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Oregon Football: Ranking the Ducks' Potential NFL Draft Picks for 2013

Russell ArchContributor IFebruary 26, 2012

Oregon Football: Ranking the Ducks' Potential NFL Draft Picks for 2013

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    With seven players participating in this weekend's NFL combine, the 2011-12 Oregon Ducks figure to place anywhere from two to six players in the upcoming NFL draft.

    While LaMichael James figures to be the highest pick from the group (excluding suspended Duck Cliff Harris), it's anyone's guess where the other Duck players will land.

    As for next year's crop of Duck players, here's a look at where some of the 2012-13 Ducks could be drafted.

7. NICK CODY: Offensive Guard

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    Nick Cody was a starter for the final 13 games of 2011, and showed some nice stamina by playing 74 snaps in a blowout win at Washington.

    Cody will be a redshirt-senior in 2012, and has good size for the NFL at 6'5" and 301 pounds. As a guard for Chip Kelly's zone-read offense, he's also got good athleticism for an offensive lineman, and hasn't experienced any major injuries during his time in Eugene.

    With another solid season in Eugene, Cody could see himself moving up into NFL "draft pick" material.

    PREDICTION: LATE ROUND PICK OR FREE AGENCY

6. Carson York, Offensive Guard

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    Carson York came out of his redshirt season to be a three-year starter on Oregon's offensive line. At 6'5" and 292 pounds, he's not quite the size to be an NFL offensive guard but is one of the strongest Duck lineman on the team.

    York would be a much more solid prediction if it weren't for the devastating injury he sustained during the 2012 Rose Bowl. After Wisconsin intercepted a tipped pass, York tracked down the Badger defender with the ball, fell on his knee as he tackled him and tore his patella tendon.

    He's currently rehabbing his knee for a hopeful return to action next fall. If York can maintain his stellar play, there's no doubt that he'll get a look from an NFL team in 2013.

    Prediction: Late-round pick or free agent

5. Michael Clay, Weakside Linebacker

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    Michael Clay is an extremely athletic weakside linebacker who is one of the surest tacklers ever to wear the Duck uniform. He was a Pac-10 honorable mention player in 2010 as a backup linebacker for the Ducks before moving up to starter in 2011.

    His 13 tackles during the 2012 Rose Bowl were a career high and included two tackles-for-loss (both on UW's Montee Ball) and also had a fumble recovery late in the game to seal the win.

    In addition to his defensive work, Clay has also been a standout special teams player for the Ducks, which bodes well for his NFL career.

    If there's one knock on Clay for the next level it's that, at 5'11" and 225 pounds, he doesn't possess the prototypical size for the linebacker position in the NFL.

    Prediction: Rounds 4-7

4. Kenjon Barner, Running Back

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    Kenjon Barner is yet another speedy back in Chip Kelly's zone-read offense. Like his 2011 counterpart, LaMichael James, Barner has a nice mix of speed and elusiveness that makes him a danger to take the ball the distance at any time.

    When James went down with an elbow injury in 2011, the Ducks didn't miss a beat as Barner posted career-best numbers in his absence. These included:

    • 11 rushes for 107 yards against Washington State
    • 10 rushes for 115 yards (including an 84-yard TD run) against Colorado
    • 31 rushes for 171 yards against Arizona State.

    In fact, even after LaMichael James returned to action, it was Barner who carried the load against the USC Trojans, gaining 123 yards on just 15 carries and scoring two TDs in the three-point loss.

    However, like James, Barner (5'11" and 195 pounds) will have to deal with the "smaller back" criticism from NFL scouts.

    Prediction: Rounds 3-6

3. Dion Jordan, Defensive End

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    Dion Jordan came to Eugene as a tall and lanky tight end prospect in 2008. After a switch to defensive end in 2010, Jordan has blossomed into a nightmare for opposing offensive tackles. His long arms and quick feet make it tough to keep him out of the backfield, and he has proven to be a sure tackler with his team-leading 13 tackles-for-loss and 7.5 sacks last season.

    By the time the NFL combine comes around next February, Jordan figures to be a two-time first team All Pac-12 defensive end and only needs to add some bulk to his 6'7", 240-pound frame for the next level.

    Even if he's considered a slightly "lightweight" project, I don't expect him to last long on draft day before a team takes a chance on this pure athlete with tons of upside.

    Prediction: Rounds 2-4

2. John Boyett, Safety

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    John Boyett is one of the most feared safeties to ever roam the defensive backfield for the Ducks. He's just the last in a long line of current NFL safeties who've played in Eugene, which includes Jairus Byrd (Buffalo), T.J. Ward (Cleveland), and Patrick Chung (New England).

    Boyett came out of his redshirt season with a vengeance, becoming the first redshirt freshman to lead the Ducks in tackles (with 90) since such statistics were kept.

    He was named freshman All-American in 2009, was a second team All-American pick in 2010 from Sports Illustrated and was an Honorable Mention All-American in 2011 from Pro Football Weekly.

    In the 2012 Rose Bowl, Boyett was everywhere, leading the team with 17 tackles (including 13 solo stops) and half a sack.

    He's not the biggest safety prospect around, but his uncanny skill for reacting to the ball and his hard-hitting nature make him a natural at the position.

    Prediction: Rounds 2-3

1. Kiko Alonso, Middle Linebacker

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    Some might consider Kiko a stretch as the top NFL prospect from the 2012 Ducks, but I truly feel like he has the most upside of anyone on the Oregon roster.

    Kiko's history at Oregon has been a mixed bag. After showing great potential in 2009, he was suspended for the 2010 season and also rehabilitated a knee injury at the same time.

    In 2011, he played behind starting middle linebacker DeWitt Stuckey but still ranked eighth on the team in tackles with 46 stops.

    However, it was in the 2012 Rose Bowl where Alonso finally showed the polished player he has become. In part-time action, Alonso was the Defensive MVP of the game with five tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles-for-loss and a critical interception of a QB who had only thrown three all season. More than that, Alonso was doing what any great middle linebacker does: Affecting plays even when he's not making tackles.

    Another plus? At 6'4" and 240 pounds, Alonso has great size to play middle linebacker in the NFL, and he has the height to pack on some added pounds as well.

    Of course, all this is contingent on Alonso doing everything right on and off the field between now and April 2013, but if he does, he could be the first Duck to be drafted in the opening round since Jonathan Stewart in 2008.

    Prediction: Rounds 1-3

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