Is There a TRUE No.1 Pick on the 2020 Ducks’ Roster?

Alex Heining Editorials 38 Comments

The Oregon Ducks’ football program has accrued a wealth of ‘blue chip’ talents over the past several recruiting seasons. With at least three potential first round picks set to be drafted in the next two years (depending on whether or not this postponed spring season has a significant impact on the draft), there’s a great deal of speculation on not if, but when the Ducks’ finest will end up being selected.

If team need and positioning are taken into account, are there any talents on the Ducks’ roster that are simply too good to pass up on? A true no.1 overall talent, not a player reached for based on team need and the sheep thinking that plagues the NFL?

The short answer: absolutely.

Penei Sewell is the obvious front runner of this group. Considering his outstanding performance and progression as a Duck, the expectation is that a top 5 selection will be spent on Sewell in the 2021 NFL Draft. There has been recent out-of-bounds criticism of ‘overhyping’ Sewell’s ability, but that will surely pass once Sewell’s talent is evaluated against the rest of the prospects at his position. 

Given the value of an exceptional offensive tackle in the NFL, Sewell has GM’s eager to acquire him as a future cornerstone of their respective franchises. Sewell has immense natural ability, a refined work ethic for his age and an ability to learn quickly, complementing his prototypical stature.


Sewell may have already played his last down as a Duck if the impending Draft is not postponed.

Now, if Sewell were to be drafted later than first overall, there’s no doubt it’d be within the top five, at minimum. Barring a slew of quarterback injuries, or ineptitude in learning pro offenses, there aren’t many other blue chip players that you could really make a case for taking over Sewell in the 2021 draft. LSU’s Ja’marr Chase is a compelling top prospect, but given the ‘hit or miss’ potential of the position, it’s difficult to value him higher than a dominant edge protector like Sewell. Walker Little is another talent that comes to mind, but Sewell’s lack of injuries makes him more favorable.

But say that Sewell, out of team need or ineptitude, doesn’t have the owners of the No.1 pick sold. Who else on the Ducks roster could make the case for the 2021 draft’s No.1 pick, or another draft in the near future? Jevon Holland comes to mind, but considering his position value, his exceptional play on the field may be overlooked until the late first, or even early second round. For example, 2019’s breakout safeties in Grant Delpit and Xavier Mckinney both slid to the second round, after both seemed assured they’d be first rounders.

As of now, the only other Oregon player that has potential to be a first overall pick is Kayvon ThibidoeauxThis may feel like an overstatement, or an unjust and overly biased assumption of Thibidoeaux’s talent, but considering he is an every down defensive end, possesses elite athleticism and a prototypical frame, and already started contributing to the Ducks’ defensive line in a big way as a freshman, this is his true potential.

Thibidoeaux’s positional value is at its peak in the era of slowing down the likes of Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and other exceptional young mobile quarterbacks.


Ducks’ defensive lineman have become a dominant position group talent pool for the NFL.

The last No.1 overall pick to be selected as a defensive end was only three years ago in the 2017 NFL Draft, when the Cleveland Browns took Texas A&M product Myles Garrett. Although Thibidoeaux may not be quite the supreme athlete Garrett is, he could eclipse Garrett’s athleticism coming into the NFL with further development at Oregon.

Even Oregon alumni DeForest Buckner went 7th overall in the 2016 Draft, and Arik Armstead went 17th in the 2015 Draft. Both were exceptional defensive lineman at Oregon and have made a great impression as pros, but Thibidoeaux has that it-factor that any NFL team should be itching to utilize.  

If I were a GM, I’d have no problem taking Sewell No.1 overall. He’s become a can’t-miss kind of prospect, and there’s not really any reason to doubt his tape, effort or ability to transition to the high standard of edge protecting in the NFL. Thibidoeaux is still young, and he has a lot to prove in the next two seasons to earn the recognition I believe he’s capable of attaining. But, if he continues on the trajectory he established in his freshman year, I wouldn’t doubt hearing his name called first in the 2022 or 2023 NFL Draft. He’s that guy.

Alex Heining
Santa Barbara, CA
Top Photo From Twitter


Chris Brouilette, the Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon from Sterling, Illinois.

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Right now Tyler Shough has two things working for him, potential and teammates. All the potential in the world is of little value if your surrounded by mediocrity. He’s fortunate to be probably moving into the starting QB position at a time where he will be surrounded by a lot of POTENTIAL talent. Major changes on the offensive line along with some very talented new receivers and a new, very talented, OC makes everything good seem possible. Wouldn’t it be fun to see most of this new talent come together and meet their potential together. It could get interesting. Very interesting. Now, if only they can all get on the field before they graduate.


Some recruit buzz:

One of the top remaining Oregon targets is showing off his top-end speed. Baltimore (Md.) Mount Saint Joseph 2021 wide receiver Dont’e Thornton posted a video on twitter on Tuesday running a 40-yard dash and clocked in at a blazing 4.43-second time. 
The 6-foot-5 receiver wanted to prove that he’s more than just a big target and he did that, captioning his tweet with “He’s just tall…”. 

Not only did Thornton post the 4.43-second time, but he also did it while wearing Oregon shorts. The prospect has been often wearing Duck apparel during his workout videos posted to instagram and twitter this spring and summer. 


I think what we are also talking about is a season where we get into the college football playoff’s. The heisman most often goes to best player on the best team and the #1 pick is also often on one of the top teams.

The Clowney type talents come around and get drafted on a not so great team, but most of the time, last 3 years, the #1 pick is a qb who led their team to the playoffs.

If Shough is to be the #1 pick, he will have to lead the Ducks to the playoffs and maybe win it all. For that reason I pick Shough, or whoever wins the qb battle this…….

Jon Joseph

Thanks Alex.

Penei is not going ahead of Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields.

Has an OL guy ever been the #1 draft pick? Teams picking early on usually have problems at the QB spot. Thus the ‘hot’ QB(s) come off the board first.

For Penei’s sake and it is almost a certainty that we have seen the last of Penei, Jevon Holland and others, in an Oregon uniform, it would be great if he could be ‘the missing link’ in a team that otherwise had a good O. He is going to get paid and paid well for 10+ seasons.

Shough? I’m waiting and unfortunately it’s a longer wait than expected, to see the kid play when he is The Man. Lots of guys who light it up in practice do not do so when the real games kick off.

Fun take. Thanks and all the best..


Jake Long comes to mind at #1, but it’s been a few years.

UPDATE – Just looked it up and I was right about Jake (2008), but Eric Fisher was the last to go #1 in 2013.


of all the seniors high jr’s do you think any stay? list of seniors: Jaylon Redd, JJIII, George moore(Just granted 6th year), Sam Poutasi, Cam McCormick, Hunter Kampmoyer, Jordon Scott, Austin Faoliu, Thomas Graham, Brady Breeze, Nick Pickett, Deommodore Lenoir. The Jr’s I think gone are Sewell and Jevon Holland.

Also if the NCAA doesn’t increase the scholarship limit temporarily will oregon have to process any of these players out?


Since 2000 their has only been 4 #1 draft picks that weren’t a QB. those positions 2 -OT’s and 2 – DE’s. In all likely Holland has little to no chance of being a number 1 pick. but in theory Thib’s and Sewell both do. Now you just need to figure out who is going to be the worst team in the league and what their needs will be. my guess is with the QB. NFL front offices seem to over emphasize the position(Don’t get me wrong it’s important but they think a qb will fix everything without giving them skill players or competent olines most of the time).

While I personally believe that Sewell is the best player overall players in the coming draft i just don’t think he beats out a Trevor Lawrence.

I like to think of it this way say you rate all players based on their skill and sewell is the best so he gets a rating of 1.0 and trevor is the number 2 player so he gets a .999(Or whatever) then you take this number and times it by the number 1 draft teams perceived value. so take cincinnati last year they took burrow number and didn’t take a OLineman till the 6th round. clearly they valued a QB fairly high lets say a .9 vs oline at .6 if these scores are sent to this year lawrence would have a value of .89 to the number one team vs sewell at .6. This is despite the fact that the bengals will likely have one of/ if not the worst oline in 2020.


OK, I did manage to follow along with that, and I definitely agree that the best player isn’t necessarily the first player taken, however…reading along I had this image in my head of RoboDuck’s “hatching” throughout your post. What seems like a good idea isn’t always what’s best for the brand…and there have been a lot of NFL teams betting on their version of Mandrake at #1…and it rarely works out as planned.

On a different note…dude, I think you may be the first person to have actually figured out the mathematical concept to what was the BCS computer rankings…

Jon Joseph

All they had to do was test Tony the Mandrake for steroids and he would have been off the board.

Or, the guy had one heck of a ‘masking agent’ working for him.


HA! Tony Mandarich…see now we’re going back in time, yet strangely still on topic….BUT, I was referring to “Mandrake”…the actual name of RoboDuck.


Oh I completely agree with the Mandrake analysis, If I were a nfl front office on a tanking team I would not draft a qb the first year get me oline and skill players, year two would be an elite DE and a QB in the second round, year three more oline and skill, If my QB can’t prove he is good enough i would trade, sign a free agent from the league and probably draft two as well.

as far as the bcs computer rankings i’m fairly certain no one can figure out that black magic.

