Earlier in this offseason I made some predictions on where our Ducks could end up in the NFL Draft this year. After some more evaluations, pro days, and Zoom interviews have generated buzz about the landing spots of our Ducks, it felt necessary to revisit what this draft means for the Oregon program. In what will be another historic draft for Oregon, here’s a final prediction of where we could see Our Beloved Ducks at the next level.
Oregon superstar left tackle Penei Sewell has jumped up and down the first 10 picks in mock drafts for the past few months now, seemingly projecting a bit more uncertainty than anticipated of where the all-time talent will land. It’s hard to believe when these talent evaluators find ways to poke holes in a player like Sewell’s game, despite him being the No. 1 tackle since about the middle of last year.
Considering how a recent interview has brought Trevor Lawrence’s dedication into question, it’s becoming easier and easier to doubt the real validity of these knocks. If there are any certainties in this NFL Draft, Sewell and Lawrence have to be at the top of the list to work at the next level, and neither of them are sounding like shoo-ins to be superstars anymore (even though they WILL be).
I have a firm belief there’s zero chance Sewell should fall in the draft. We’ve been pounding this drum for some time now, and I doubt many coaches (if any) aren’t sold on Sewell’s ability despite any media narratives that have arisen in the past few months of searching for interesting stories.
Final projected landing spot: Cincinnati Bengals (first round, pick No. 5)
Ja’Marr Chase has generated a lot of buzz to go in the top five and join his former LSU teammate Joe Burrow, though I think cooler heads prevail in this case, and the Bengals make the right pick at fifth overall by selecting Our Beloved Ducks’ generational tackle for the next 10-15 seasons. The Bengals have always been a particularly conservative franchise, and Sewell is the conservative choice that makes the most sense.
This by all accounts isn’t the most blockbuster landing spot for Mario Cristobal’s future recruiting classes to ogle over, but it says a great deal that two Ducks in a row will go top-10 in their respective drafts (soon to be three, with Kayvon Thibodeaux coming down the pipeline). My previous projection had Sewell ending up in Atlanta, which although I could still see happening, is in doubt now with the Falcons and the entire league’s perceived value of Florida “tight end” Kyle Pitts.
Holland has fluctuated up and down draft boards much more severely in recent months (again) for reasons unknown. Due to how safety is valued in comparison to cornerback and other defensive positions lately in the past few NFL Drafts, this is easily a player I could see slide down to day two (not due to lack of talent, by any means). He’s a ballhawk, a true-playmaker in the secondary that could make a huge impact on a team early, and a seeming perfect counterpart to a high volume tackler like Jeremy Chinn, the Southern Illinois star product from last year’s draft.
Final projected landing spot: Arizona Cardinals (second round, pick No. 49)
This is a further slide than I originally thought in January, but one that seems plausible given the Cardinals new secondary needs following the veteran departure of Patrick Peterson this offseason. A corner of course would a superior choice, except at this spot it’s hard to foresee any options still available that wouldn’t feel like a reach. Budda Baker and Holland together would make for a fantastic tandem.
Thomas Graham and Deommodore Lenoir
Our top Oregon cornerbacks and their respective futures are far less definitive than Holland and Sewell. Both corners are a little on the smaller side, but each have enough production to get noticed. Our own Charles Fischer (Mr.FishDuck) wrote in September about the opt-outs of these two players, which surprised us all, given their average production and the notable speed adjustment required to be effective at the next level.
Although both players ran reasonably well in the 40-yard dash (mid 4.4s), their on-field speed may not be up to snuff at the next level and force some struggles. This does come with the territory of being a cornerback, so all we can do as Duck fans is hope that they make the step like Troy Hill did in the NFL (who signed a two-year deal worth $9 million this offseason with the Browns).
Final projected landing spots: Graham in the fourth (Saints, pick No. 133), Lenoir in the fifth round (Dolphins, No. pick 156)
The Saints have significant holes in their secondary after leaping through hoops to reach an acceptable salary cap number, and Graham gives them some depth at a position of need. The Dolphins aren’t necessarily in desperate need of a corner but could certainly use a No. 2 to pair with Xavien Howard. I am curious to see what having Graham, Lenoir, and Hill in starting NFL rotations could do for the future of Duck secondaries under Cristobal.
Jordon Scott and Brady Breeze
Although at different positions of value, I see both of these Ducks struggling to land on an NFL team in the draft. Breeze has a lot of great qualities you look for in a safety, and no talent evaluator can overlook his role in the Rose Bowl victory that Breeze led alongside Justin Herbert, but he certainly isn’t the prototypical NFL safety.
Scott is in a similar position and should find an opportunity at least to end up on a practice squad and compete for a job. The agility he possesses for his size has not gone unnoticed by talent evaluators, it just may be tempting for a team to take a flyer on a late round skill position player rather than a nose tackle who can’t generate the pass rush that defensive tackles are expected to nowadays at the next level (Scott only had four sacks in his Oregon career; see Auburn’s Derrick Brown).
Final projected landing spots: Breeze in the sixth (49ers, pick No. 194), Scott goes undrafted
Breeze would fit nicely into a special teams role early on with the 49ers, who will likely field another deep playoff contender under Kyle Shanahan with a new quarterback at the helm. Scott has ample enough production that I could easily see him being a late round pick just like Breeze, yet every year, late-round gems like him go undrafted. Wherever they both end up, they’ll have a lot to prove in the preseason and training camp in order to make a difference in the NFL.
Other NFL hopefuls and the Ducks’ future
As listed in a recent NBC Sports article, Austin Faoliu, Hunter Kampmoyer, and Nick Pickett could all also end up on NFL squads as undrafted free agents or taken as flyers in the sixth and seventh rounds. Regardless of how many Ducks go, the NFL influence of the Ducks is growing steadily under Cristobal. Herbert, Troy Dye and company were a huge step in the past, and this group of Ducks could be even more influential for future recruiting classes. The sustainment of consistently producing NFL talent bodes extraordinarily well for Cristobal, and if we don’t watch out, could result in a job for him at the next level sooner than we’d hope.
For now, let’s enjoy our offseason holiday this Draft Day Eve, and prepare for a historic day in Oregon history.
Top photo by: Kevin Cline
Alex Heining is a third-year student at the University of Oregon. He’s working towards a bachelor of arts degree as an English major and media studies minor in journalism. Growing up in the Los Angeles area of southern California, Alex ended up a Duck through family ties, a quality football program, and the beautiful green of Lane County. Currently finishing his first science fiction novel, he wants to end up in the sports world of journalism on the west coast. Particularly, covering high school football, recruiting commits, and all things Ducks.
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