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Draft Quack: Mid-season Pac-12 Review

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Who are the best NFL prospects in the Pac-12?

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

There are several big time and some lesser known names in the conference that are eligible in the 2020 NFL Draft. How are they faring thus far during the 2019 season? I’ll break them down by offense and defense for this exercise.

OFFENSE

QB

1. Jacob Eason 6’5 237 RS Junior Washington

  • I ranked Eason as the top quarterback in the conference due to his league ready traits being slightly better than Herbert’s. He has all the tools to be successful at the next level. His confidence in the arm is certainly not lacking. This can be a good and bad thing in certain situations. What put him over the top was the performance against Oregon last week. Can make every throw in the book. Isn’t the athlete that Herbert is but has enough to get around the pocket and short field runs.

2. Justin Herbert 6’6 237 Senior Oregon

  • Not to be all Matt Miller and completely obliterate Herbert for his supposed lack of competitive desire (not to mention getting a “stern” letter from the Oregon AD), it is an issue and I’ll just leave it at that. He has the H/W/L that NFL teams crave and the arm talent to match. He has above average athleticism for the position but rarely uses it. The reason why I placed Herbert second is due to his track record of inconsistency and the lack of confidence in his throws. It seems like he wants to guide it instead of just rocketing it in there when necessary. The medical is a concern as well. He’s considered as a “safe” prospect that won’t wow you or bewilder you, which is surprising given his prodigious talents.

3. Tyler Huntley 6’1 190 Senior Utah

  • Huntley has improved as a passer this season after bouts of inconsistency the previous couple of years and medical issues. He knows how to move around the pocket and has enough arm talent to make all the throws.

4. Anthony Gordon 6’3 189 RS Senior Washington State

  • Not the greatest athlete at the position. He’s the next Johnny come lately for the Cougs at QB. Possesses a rocket arm that can make all the throws, either to his receivers or to the defense is anyone’s guess. Somewhat slow to read his progressions.

5. Steven Montez 6’5 225 RS Senior Colorado

  • Has the H/W/L that NFL teams covet in their QBs but his pocket awareness leaves something to be desired. Has played well in stretches without star receiver Laviska Shenault. Arm talent is there. Has improved somewhat on his slow reading but still an eyesore on tape. Feasts on lesser talented defenses but struggles against better competition as Oregon proved.

RB

1. Zack Moss 5’10 208 Senior Utah

  • Moss is the best running back in the conference. He has pro level instincts and vision for the position. Not the best athlete but he gets by on power and the vision to avoid the tackles. He leads the nation in broken tackles by a RB. Would be ideal for a zone blocking system as he sees the hole and goes on one cut.

2. Eno Benjamin 5’10 205 Junior Arizona State

  • Benjamin has been one of the best running backs in the conference the past two years (a title not lightly given the RB depth in the Pac-12). He won’t break the game wide open but has enough speed to get to where he needs to go. Gets a little lost in between the tackles at times. Improved vision and IQ. He has been struggling to get going due to a lack of space and defenses loading up due to not fearing true freshman QB Jayden Daniels.

3. Joshua Kelley 5’11 219 RS Senior UCLA

  • Kelley has been really good this season despite a struggling team around him. He’s had to carry the offense at times due to injury and inconsistency. What he’s doing for the Bruins is yeoman’s work.

4. Salvon Ahmed 5’11 189 Junior Washington

  • The heir apparent to Myles Gaskin finally has the job to himself. A speed demon that heavily relies on his athleticism to get by as he doesn’t have much functional strength. A weapon out of the backfield. He was a monster against Oregon last weekend, particularly in the first half.

5. Cameron Scarlett 6’1 216 RB RS Senior

  • A bigger back and the heir apparent to Bryce Love is finally getting a shot to be the bellcow this year. He has prior experience returning kicks but it appears that he has given up those duties. NFL teams will love that versatility. The pass game needs a bit of work. He’s shown a lot of improvement being the main man.

6. J.J. Taylor 5’6 170 RS Junior Arizona

  • He’s an electric jitterbug in the form of smaller Darren Sproles. He’ll have a role at the next level if he gains some weight to his frame.

WR

1. Michael Pittman, Jr 6’4 215 Senior USC

  • A particular red zone threat given his size and great ball skills. Plus route runner. Excellent catch radius and hands. Athletically, not the most inspiring but inside the 20, it’s hardly needed. He has been the best receiver in the conference but it has been close. He has Trojans fans looking back to the glory years of Mike Williams.

2. Aaron Fuller 5’10 187 Senior Washington

  • One of the better returning receivers in the conference. A great route runner that has knowledge of what depth to use in each route. Lateral quickness is a delight. Frame needs work, however as he’s slightly built. Health became an issue when he missed significant portions of the Oregon game. Eason’s top target.

3. Brandon Aiyuk 6’1 195 Senior Arizona State

  • The leading receiver for the Sun Devils. He’s a YAC monster. Has opened a lot of eyes in the scouting community even with a true freshman QB trying to figure things out. Straight line speed could be an issue but lateral agility is not. Good route runner that varies depth and speed of the route.

