Lo and Behold! The 2013 NFL Draft is only days away. One of my favourite events of the sporting calendar, the draft is something I start looking forward too right after my NFL team suffers their first loss of the season. As a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan this usually means I am within spitting distance of Labor Day. But for someone who is a fan of both College and Pro football there is something truly special about the Draft. It's a blending of the two worlds where we can enjoy watching the college stars take the next step and give hope to all of the NFL's franchises. Well except for Jacksonville, no fan of that Franchise can ever truly feel better about their team after the draft.
I have determined it is my annual responsibility, nay DUTY, to share with you, the fine readers of the internet's greatest pun-named Oregon Ducks Fan Blog, some insight on how each of our departing Ducks may fair as professionals.
As always (read: since last year) we start off with with a review of the previous year's prognostications. I fared much better last year than in 2011. I predicted between 4 and 6 Ducks would be drafted. And 4 did indeed hear their name called. LaMichael James at the end the 2nd round (hit that one!) to the 49ers, Josh Kaddu in the 5th (another hit) to the Dolphins, Mark Asper in the 6th (I actually predicted him to be an UDFA) to the Bills; and David Paulson in the 7th (a player I couldn't quite peg as a draft prospect or UDFA) to the Steelers. Most surprising was that Eddie Pleasant didn't draw any interest in the draft, though he signed as an UDFA with the Texans who promoted him from the practice squad to the active roster in December. Lavasier Tuinei bounced around the Seahawks practice roster all season while also spending some time with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL. He was added to the Bengals Offseason Roster in January.
(I'll caveat my "hits" above, by stating that I have yet to correctly place a player on a team.)
Of all of last year's departing Ducks, 6 wound up on active NFL rosters (James; Kaddu; Asper [Jaguars]; Paulson; Pleasant; and Darrion Weems [Cowboys]), 2 on practice or offseason rosters (Tuinei and Cliff Harris [New York Jets]); and 1 on a CFL Roster (Darron Thomas [Calgary Stampeders])
All in all that's a pretty good turn for last year's class, and this year looks solid as well. It's very likely the program will have a first round selection for the first time in 5 years, when Jonathan Stewart was selected by the Panthers, forever hurting the heart of this Bucs fan. There is also the intrigue of Chip Kelly building a team in Philly that looks like he wants to get the band back together.
Oregon's Pro Day was March 14 this year. Let's look at who might make get some welcome phone calls next weekend.
Dion Jordon, DE/LB
Despite injuring his shoulder late in the season and sitting out the second half of the Fiesta Bowl, Jordan has become one of the top prospects in this year's draft on the back of his athleticism. Right now, the NFL values pass rushers, and despite not putting up gaudy stats at Oregon due to the multitude of things he was asked to do on defense, those familiar with the next level seem to think he could be something special.
Jordan is almost a sure bet to be a first round draft pick, but I have serious doubts that he is polished enough all around to constitute the 2nd overall pick. In recent years we've seen similar athletic cases Jason Pierre-Paul and Aldon Smith go top 15. I predict Jordon goes somewhere between 6th and 12th.
Possible Drafting Teams: Cleveland; New York Jets; Arizona
Kyle Long: OL
Another player who is trading high on athletic potential. With only 4 starts at the NCAA level, there's not a lot of production to back up the athleticism. Duck fans wish he would have been granted the waiver and had another season in Eugene, but he's been making the most of his offseason with a good Senior Bowl and impressive showing at the Combine.
The family name probably offsets the Florida State issues when looking at intangibles, so teams will be looking at his football ability. A lot project him comfortably in the second round. I think he has the skills to be taken that high, but not the experience to be the day 1 starter many teams will expect from a 2nd round choice, so I think the third round is a more likely landing spot with a team that needs pass blocking help.
Possible Drafting Teams: Pittsburgh; San Diego; Arizona Cardinals
Kiko Alonso: LB
Alonso has spent the past 2 years overcoming the bad decisions that plagued his first years on campus. But he's been a player that has stepped up in some of Oregon's biggest games during that comeback. Especially toward the end of last season, it seem like everything clicked for him and he understood how best to play his position. He balances the run and pass coverage very well, which is essential for a 3 down linebacker these days.
His best fit will be with an experienced linebacking corps that will let him commit to his assignments and get into the backfield over the middle. I think the injury history, arrests, and decision not to do the athletic drills at the combine all keep him from being drafted until the third day. But I don't think it takes too long once that day rolls around.
Possible drafting teams: Baltimore; Seattle; Oakland
Kenjon Barner: RB
A typical Ducks draft prospect if there has been one over the past couple years. Athletic, with good production, but not NFL size. Oh, and he avoids contact or something. To anyone questioning whether Barner could stand up to the NFL level I would point them to this year's USC game. With his 38 carries for 321 yards and 5(!) touchdowns while also picking up 2 passes, he contributed in a BIG way that game. A decent senior bowl week and combine have reinforced that he should be drafted.
Running Back continues to be a devalued position in the NFL. That said, come draft time it's one of those positions that teams seem to go on a run of when they start looking at depth they need to address. Barner's a specialty running back with some durability issues, but could fit in nicely in a Dexter McCluster role. A 4th round pick would not surprise me, but he probably has to wait a bit longer.
Possible Drafting Teams: San Diego; Green Bay; Buffalo
Michael Clay: LB
A player whose abilities Oregon Fans feel have been continually disrespected during his time here. He too, lacks desirable NFL height, but showed up to the Pro Day sporting significantly more muscle, without giving up his speed. He's been one of the coaching staff's favorite players over the years, and is just an all around football player. He even did long snapping drills at the pro day, something he hadn't done since his freshman season.
This is wear I could see Chip spending a late round draft pick on one of his former guys quite easily. He is a guy who lives the Win the Day motto and would contribute right away on special teams. I think he gets drafted, but he'll be sitting and staring at his phone for a while. Plus he brings great fashion.
Possible drafting/signing teams: Philadelphia; San Francisco; Miami
John Boyett: FS
What a disappointment it was to have John sit out his final season. However, since he took on a starting role against Purdue in 2009, he has been a great contributor to the team, a consistent hitter, and reliable man in coverage. He had a great personal workout for scouts in Napa earlier this month. His injuries probably mean he won't get drafted, and may even cause him some trouble signing as an UDFA after the draft, but I think he gets himself into an NFL training camp for a West Coast team, and may be an injury signing or Practice Squad player.
Possible Drafting/Signing Teams: San Francisco, Oakland, Arizona.
Now onto one of my more favourite parts of the evaluation, the players who will likely not be drafted, but worked out at the Pro Day and are hoping to extend a career in football.
Ryan Clanton: OL
If he can't go pro in Football, Ryan at least has a future in lifting heavy things. He put up 42 reps in the Bench Press (more than anyone at the Combine) at the Pro Day. Coming from a spread system, he could draw interest with those kind of measurables.
My Prediction for 2013: I think he has an outside shot at getting signed as a free agent, but given his love of cows and oil, winds up joining a team in the CFL West.
One of the greater Oregon Football Twitter follows, it's all right there in the name. Nick provided solid contribution as a starter and back up on the right side of the line for the past two years. Unfortunately he couldn't close out his career with the Ducks on the right note due to being academically ineligible for the Fiesta Bowl.
My Prediction for 2013: After dabbling in Arena Football, he joins fellow former Offensive Lineman Carson York in founding a successful organization out of Eugene that has one of the smartest, most intellectually stimulating social media marketing platforms the world has ever seen.
The greatest player to be completely underutilized at Oregon. Chip's offense often meant Jackson ran the risk of injuring a thumb while twiddling them over the past 4 years, but he was always a reliable contributor. The thing is, there isn't much turnover in punters in the NFL, and unless you're the Jags, you're probably not spending a draft pick on one.
My Prediction for 2013: I think Rice has the talent to continue playing professional ball at some level. After spending time in an NFL camp, I see him bouncing around the NFL in 2013 as teams need to fill an injury hole.
A junior college transfer who just never seemed to be able to break into a contributor's role despite, having the physical ability.
My prediction for 2013: Finds some success as a two-way player for the Tri-Cities Fever of Indoor Football League.
Lightning rod for Oregon fans, participant in one of the more strangely reported bar fights I've heard of, and routinely demoted and promoted PK and kick-off specialist.
My Prediction for 2013: A nice quiet home life, with lots of access to rec league basketball.
Who among us wouldn't love a Remmington Bear Hug following the Rose Bowl. He was a solid rotation guy on the Ducks Defensive Line, and enough of a character for us all to enjoy.
My prediction for 2013: While in the midwest filming as a Sons of Anarchy extra, he joins on with a team in the Continental Indoor Football League.
Another lightning rod among some of us, some more than others. He was never spectacular but he made the most of his opportunity as a walk-on and helped fill out the receiving corps.
My prediction for 2013: Laughing heartily after he drops a bag of cement at an Albany community playground-building project.
Everett native, and recorded a tackle against Washington this year? We could use more of these defection types around here!
My prediction for 2013: Helf's new recruiting tool in "Blowing up the border."
Bill proved that everyone gets to play against Colorado.
My prediction for 2013: The former Gatorade Player of the Year for the State of Alaska successfully got me to read his GoDucks.com bio.
So there it is, I'm predicting 5 ducks drafted, and up to 8 making an NFL training camp. This is the first time in 3 years I'll be able to watch the NFL draft live. Naturally, I'll be watching the first round of the draft with high anticipation, even though the Bucs will no longer be making a first round pick. I'm excited to see where Jordan winds up. I'll also be reviving my NFL draft drinking game, and tweeting the results. Follow me if you'd like @craig_fulton. And I'll try to get the rules posted up here later in the week.