Jon Joseph

Utah, thanks for answering my question above. I know the 2 DE’s, who were the 2 OT’s?


erik fisher 2013 he played for central michigan went to kansas city, jake long 2008 he played for michigan went to the dolphins.


my issue with that is there are enough bad teams with bad qb play that even if a miami or cinci are the number one seed in 2020(Not needing a qb) they will trade down to the 4th or 5th slot plus and we will likely end up with a jacksonville or washington who are in desperate need of a qb, drafting Lawrence.

I just don’t think with the nfl as it is now, that a team who needs a qb won’t take one and if you don’t need one they will trade down because it is always worth it to trade down. It seems by trading your #1 pick the team acquires the trading teams 1st round pick and second and third round pick split between the current draft and next year.(This is just what i noticed when reviewing first round draft pick trades)


Thanks, Alex, and welcome, Sherman, and your thoughts on Tyler.. Sewel is definitely the smart play here. The criticism that sprouted up about him seemed more a case of fatigue than actually evaluating his play.

Holland’s position does make it less likely that he’d be the first guy to fist bump Roger Goodell, but his talent looks to be there, and Thibodeaux? It would be great if he could approximate the play of a Myles Garrett or Chase Young and be rewarded in the draft. Mainly, it’s great that we’re here having a real discussion about how many Ducks, on the same team… could be a number 1 pick!

Jon Joseph

When a guy as talented as Penei starts getting dinged much of it has to do with gaming the upcoming draft.


A good read Alex, thanks for putting your thoughts down, and I totally agree with you.

Sherman Poindexter

If we’re talking about the “possibility” of getting that #1 spot, then obviously the position played is a major factor.
Interior linemen, wide receivers and safeties just don’t have a chance for the coveted top spot.
That said, let me throw out the unheralded choice::

Tyler Shough.
1. He plays the glamour position. QB’s are always going to be vying for top picks.
2. He’s got the size and skill set.
3. This kid is focused and ready to lead. Being top of the pyramid can be daunting, but as anyone who’s seen Shough’s drive & growth over the last 2 years knows – he’s kinda low key pissed off. He’s been a leader and a winner on the football field for 10 years. The fact that he had to sit on the bench (while TOTALLY JUSTIFIED) as Justin Herbert got to play just lit a fire in his belly. He’s ready to crush it.
4. New, high powered Joe Moorhead offense is going to provide more opportunities to shine than have been available to any Oregon QB’s in the last 5 years.
5. Tyler Shough is now going to be leading one of college football’s top programs. Even as a first year starter, he’s on the radar and in the discussion.

Yes. This is improbable. We’re talking about the #1 draft pick.
But if that is the thesis, Tyler Shough’s name has to be part of the conversation if we’re talking about potential Oregon players.


They’re is a lot of unknowns with Tyler Shough. Almost enough to not be in the conversation for a #1 draft pick.

Being ready to lead and being the leader are two different things. We won’t really know if Tyler will take that role, we are hoping he does and it looks promising, but until he has actually done it, it’s still an unknown.

Joe Moorhead’s offense looks promising for Oregon and with the talent level we have should be a high powered offense, but until we have actually seen it in play, it’s still an unknown.

Joe Moorhead’s offense takes a lot of proper mental decision making by the QB and how well Tyler will adjust to this no one has seen yet, so it remains an unknown.

Overall I agree with you that Tyler Shough has the potential for doing it all but until we have actually seen him in a difficult tight game it remains an unknown.

I personally would really like to see you being right on this, and you I and many fans across the country are more then ready to watch it play out as you suggest.

If Tyler Shough can do what you suggest it’s going to be a great exciting season.

Jon Joseph

There’s that interesting word: POTENTIAL.

Lot’s of guys who look great in ‘boot camp’ don’t look so good ‘under fire.’

I hope Tyler will be great but it of course, as you so noted BDF, this remains to be seen. And hopefully seen sooner rather than later.

How about mid-February in Pullman?


“. . . mid-February in Pullman” – one of the few times I would appreciate Larry Scott and his Pac-12 TV channel.


I kind of get what you’re saying, but the only reason I’d agree with you on this one is based off of his position. All he needs is one good season and suddenly he’s the second coming…case in point, Joe Burrow.

Yeah, Burrow had an alright junior year, but nothing that jumps out at you…then his senior year happened. He literally went from a day three guy at best to being that “can’t miss” guy who, in my opinion, is going to miss. Shough only needs one season to vault him into that same category, as long as that season is his last. What he does between then and now is almost meaningless in terms of draft position.