4. Tyler Vaughns 6’2 185 RS Junior USC

  • The “other” upperclassman Trojans receiver is pretty good in his own right. Lateral agility is a major plus along with his awareness. Ball skills are on point as well. Has some issues with press coverage due to a lack of functional strength. Frame could be an issue down the road.

5. Laviska Shenault 6’1 215 Junior Colorado

  • The do everything playmaker for the Buffs on offense. He’s been used seemingly in every conceivable way as a receiver for them. He’s one of the best receivers in college football that isn’t on Clemson or Alabama’s roster when healthy. I compare his game to the Clemson version of Sammy Watkins.

6. Easop Winston 5’11 183 RS Senior Washington State

  • He’s an excellent route runner that understands what he’s doing in any given route. Size limits him to the slot position in the NFL. The Coug’s top weapon. Has been really good this season finding holes in the coverage and using them.

TE

1. Jacob Breeland 6’5 237 RS Senior Oregon

  • Breeland was well on his way to being a John Mackey Award finalist if not the outright winner after posting a solid season being Herbert’s favorite target before his season ending injury. Despite this, he still remains the top tight end on my conference board due to a lack of other options, really. He has talent as a receiving tight end at the next level.

2. Hunter Bryant 6’2 239 Junior Washington

  • He’s an athlete that added to his already long medical file last week. If healthy, he can pose a match-up issue for the secondary but he has been banged up a bit this season. A willing blocker but strictly used as a receiver.

3. Colby Parkinson 6’7 235 Junior Stanford

  • One of the better tight end prospects in the nation and leading receiver for the Cardinal. A more athletic Devin Funchess if you will.

OT

1. Calvin Throckmorton 6’6 310 RS Senior Oregon

  • Throckmorton is the best draft eligible tackle in the conference despite playing right tackle due to Jonathan Ogden 2.0 aka Penei Sewell manning the left side. Has proven to be position versatile as he has stepped in for Jake Hanson at center a couple of times over the years to varying degrees of success. His versatility should get him drafted high.

2. Trey Adams 6’8 327 Senior Washington

  • Adams went through a tough 2018 season due to injury and losing his left tackle spot to current Atlanta Falcon Kaleb McGary. He’s now fully healthy for a 2019 comeback tour and it has been a spotty tour at best. A huge mountain that’s hard to move but leverage is an issue due to height. Medical history is scary due to a 2017 ACL and the 2018 back injury. He’s still one of the better tackles in conference.

3. Walker Little 6’7 307 Junior Stanford

  • If not for season ending injury, Little would have been in consideration for the top tackle.

OG

1. Shane Lemieux 6’6 316 RS Senior Oregon

  • Lemieux is the top guard without a single doubt. He has been his usual steady self this season but has had little hiccups here and there in terms of missed assignments. The footwork is a major plus and he can scoot to the second level. Is phone booth type of guard but shows enough finesse at times. Can just as well lower the boom on a pancake as he can pull.

C

1. Nick Harris 6’1 287 Senior Washington

  • Harris is still the best center in the conference. He’s position versatile as well. Work ethic and motor are a plus. Footwork is an issue that he needs to correct. If that 287 weight is real then he needs to add a few more pounds to take on the bigger defensive linemen he’ll face at the next level. He had a solid outing last weekend.

2. Cohl Cabral 6’5 304 Senior Arizona State

  • One of the best Pac-12 linemen for at least two years running. He has had some medical issues so that could be something to worry about. Primarily a center by trade but has played tackle in a pinch. Could be drafted in the middle rounds if the medical checks out. Versatility in that he can play both guard and center but is a center for the Sun Devils.

3. Jake Hanson 6’5 307 RS Senior Oregon

  • Hanson is the third ranked center for me as he’s proven to have some bad snaps this season on a more consistent basis than the other two. He isn’t as versatile and is strictly limited to center at the next level due to his lack of reps elsewhere like guard. Not a slight against him as he is a pretty good center that knows what’s going on but the yips are dangerous.

DEFENSE

EDGE

1. Bradlee Anae 6’3 265 Senior Utah

  • Anae is the top edge rusher in this conference, no questions asked. It has been this way for a couple of seasons now and no one has come close to getting to him.

2. Luc Bequette 6’2 290 RS Senior Cal

  • He isn’t the best pass rusher from the tackle spot where he usually plays but is a dynamic run defender. Has played a bit of EDGE this season due to Cal’s massive injury problems early on. Anchors well. Lateraly agility is a plus.

3. Christian Rector 6’4 275 RS Senior USC

  • Very good in the run game, holding up at the point of attack using his long arms. Not the most quick twitch athlete off the snap so he uses the long arms to keep the tackle at bay before going upfield. Not the most bendy athlete going around the corner. A run stopper at best. Injuries have hampered him in 2019, missing multiple games because of it.

