
Darrion Weems, OL
In 2011 Darrion went from OL depth to a full time starter and held down the LT position admirably.
My Prediction for 2012: If the UFL decides to have a season, Darrion keeps the ornithological theme going with the Omaha Nighthawks.
Dewitt Stuckey, LB
Dewitt was a revelation in 2011 and absolutely deserved the team’s most improved player award that he won. He excels in run stopping but wasn’t nearly as strong in coverage, an essential skill for the modern pro linebacker.
My prediction for 2012: Oregon Ducks graduate assistant in charge of monitoring Kiko’s whereabouts at all times.
Terrell Turner, DE
2011 was a solid year for Terrell. He was one of the line’s more consistent players, and was rewarded with outstanding lineman by the team for his efforts. And can't we all agree that his Charisma puts him over the top in the "Good Guy" ratings?
My prediction for 2012: Spends August in an NFL training camp before returning to Eugene to work with the Athletic Department in a media role. Spends all autumn terrorising sophomore journalism students.
Anthony Gildon, CB
The damn injury bug just wouldn’t let go of Anthony this year, after showing some promise as another solid cover corner.
My prediction for 2012: Like his teammate in the defensive backfield, Marvin Johnson, Anthony goes the Arena Football route, and likewise earns player of the week honors in his first outing. It's only a matter of time before big time Arena Football comes to Oregon.
Cliff Harris, CB
Cliff gets mention on my list as he worked out at the Oregon Pro Day, and represented the school at the combine. In 12 months Cliff has gone from, potential first round draft choice, to bench player, to million dollar talent/ten cent head, to unimpressive workouts. I’d like to say someone takes a flier on him in the draft, but I said the same thing about Blount two years ago. I don’t think Cliff was able to convince scouts that his physical ability outweighs the character risk.
My prediction for 2012: Signed as a rookie free agent, and does enough in camp and preseason to stick somewhere, though possibly not with the team that signed him. (I admit, this is lazy and unoriginal... sue me).
Bo Thran, OL
What are you doing here?
My prediction for 2012: Starts working out for the 2013 pro day.
That's it, that's all. If there was another whole slate of backups that worked out this year, they didn't earn mention in Rob's article above. Draft day's only a month away, I can't wait to see just how wrong I am this year,