Oregon has a few players projected to be picked in the first round of the NFL Draft, but some of their most intriguing prospects are projected to be taken much later in the draft. Erick Dargan is one such player, a strong safety who led Oregon in both tackles and interceptions last season. Despite his play at Oregon, Dargan is projected as a late round draft pick, and may even to go undrafted.
Dargan’s production at Oregon was often over shadowed by his less than stellar physical tools. His play was largely considered to great, not because of his athletic ability, but in spite of it. NFL experts believe him to be too slow and not explosive enough as an athlete to warrant a draft pick, but at the same time believe he could make an NFL roster out of sheer force as an undrafted free agent.
Even though he doesn’t have the elite physical traits that scouts want to see, Dargan has proven himself to be a smart and decisive defender, making him a very interesting prospect. Many of Dargan’s critics seem to be the people who put way too much stock into 40 yard dash times and other combine results rather than how a prospect performs on the field. Dargan may very well be another victim of the “40 Yard Dash Fanboys”; scouts and fans who drool over the prospects who perform well at Combines and Pro Days while ignoring the guys like Dargan who actually play football well.
NFL.com’s draft experts list Dargan’s biggest strength as being his football IQ, with them quoting an NFC Scout as saying that, “I don’t think he can run at all… but his football IQ is off the charts.” This huge football IQ and understanding of what he is doing on the field allow him to make up for a lack of elite speed by knowing where he needs to be and processing the game faster than everyone else. This is one way that a slower player in shorts and t shirts becomes a quick and explosive player when he puts on the pads.
Dargan’s strong football IQ mixed with his extremely balanced and versatile skill set make Dargan much more than the sum of his parts. As proficient at defending the run as he is against the pass, Dargan is a much more well rounded prospect than most other safeties, especially at this point in his career.
Despite his limited physical ability, Erick Dargan has an amazing knack for always being in the right place at the right time to make a play, against both the pass and the run. On top of what he can do on defense, these skills lend themselves well to special teams, potentially giving him a leg up on other training camp “bodies” at getting a spot on an NFL roster. No matter what perceived limits Dargan has, he very well could be yet another undrafted rookie who becomes an NFL star, if only through smarts and determination.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline