Update on All Oregon Ducks Drafted by NFL This Year

Kay Jennings@KayJenningsPDXContributor IIIMay 28, 2012

Update on All Oregon Ducks Drafted by NFL This Year

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    Are you like me? Do you have trouble letting go and saying good-bye when your favorite players leave the Ducks and go on to greener pastures?

    You would think that after decades of being an obsessive college football fan, one would learn to live with the fact that players come and go. It's the very nature of the game, and what makes it more exciting than the NFL. 

    But while I welcome the incoming freshmen and am always beyond excited to see the new recruits, it seems to take me a year or two to let go of my favorites. The process is much easier if they are playing on Sundays in the fall and we have the occasional glimpse of the NFL rookies.

    Let's look at some of the 2012 Ducks and where they are now. And one 2011 Duck, because I just can't seem to quit missing Jeff Maehl.

Eddie Pleasant

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    Senior safety Eddie Pleasant was undrafted during the seven rounds of the NFL Draft, but it was closer than you think. The Houston Texans signed Pleasant as a free agent just days after the draft ended.

    Rick Smith, the Texans general manager, said in an interview on the team's web site: "We had a really high grade on the young man from Oregon, the safety...we contemplated drafting him."

    Alas, the Texans traded away their 7th round pick; otherwise Pleasant probably would have been grabbed in the last round.

    My bet is that Pleasant will make it with the Texans, who have a positive record of success with undrafted free agent signings. And Houston's depth chart at the safety position is not as daunting as on some NFL teams. Starters Glover Quin and Danieal Manning have their positions locked up, but after that it's a little sketchy with fill-ins Shiloh Keo and Quintin Demps.

    In an interview given to SportsRadio 610 in Houston, Texans special teams coordinator Joe Marciano gave a glowing review of his new rookie safety.

    "We’ve got Eddie Pleasant, who we really liked,” Marciano said in response to a question about undrafted free agents who could make an impact on special teams. “We thought we were going to draft him. That’s another story for another day, but we had him and his card was picked; we were ready to take him. I already gave him a nickname. His name is ‘The Missile.’ He seeks in on the target and he just takes off and hits it. He’s a very, very exciting player. I’m excited about him to come in and see what he can do.”

    Pleasant's number with the Texans will be No. 35.

Jeff Maehl

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    While we're on the subject of the Houston Texans, here's a quick update on 2011 signee (and one of my all-time favorite Ducks) Jeff Maehl.

    Maehl, like Eddie Pleasant, went undrafted in the NFL Draft, but was quickly snapped up by Houston in free agency. The wide receiver made the Texans roster in 2011, and managed to stick his rookie year.

    The Texans cut WR Jacoby Jones (now with Baltimore), and have a wide-open competition at wide receiver.

    According to the Texans' website, other than veteran starters Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, there is not a single receiver on the roster who has caught an NFL pass. It’s a group that consists of five rookies and four young veterans who have played in a combined five games.

    Johnson has had arthroscopic surgery on his knee recently, so only Walter and the young guys are getting the reps and the looks. “It’s a great opportunity for them,” said Texans coach Gary Kubiak. “They’re all going to get an opportunity.”

    Jeff Maehl is No. 15.

Lavasier Tuinei

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    Following Jeff Maehl in Oregon's long line of terrific wide receivers, Lavasier Tuinei will also get a chance in the NFL.

    Tuinei was the Ducks' top receiver in 2011, and was the Rose Bowl Offensive Player of the Game. May I please take a brief timeout here and say to LT: Thank you for catching eight balls and scoring two touchdowns in the Rose Bowl!

    As with undrafted free agent Eddie Pleasant, I think Tuinei has a chance in Seattle. The Seahawks have a lot of wide receivers, but they all pretty much stink in my opinion. If Tuinei performs up to his potential, I think he could help Seattle, especially in the short catches over the middle of the field.

    He has plenty of competition for a roster spot, but Pete Carroll will give him an opportunity. We will have to wait and see if he takes advantage of it.

    For Tuinei fans in the Pacific Northwest, you will probably get a chance to see him, as the Seahawks seem to be on TV every Sunday. He will wear No. 19 for the Seahawks.

    I will miss Tuinei in a Ducks uniform this fall, but I won't miss trying to spell his name correctly every time I write about him.

Mark Asper

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    Offensive lineman Mark Asper was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the sixth round. Papa, as he was called affectionately by his Ducks teammates because of his age (27) and two children, is a great fit for Buffalo.

    But he might not play where you are used to seeing him play, at right tackle and guard. The 6'7", 325 lbs rookie might be playing center for the Bills.

    According to Bills general manager Buddy Nix on the Bills website:

    “We needed a center,” said Nix. “We’ve got Colin Brown playing there and we’d like not to wear him out and we wanted to get another center. This old boy (Asper) is as big as a house. He can play center and guard. He’s really a better player than people think. He’s a smart guy. He should give us some help.”

    Sounds like Asper, who will wear No. 63 for the Bills, has already made an impression on his new boss.

    It doesn't surprise me one bit.