The case of Burrow is an interesting one. Coming from nowhere, to having arguably the best single season a player has ever had winning the Heisman, setting records, leading his team to the championship and being the first pick.

The first pick was almost inevitable given what he’d accomplished and the buzz. But should that season completely eclipse what he
d put up before then? That’s what we’ll find out this season. I do feel safe in saying that he’ll do better than did Johnny Manziel.


Ooph…Manziel. Not once was I impressed with that guy. It seemed like all he did was run around in circles and eventually either scramble up the field (which I can’t knock a guy who doesn’t get tackled) or worse, heave the ball downfield in the general direction of a receiver who looked like he had stick-um, Gorilla Tape and a butterfly net all in his hands that would miraculously somehow always come down with the ball.

Jon Joseph

However, Johnny Football did win the Heisman Trophy. And he did it, like Burrow, playing in the toughest division in CFB.

He is one of the few guys, again, like Burrow, to win against St. Nick in Tuscaloosa.

Sumlin stumbling onto Manziel carried Sumlin for 4 additional seasons and to a job at AZ where he is showing his true coaching chops.

Manziel carried Sumlin kind of like Marcus carried his HC coach to a champ game? Ditto, Cam Newton and Gene Chizak.


I’ll still argue against the SEC truly being any better than any of the other P5 conferences. Aside from a couple of teams they really aren’t any better than anyone else. It’s not even the same playing field and until they start playing at least nine conference games, you know, like everyone else, they’ll be a couple of great teams and everyone else has one more win than every other conference. Think about what people would say if instead of Oregon playing, I don’t know, USC one year they schedule Southern Oregon…but hey, we’d have one more win.

OK, back on track here. Manziel found himself in a strange Heisman year. Was he good? Sure, but the best? I do agree that beating ‘Bama played a huge part in it, but if you look at the rest of the Heisman finalists, would you really pick him to be on your (college) team?

Here’s your 10 finalists in 2012, in order of voting…

  1. Johnny Manziel – QB
  2. Manti Te’o – LB
  3. Collin Klein – QB
  4. Marquis Lee – WR
  5. Braxton Miller – QB
  6. Jadeveon Clowney – DL
  7. Jordan Lynch – QB
  8. Tavon Austin – WR
  9. Kenjon Barner – GO DUCKS…err, I mean RB
  10. Jarvis Jones – LB

In college, who would you have had on your team, if you could pick one? Personally, I mean besides the obvious to us Ducks, I would go with either Clowney, Austin or maybe Te’o before Manziel.


Several travesties involving the Heisman come to mind, one that has stuck with me is 2011, when RG lll won, over Andrew Luck. But I didn’t think Luck should have won that year either. My choice was Tyrann Mathieu, “the Honey Badger” out of LSU, and he’s still wreaking havoc in the NFL, with the Chiefs. Of course there’s also 2009, when Mark Ingram, Alabama, got the award over Toby Gerhart, Stanford. Of course there’s also 2015, when Christian McCaffrey, Stanford, again got beat out by by a guy from ‘Bama, Derrick Henry.


It’s interesting to think that the ‘Ferd could have had three Heisman winners in a 10 year period, isn’t it? It’s a legitimate argument to say they should have all three won.


That is exactly the way I saw him too, and as you said in a different post, how good is the SEC, really? THEY, and that means a 3rd of the conference, have won the championship. And THEY say, “we did it without even winning our division, just shows how great WE are” You just can’t argue with logic like that!

The SEC has taken full control of the situation. If Alabama was to have 3 losses, there would still be a push to get them in the Playoffs. Of course it’s even worse when considering Clemson, who has 2 “tough” games a season, but still feels like they’re entitled to playoff position.

Jon Joseph

Good call on Burrow. But let’s not forget that Joe was surrounded by 13 other guys who were drafted along with him, and in 2019, was allowed to play in a QB-friendly system.

Joe with the Bungles, we’ll see? But the $ still spends.

While I think it is premature to put Shough in the conversation yet, you make a good case. I believe you are new and we really enjoy the opinions of those who consider their thoughts carefully as you have…and write it well.

Please participate often, and WELCOME!

Jon Sousa

Well written Sherman. The article asks if there is a #1 draft pick on the roster… not among those who are going to graduate in the next couple years. On the roster includes freshmen and redshirt freshmen. No way we can tell how they will do in 3 or 4 years.

That said, Shough is as good a candidate as any. After all, “those that know these things” put 600:1 odds on Shough winning the Heisman this year. Well, that’s not going to happen because he’s not going to play.

Thank you for writing a well thought out piece.