Oregon Football: NFL Draft Projections for Every Former Duck
Several former Oregon Ducks await their NFL draft fate in the coming days.
The unpredictability of the draft is evident in the various projections for Oregon alums like Taylor Hart, De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff. Three of the program's top performers in recent years are slated anywhere from the early middle rounds to the later rounds, depending on the outlet.
B/R NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller has some of the Ducks' 2014 draft class slated on his big board. Other Oregon alumni hope to defy the odds and hear their names called this weekend.
DL Taylor Hart
Projection: Round 3
Perhaps the most difficult to replace outgoing Duck could also be the first taken in the 2014 NFL draft.
Taylor Hart is Miller's No. 21 defensive end and No. 214 prospect overall. However, Hart is versatile up front and can play tackle as well as end.
NFL.com's Bryan Fischer writes that NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger says Hart "looks like a young Brett Keisel without the beard. He's got a promising future as a five-technique in any 3-4 defense."
Hart missed Senior Bowl activities with a foot injury, which may have hurt his projections somewhat. But he told Andrew Greif of The Oregonian that projections are of no concern to him:
You see that stuff and I don’t have any idea how these people make these up. Obviously with the first-round guys there are some great guys but for me, I’m out to prove myself at the combine and the pro day. I can’t control what a reporter thinks.
WR Josh Huff
Projection: Round 3
Mr. Dependable for the Ducks each of the last two seasons, Josh Huff may have the highest ceiling of any Oregon alum in this draft. He finished his college career strong with a stellar performance in Oregon's defeat of rival Oregon State, catching the game-winning touchdown. He followed it up two months later with a strong showing at Senior Bowl week.
Huff told Andrew Greif of The Oregonian that he was "dominant in what I’ve done and how I do things when I do things."
This is an especially deep class at wide receiver. Five were selected in Thursday's first round, including a surprise in Miller's No. 12-ranked receiver prospect, Florida State product Kelvin Benjamin. Huff is not far behind Benjamin on the big board at No. 19.
Benjamin's selection bodes well for Huff, however, as teams show a willingness to pursue potential big-play wideouts—and that's precisely what Huff offers.
CB Terrance Mitchell
Projection: Round 4
Terrance Mitchell opted to forego his final year of eligibility at Oregon after a monster 2013. Mitchell concluded last season with five interceptions, seven broken-up passes, a forced fumble and 59 tackles.
His draft evaluation was unfavorable, but Mitchell told Andrew Greif of The Oregonian that he saw the process as motivation:
It wasn't a fair evaluation. It came back in like a week and they didn't have time to break down film. They didn't get chance to really dissect what was real. I've been an underdog my whole life. ... I just always have a chip on my shoulder.
Miller ranks Mitchell No. 23 among cornerbacks on his big board, but the deep class means he checks in at No. 147 overall. A mid-round selection seems likely and should only fuel his motivation to disprove critics.
RB De'Anthony Thomas
Projection: Round 4
De'Anthony Thomas offers an NFL franchise a multifaceted skill set and the ability to play numerous positions. Thomas played running back, receiver and handled return duties in his three seasons at Oregon, and he was effective in all three roles.
He cannot necessarily be defined in a single role. To wit, Miller ranks Thomas with the wide receiving class.
His versatility is reminiscent of 2013 first-round draft pick Tavon Austin, but Thomas told Gary Horowitz of the Statesman Journal that he brings an entirely unique game to the NFL:
I feel like there's a couple dudes out there, we have the same kind of game. But I feel I have a different style then a lot of guys in the league. I feel like I have a new style that I'm bringing into the league.
Still, there are concerns about his size at 5'9" and 176 pounds. He also ran a surprising official 40-yard dash time of 4.50 at February's NFL draft combine. Those factors may contribute to a slight dip in his draft slotting, but Thomas has the ability to fit just about any role asked of him.
TE Colt Lyerla
Projection: Round 7
Talented Colt Lyerla went through a tumultuous 2013. He was dismissed early into the season and later arrested on drug possession charges, a matter that surely hurt his draft standing.
