With the 2018 NFL Draft set to start on April 26th , this will be a light draft class for the University of Oregon Ducks. According to Profootballreference.com, 2009 had the highest draft class with six Ducks selected. Trailing are the 2013 and 2015 class tied with five. The 2009 draft class was highlighted by Defensive Backs Jairus Byrd (BUF) and Patrick Chung (NE) as well as Center Max Unger (SEA). The 2013 draft class was a historic one for the Ducks with the third highest Duck being selected in school history by the Miami Dolphins as they picked Defensive End Dion Jordan third overall. Two years later, quarterback Marcus Mariota leaped Jordan when he was selected by the Tennessee Titans number two overall. That was also the year Mariota became the first Duck to win a Heisman trophy.
Heavy hitters have come out of the University of Oregon within the last seven years. This year could mark the third year since 2000 where the Ducks have less than two players selected. One Duck was selected in the 2001 and 2011 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles in quarterback A.J. Feeley (fifth round) and linebacker Casey Matthews (fourth round). The 2017 draft class will be spearheaded by a trio of seniors in running back Royce Freeman, tackle Tyrell Crosby, and wide receiver Charles Nelson.
All three ducks trail in a deep class of running backs, lineman, and receivers. Despite all three players being highlight reels during their time at the University of Oregon, draft Analyst have Crosby being the highest picked duck this year with him going in the second round. I predict that with one of two back to back picks early in the second round, Crosby will be selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the 36th pick.
The Colts have had issues with keeping their franchise quarterback Andrew Luck healthy, which eventually led him to miss the 2017 season with a shoulder injury. Crosby is an instant upgrade in the tackle position opposite of Anthony Castonzo. Crosby weighed in at the combine at 6’5” 325 Ibs. He played left tackle for the Ducks but moving to the right tackle position could be his quickest route to starter. Pass blocking was an issue for Crosby, but when it came to the running game he excelled. I could see the Colts also shifting him to a guard position until he can improve his pass blocking abilities.
Running back Royce Freeman will leave Eugene with his name forever remembered. Freeman decided to opt out of the Ducks last game of the 2017 season with the intent to stay health for the draft. According to Tyson Alger of The Oregonian, he recaps Freeman’s career by the numbers; 5,621 yards rushing, 6,435 all-purpose yards, 947 carries, 384 points scored, 64 total touchdowns, 60 rushing touchdowns, 31 100-yard games, freshman offensive player of the year in 2014, two time first-team all-conference roster, 246 yards in one game (2015 vs Washington State). Freeman rushed for four touchdowns twice in his career in 2014 against Washington and 2017 against Southern Utah.
Despite all the records that will follow Freeman until he takes his first snap in an NFL game, he isn’t ranked highly among analyst. NFL senior analyst Gil Brandt ranks Freeman 97 out his top 150 prospects. In the third round, I believe that Royce Freeman will be draft with the 76th overall pick by the Green Bay Packers. When the Packers were the biggest threat in the NFL, Eddie Lacy was running the ball down the middle of the defense and was at a decent weight. I can see Freeman as another version of Lacy during those days. Depending on what the Packers do in the first and second round, Freeman would be an automatic upgrade to the running back room. Ty Montgomery did a serviceable job at the running back spot but he was draft as a wide receiver. He only stepped into the position after injuries affected the depth. The wide receiver depth chart could use the help after long time receiver Jordy Nelson was released and signed on with the Oakland Raiders. Montgomery would move become the third receiver making him a slot receiver. Davante Adams and Randall Cobb on the outside, Montgomery in the slot working the middle of the field; and add newly acquired tight end Jimmy Graham to the mix and the passing game for the Packers will be as deadly as ever. A passing game of this magnitude would open up lanes to the endzone for Freeman.
Wide Receiver Charles Nelson is in a different situation than Freeman and Crosby. Standing at just 5”8 and 177 Ibs, Nelson is undersized and underweight for a deep wide receiver class. Nelson finished his career at Oregon with 1,555 receiving yards and landing in the endzone 14 times. I believe that Nelson will go undrafted and if any team picks him up, he would be used for returning kicks. I could see him being another version Arizona Cardinals wide receiver and special teamer J.J. Nelson. Disregarding the same last name, both are speedy receivers with good hands that are brought in on offense when the down in distance is long. I would like to see a team with need to add depth to the wide receiver position but not an immediate need for a starter; specifically the Minnesota Vikings.
This draft could potentially have two ducks selected and the rest brought in undrafted to compete for a spot.