4. Mustafa Johnson 6’2 290 Junior Colorado

  • The other Buffs defender that’s getting some draft hype is Johnson. He’s very good at getting after the passer. Also is above average in the run game. Well coached and that should continue with HC Mel Tucker in town. Health this season hasn’t been the greatest this season as he missed a couple of games.

IDL

1. Leki Fotu 6’5 323 Senior Utah

  • H/W/L is impressive. He has a developing pass rush arsenal. Very good explosion skills off the ball. Hand usage is very good. Well built upper half. He’s a space eater that frees up his line mates to go make plays. A former offensive tackle so he already knows what it takes to defend against defensive tackles like him.

2. Jordon Scott 6’1 335 Junior Oregon

  • He’s Fat Mac. A classic throwback type of 3-4 nose tackle that can impact games by eating space. He can move for a guy his size though. The stalwart in the middle would be my top ranked tackle if not for the presence of Fotu.

3. Levi Onwuzurike 6’3 274 RS Junior Washington

  • Fundamentally sound as a pass rusher in the middle. Lateral agility is a plus in his game. A bit undersized for tackle but Washington has him there and he’s thrived.

4. John Penisini 6’2 307 Senior Utah

  • One of the more underrated d-tackles in the game due to his star teammates around him. Wins with brute strength. And yes, that’s his real last name.

LB

1. Troy Dye 6’4 225 Senior Oregon

  • Dye is the best linebacker in the conference regardless of inside or outside. Sideline to sideline player. Perfect fit to counter this generation’s offense that requires tempo and space. I do have questions on whether his frame can hold up at the next level. Plays the game with reckless abandon but is smart about it. The leader of the Ducks. Hasn’t missed a game to injury yet but the bumps and bruises are piling up this season with a leg injury and now a broken thumb.

2. Evan Weaver 6’3 250 Senior Cal

  • A tackling machine. He’s notched multiple 20+ tackle games this season already. Instincts are a plus. Athleticism is not a plus but it’s serviceable if a DC can match him up correctly. He has the turning radius of an aircraft carrier with a bad engine. Will likely project as a special teams player or two down linebacker at the next level because of it. He could be a fun EDGE prospect for some team.

3. Nate Landman 6’3 235 Junior Colorado

  • He’s a throwback type of inside linebacker that hits hard but is barely an above average athlete. Instinctive and is generally in the picture. Special teams type of guy at the next level because of his downhill hitting. Has been nicked up some this season but has stayed generally healthy.

4. Jahad Woods 6’1 228 RS Junior Washington State

  • Wazzu’s offense gets all the fame and accolades but Woods is arguably the best defender the Cougs have this year. He’s tackling machine that can play in space and rush the passer in certain situations.

CB

1. Paulson Adebo 6’1 184 Junior Stanford

  • Adebo is back to being one of the best cornerback prospects in the nation this year again after a bit of inconsistency to begin the year. He’s a big corner that was a former receiver so his ball skills are great. NFL teams will covet his H/W/L if/when he declares for the draft.

2. Thomas Graham, Jr 5’11 188 Junior Oregon

  • Graham is the second best corner in conference. He does not shy away at all from any receiver match-up. Ball skills are a plus. Agility is another plus. Has been a lockdown corner when healthy for most of the year so far.

3. Jaylon Johnson 6’0 190 Junior Utah

  • Johnson is an impressive physical cornerback prospect. Tackling is on point. Ball skills are great as well. He’s one of the better corners in the conference. Do not test this man in coverage.

4. Deommodore Lenior 5’11 190 Junior Oregon

  • Oregon’s other corner is a pretty good corner in his own right. Ball skills are elite level stuff. Fundamentally sound as a tackler. Physical at the point of attack. Has been used closer to the line moreso than TG4. A willing competitor that is confident in his own abilities.

5. Chase Lucas 6’0 178 RS Junior Arizona State

  • He is one of the best corners that no one talks about. Very instinctive and fundamental. Experienced as a three year starter. Awareness is top level along with ball skills. Run the route for the receiver at times.

S

1. Myles Bryant 5’8 178 Junior Washington

  • Size wise, he compares to the Rams’ standout cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. He plays a lot bigger than what he’s listed at. Will still play a bit as the nickel at the next level. Lateral agility is a plus and instincts are as well. Versatile athlete with great speed. Plays a ton of single high coverage in Washington’s scheme for whatever reason.

2. Ashytn Davis 6’1 195 RS Senior Cal

  • One of the best safeties in the 2020 class. Very disciplined in fundamentals. Doesn’t take too many false steps and get beat easily. Ball skills are above average. Frame wise, he’s stuck between free and strong safety. He will need to do something about the frame when he’s asked to be in the box against linemen.

3. Julian Blackmon 6’1 187 Senior Utah

  • Blackmon transitioned to safety from corner this season and he has lost very little. He has the length that NFL teams crave in DBs. Ball skills are a plus. Needs more functional strength as he is easily erased from the run game when going downhill.