Lyerla told NFL.com's Dan Greenspan that the arrest and subsequent punishment gave him a wakeup call:
I can't really say too much about that, but it's something I deeply, deeply regret and it's a mistake I'll have to live with the rest of my life. ... It gave me a lot of time to self-reflect and realize that's a place I never want to be again.
Miller labels Lyerla the "Biggest Bust Potential" of this year's tight ends, but as a late-round selection, he could be a steal. He was a favorite target of quarterback Marcus Mariota in 2012, hauling in 25 receptions and six touchdowns. Lyerla also at times lined up in the backfield as an H-back.
OLB Boseko Lokombo
Projection: Round 7
Boseko Lokombo was one of the leaders of the Oregon defense a season ago. A shoulder injury hindered his offseason somewhat, though it didn't keep him out of NFL combine workouts entirely.
"I think I did best in the position drills. I think I really excelled in my running, cover skills and playing well in space. Hopefully, teams noticed that," Lokombo told Mike Beamish of The Vancouver Sun.
Lokombo is the No. 21 outside linebacker on Miller's big board and the No. 309-ranked prospect overall.
NJ.com's Eliot Shorr-Parks lists Lokombo as a possible Round 7 selection for the Philadelphia Eagles, which would reunite the linebacker with former Ducks head coach Chip Kelly.
S Avery Patterson
Avery Patterson capped off his Oregon career in style when he returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the Alamo Bowl. He left the program with seven interceptions and 198 tackles in his four-year career.
Nevertheless, Patterson told Jen Beyrle of The Oregonian that he is encouraged by "positive feedback" from NFL teams. Even if he goes undrafted, he should have no trouble finding an opportunity as a free agent.
S Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson is likely to go undrafted this weekend, but he should get opportunities as a free agent.
Jackson was a primary contributor to the Oregon defense each of the last two season, combining for 140 tackles in that time.
"I really do think I could have done better at some things," he said after his pro day in March, via KEZI9 TV. "I came here and did what I could. ... Now just got to wait and see what happens."
Jackson is unranked on Miller's big board.
DL Ricky Havili-Heimuli
Although not a starter, Ricky Havili-Heimuli developed into a reliable gap-plugging presence on the interior of the Ducks' second defensive line unit in 2013.
Havili-Heimuli finished the season with 25 tackles, four of which went for a loss.
He is unranked on Miller's big board.
DL Wade Keliikipi
Wade Keliikipi ended his Oregon career with a flourish, recording seven tackles and a tackle for loss in the Ducks' Alamo Bowl romp over Texas. That outing was Keliikipi at his best, healthy and making plays.
He provided Oregon with a big, physical presence on the interior of its defensive line throughout his tenure. He made five tackles for loss last season and recorded four in 2012, despite missing three games.
Keliikipi is not ranked among the class of draft-eligible tackles on Miller's big board and is unlikely to be selected this weekend.
WR Daryle Hawkins
Daryle Hawkins had offseason knee surgery, but he returned in time to perform in Oregon's pro day on March 13.
Hawkins is coming off a 2013 in which he had 23 receptions for 347 yards with three touchdowns.
He is not ranked on Miller's big board and will likely go undrafted this weekend. However, if Hawkins gets the chance to catch on as a free agent, it will fulfill a longtime goal.
"I think I’ll be nervous just seeing where I end up and line up. It’s every kid’s dream [to play in the NFL] and I’m ready to see that dream happen," he said, via Joseph Hoyt of The Daily Emerald.
LS Drew Howell
Oregon didn't punt often—with just 43, the Ducks ranked No. 118 in punt attempts among Football Bowl Subdivision teams. However, handling long-snapping duties for those 43 punts was Drew Howell.
He fulfilled a sometimes thankless job for the Ducks—a job that certainly didn't command much attention. But special teams coach Tom Osborne said that that was an indication of Howell doing his job well, per Joseph Hoyt of The Daily Emerald.
"If nobody knows who you are, then you’ve done a great job. We’ve been very fortunate that Drew’s been so consistent. I don’t ever take it for granted. Not a single day," Osborne said.
Long snapper is not a position of high priority in the draft, and thus Howell is unlikely to be selected.
*Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com.