Michael Clay accepting the Defensive Player of the Game award at the 2013 Fiesta Bowl
March 14 is a very important day for some of your favorite Oregon Ducks. The NFL's pro day comes to Autzen Stadium, and it will be a last chance for NFL hopefuls to impress. Which of the Ducks have the most to gain?
With the exception of defensive end Dion Jordan, who appears to have a lock on being selected in the first round—most mock drafts have him as a top-10 pick—the other contenders have room to make additional statements.
The only knock on Jordan is his durability. If he shows up magically healed from his lingering shoulder injury, it would help ease those worries. Other than that, Jordan doesn't have much to gain this week, so let's look at some of the other Ducks who could help themselves.
One caveat: there does not seem to be a published list of Oregon pro day attendees from the University of Oregon, so players listed may or may not participate.
Linebacker Michael Clay has not felt a lot of love from the NFL, primarily because he is considered undersized at his position (5'11", 222 lbs).
Clay is apparently also not feeling the love from United Airlines, who, by the look of this tweet from Clay, screwed up his trip to Eugene for pro day:
United Airlines can go bankrupt for all I care!!!! Same with SFO! Eugene I'll see you later than expected— Michael Clay (@mikeclay_46) March 11, 2013
Perhaps Clay isn't the size the pros want, but if he can display some of the skills that he showed the world in the Fiesta Bowl, he might improve his stock. Clay was everywhere that night. Here's what Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com said about Clay's Fiesta Bowl performance:
Clay was all over the field in the Fiesta Bowl and earned the Defensive Player of the Game honors. He displayed his versatility as a blitzer, blowing plays up in the backfield and rarely missing a tackle.
Ducks fans understand that Clay is also about heart, smarts and leadership. If he can communicate those traits to the team representatives in attendance, it might help balance the size issue.
Because he wasn't invited to the NFL combine, pro day is a huge opportunity for Michael Clay.
Kiko Alonso was invited to the NFL combine and performed well. He is considered to be a playmaking linebacker (duh!), who, like Dion Jordan, can attack the line of scrimmage or drop back into coverage.
Alonso will probably be drafted somewhere in Round 3 or 4, but his stock is on the rise. No one is questioning Alonso's skill set and size to play at the next level, but there are still dogged questions about his character.
If the pros can see Alonso in his native habitat, and talk further with the people who know him best and have witnessed his growing maturity, perhaps he can move higher up that draft ladder.
Do you believe—truly believe—that there are six linebackers in this 2013 draft who are more talented or aggressive on the football field than Kiko Alonso and should be selected ahead of him?
No you don't, and Kiko should be drafted in the second round.
Kyle Long had a good NFL combine, where he was a top performer among offensive linemen. Despite his one-year-and-done at Oregon, Long is generally considered to be a second-round selection.
With his amazing combination of size (6'6", 311 lbs) and athleticism, coupled with family genes—unless you are a troll from another team catching up on the Ducks, you know that Kyle is the son of Howie Long and the brother of Chris Long of the St. Louis Rams—Long is a natural for the NFL.
His only weakness is that he is considered "raw." Long might have something to gain at pro day by stressing the fundamentals of his position. He looks like the prototypical NFL lineman; he just needs to prove that he understands the position.
But Long isn't much of a mystery at this stage of the game, and most pros agree that he has all the potential in the world. Honestly, there might not be much more for Long to gain, and it wouldn't be surprising if he skipped pro day.
John Boyett deserves, and will get, a chance in the NFL. Otherwise, nothing in this world makes sense.
Cut down by knee injuries one game into his senior season, the Ducks' heart and soul on defense will always be remembered at Oregon. Boyett, more than any of the other graduating seniors, can really help himself at Oregon's pro day.
Boyett, fairly new to Twitter, sounds like he will be in attendance:
Heading to Eugene in a few hours..— John Boyett (@JohnNBoyett) March 12, 2013
Invited to the NFL combine, Boyett's injuries kept him from participating in all the drills, but he did nail the bench press, finishing second among all safeties with 27 reps. If he is able to run at pro day, or at least show progress on the medical side, Boyett will help himself.
At 5'10", Boyett will not meet the minimum height threshold that some NFL teams require at defensive back. But if they value intelligence and intensity at the position, and want a fearless, hard-hitting, proven winner, Boyett is a sure thing in the draft's middle rounds.
Oregon running back Kenjon Barner will likely participate and, like Dion Jordan, doesn't have much more to gain. Barner has a lengthy body of work and performed well at the NFL combine. He is a solid mid-round pick.
If you are interested in following your favorite Ducks at pro day, ESPN will televise the proceedings starting at 1:30 p.m. PDT on ESPN3.
Kay Jennings is a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow here.