David Paulson

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    David Paulson was selected in the 7th round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yippee! I love the Steelers and I love Paulson. The tight end was the 240th overall player taken in the Draft.

    Here's what Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said about his 7th round pick:

    David Paulson is kind of a do-it-all tight end. He lines up on the line of scrimmage as an H-back. He led blocks sometimes from the backfield. He has a gym rat-type of personality. The kid appears to love football. He is an interesting guy.

    Tight ends coach James Daniel had this to say about Paulson, in a video conference on the Steelers' web site:

    He’s a tight end that has played in a multiple offense. He has done some in-line stuff, some backfield stuff and some slot stuff. He’s a guy that has some talent and some position flexibility for us. He can catch, block in-line and block in the backfield. He can block in the slot. He’s been playing in the Oregon offense, which is as wide open as any offense in college football right now. There have been some tight ends that have come out of that offense that are playing in the league right now. The kid in Baltimore (Ed Dickson) played in that offense. They have had some success.

    The Steelers, prior to the Draft, expressed a need for the tight end position, and they do appear a little puny there.

    Paulson, who will wear No. 48 for the Steelers, has a shot.

Josh Kaddu

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    Oregon linebacker Josh Kaddu was selected in the 5th round by the Miami Dolphins. The athletic defender was the 155th overall player selected in the 2012 Draft.

    I was thrilled to see Kaddu go so high, because I felt his enormous contribution to the Ducks' success the past couple of years was often overlooked.

    The Dolphins have a very good outside linebacker in Koa Misi, but I completely agree with the guys on the Dolphins Finsiders show who think Kaddu will be used situationally. He is a very effective pass rusher, and can really run and cover the field.

    I can also see Kaddu getting some playing time when the opponent has one or two good tight ends, and he should be used on special teams.

    Kaddu will wear No. 57 for the Dolphins, and I expect to see him occasionally this fall.

Cliff Harris

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    Martina Navratilova, when asked repeatedly about when she would retire, once said: "It's not over until I say it's over."

    Something about that attitude reminds me of Cliff Harris.

    As an undrafted free agent picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles, Harris certainly has an uphill battle to NFL success ahead of him. Duck fans know all too well that it could go either way with Cliff.

    On the plus side for Harris, the Eagles have said they want to get younger at cornerback. They also have a new secondary coach, Todd Bowles, who played defensive back in the NFL for eight years, so Harris won't be dealing with a coach with established favorites in the position.

    According to my most excellent B/R colleague Cody Swartz, the Eagles haven't had a good kick returner for years. That might be an excellent place for Harris to start proving himself.

    In my heart of hearts, I don't believe Cliff Harris is a bad kid. I think he just needs to grow up and I hope that will happen in Philadelphia.

    If Harris doesn't make the Eagles' roster—or some other NFL team's—I will eat my laptop.

Darron Thomas

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    Thank goodness the Philadelphia Eagles didn't sign Darron Thomas as an undrafted free agent—he needs to get away from Cliff Harris.

    According to Jeffrey Martin of The Oregonian in an article written on April 30, Thomas is back in Texas living with his high school coach Bob Jones.

    After that, we know that Thomas was to get try-outs at mini-camps for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals this month.

    Then...nothing. Zero news. Nada.

    For the life of me, I can't figure out why no NFL team will take Darron Thomas. I'm totally in the same camp with Bob Jones: all the kid does is win.

    Thomas may still get his shot at the NFL or, more likely, the Canadian Football League or the Arena League, both of which have called, according to Jones. And, no doubt, Thomas will be determined to prove the world wrong.

    But I think I have a better idea.

    Thomas as a player was never rattled. He's articulate. He's got that 100-megawatt smile. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

    TV! Color commentator for college football! If Brock Huard can do it, so can you!

    You would probably end up making more money, Darron, and your body won't hurt on Monday.

LaMichael James

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    From the tragic story of the year to the feel-good story of the year.

    LaMichael James was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the NFL Draft. Everyone—except the millions of Duck fans across the country—was surprised that James went so high in the Draft.

    Have you draft experts not been paying attention? LaMichael James is money in the bank.

    Make no mistake about it; Frank "The Tank" Gore is San Francisco's running back for the foreseeable future. The 7-year veteran will not be pushed aside in the 49er's camp by any of the rookies.

    But Gore might be looking over his shoulder a little bit. In an interview with Taylor Price of 49ers.com, Gore said of James: "He’s a tough little dude. Very quick, good football player. I can’t wait to see it when he gets out here.”

    Former competitor and now his boss, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, has been quoted as saying that he believes James is a 4-down back. Harbaugh went even further and compared James to Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens’ two-time Pro Bowl running back.

    LaMichael is the toast of San Francisco. West coast Duck fans are thrilled that their favorite is still on the good coast. They may even start liking Harbaugh. All is well in the world.

    LaMichael James will wear No. 23 for the 49ers—Gore owns No. 21.

    For the time being.

Best of Luck to All

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    Pretty soon, there won't be a single NFL team without a former Oregon Duck. We miss you all and wish you continued success.

    The current Ducks might take your former positions, but they will never replace you.