The Oregon State Beavers and Oregon Ducks will be playing in an important Pac-12 matchup, and while the game itself isn't expected to be a close one, there are still a number of exciting NFL prospects to watch on Friday night.
The Ducks are the No. 13 team in the latest BCS rankings with a 9-2 record, but they've also lost two of their last three games. Meanwhile, the Beavers are 6-5 with a 4-4 Pac-12 record, losing their last four consecutive games.
Both teams may be struggling right now, but the Ducks are still favorites. Even if the game isn't close, it will give us a great opportunity to look at some players who could be going in the NFL draft in May. Let's take a look at a few of these players, breaking them down and looking at which round they could possibly land in.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
I usually bring up all of the exciting offensive players for Oregon, but I wanted to start off taking a look at Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who is easily the best defensive prospect on this team.
Ekpre-Olomu came onto the scene last season, leading the Pac-12 with 20 passes defended and adding four interceptions in the process. He's continued that success in 2013, being named a semifinalist for both the Bednarik and Thorpe awards, which are given to the best defensive player and defensive back, respectively, in the country.
Playing in the Pac-12, Ekpre-Olomu has been tested throughout his college career, playing against some top-tier quarterbacks and wide receivers. At 5'10'' and 190 pounds, he's surprisingly a very physical corner, using his length and overall aggressiveness to shut down opposing receivers. He's worked on his speed, and while he's still not the fastest defensive back, that improvement will go a long way at the next level.
It's hard to not see the junior cornerback going in the first round in May. He's a pro-ready player who could be a big help to a number of teams, and there could be a very good chance that Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles decide to pick him up, especially if they get a later pick.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
After being overshadowed by Markus Wheaton, it's safe to say that Brandin Cooks has now made the most of his opportunities as the go-to receiver for Oregon State.
During his first two seasons, Cooks put up 98 receptions for 1,542 yards and eight touchdowns. In just one year, he's already eclipsed those numbers, grabbing 110 receptions for 1,560 yards and 15 touchdowns, adding another two scores on the ground.
As an NFL prospect, Cooks is starting to shoot up draft boards. According to Bucky Brooks from NFL.com, a number of scouts believe that Cooks is a better prospect than USC's Marqise Lee, saying:
When I spoke to several scouts at the Stanford-USC game this weekend, the opinion was nearly unanimous that, right now, Cooks is a superior player to Lee. An NFC South scout said, "Cooks is just as explosive as Lee, but more consistent as a pass catcher."
That opinion was validated when an AFC East scout told me that the debate "isn't close" based on their performance this season. He told me that Cooks has played at a higher level since the beginning of the season and is one of the most "electric players" he's seen in the Pac-12 in years.
Given the playmakers that perennially come out of the conference, this is high praise for a player who seemingly came from out of nowhere to become one of the most productive players in the college game.
While his size may limit him a bit, Cooks is an ideal slot receiver at the next level, and he should be able to find a way to go in either the second or third round in the draft. His explosiveness, vertical speed and ability to pick up yards after the catch could make him an ideal player for any team looking to add depth at the position.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Make no mistake, if Marcus Mariota doesn't have a good game this week against the Beavers, his draft stock could seriously plummet.
It was a rough last game for Mariota, with his team getting blown out 42-16 against the Arizona Wildcats. He threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw his first two interceptions of the season.
Still, Mariota has been a very effective player. He's put up almost 3,700 total yards, adding 36 total touchdowns and just those two interceptions. Some are worried that he's just a system quarterback, but he's made some very impressive throws throughout the season.
Keep in mind that Mariota is just 20 years old, and he's still developing as a passer. Still, he has an ideal frame for the position at 6'4'' and has huge upside, which should still make him a top-10 pick in next year's draft.
However, if he doesn't have a good game against the Beavers, that could change very quickly.