Tracking Oregon Football Players in the 2012 NFL Draft
The Oregon football program has been growing and growing over the past decade. Twenty years ago, a weekend that involved the NFL draft was a non-event for Ducks fans, but the growth of the program has changed that feeling of being irrelevant to a feeling of anticipation.
This year, the Ducks have a good-sized group that is hoping and projected to end up on an NFL roster. Players like LaMichael James, Eddie Pleasant, Josh Kaddu, Cliff Harris and Mark Asper are all players who have been projected to go from some time tonight to the end of the day on Saturday.
One interesting storyline to watch during this year's draft is what ends up being the fate of Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas. Thomas made the choice to come out this year, and many believed it was because so many quarterbacks returned for their senior seasons and this was his chance to potentially be drafted. Unfortunately for Thomas, not many are projecting that to happen.
Another thing to keep your eyes on is who takes a chance on Cliff Harris. Harris was dismissed from the Oregon program midway through this past season, and is a wild card in this year's draft. Harris has had some off-the-field issues that may scare teams away, but he has on-the-field talent that pulls them right back into being interested.
While the Ducks continue to make strides on the field, this is a chance for them to make strides off the field. The Ducks and Chip Kelly know that recruits are watching the draft, and preparing them for the NFL is as important as any uniform combination Nike can come up with.
Stay tuned to this slideshow as the draft progresses. As soon as an Oregon Duck comes off the board, we will update it here live, letting you know where and when they went in this year's NFL draft.
LaMichael James, RB, Drafted by San Francisco 49ers, No. 61 Overall
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LaMichael James is one of the most accomplished running backs in NCAA football history. Along with setting Oregon records for all-purpose yards with 5,929 and rushing touchdowns with 53, James also holds the FBS record for rushes over 30 yards with 34.
James was praised for forgoing the draft last season and returning to Oregon to try to help the Ducks earn a berth in the BCS National Championship Game for the second straight season. After dealing with off-field troubles in 2010, James has shown tremendous growth in maturity and leadership.
Often credited for his elusive running style; James was clearly the engine that drove the Oregon offensive machine, averaging over 150 rushing yards per game. Despite his impressive statistics, there is serious concern that he may not thrive in a pro-style rushing attack.
There seems to be no reason why James cannot find success in the NFL on the same level as someone like Darren Sproles. Like Sproles, LaMichael James can make up for a lack of size with agility, speed and elusiveness.
If James can use those attributes to his advantage, he should easily find his way onto the NFL roster after training camp. From there he will have an opportunity to spell the starter and act as the change-of-pace back for the offense.
Josh Kaddu, OLB, Drafted by Miami Dolphins, No. 155 Overall
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This outside linebacker from the University of Oregon has grown every year in college, and it is that progress—more than his production—that scouts may be intrigued by.
Kaddu has an impressive frame. Standing at 6'3" and weighing 239 pounds, he possesses the body type needed to be an impact linebacker. His had his most productive season for the Ducks last year, where he earned All-Pac 12 honors, and boasted 9.5 tackles for loss, including 6.5 sacks.
Most experts agree that Kaddu needs to hit the weight room immediately, but his growth as a player throughout college is encouraging. Dane Brugler sums up Kaddu rather well by saying Kaddu is "[A] better athlete than football player at this point, but he has the upside to warrant draft consideration in the top 100 picks."
ProFootballWeekly goes further and praises the fact that Kaddu "Has the upside to develop into an NFL starter with continued physical development and maturity. Could bring rush value if he can bulk up."
It's almost a certainty that Kaddu will get to know the strength and conditioning coach soon after draft day, and that will help his chances of seeing playing time early. If he doesn't find his way onto the field at LB right away he will be an impressive special teams player while he develops the rest of his skill set.
Karlos Dansby led the Dolphins LB corps last year to a Dolphin team that finished at just 6-10. Dansby and youngster Koa Misi will be pleased with the Kaddu selection.
Mark Asper, OG, Drafted by Buffalo Bills, No. 178 Overall
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Mark Asper was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. More information will be forthcoming."
David Paulson, TE, Drafted by Pittsburgh Steelers, No. 240 Overall
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David Paulson was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft. More information will be forthcoming."