2013 NFL Draft: Potential Landing Spots for Former Ducks Football Players
After months of showcasing their abilities as football players and as individuals, a few former Oregon Ducks football players will see their dreams come true at the NFL’s annual selection meeting, or as it’s commonly known, the NFL Draft.
While forecasting where the likes of Dion Jordan and company will be spending their Sundays next season is incredibly difficult, here are some potential landing spots for some former Ducks.
Dion Jordan – OLB
Originally recruited as a tight end, Dion Jordan made the switch to defensive end once he arrived on campus, and he never looked back. While only totaling 14.5 career sacks for the Ducks, Jordan showed a myriad of tools that make him perfect for the jump to the NFL. In the model of former first round picks Aldon Smith and DeMarcus Ware, Jordan possesses a mixture of speed and length while rushing the passer. With his incredibly long arms, Jordan can create space between him and offensive lineman allowing him to spin or rip through blocks. In some cases, Jordan is able to beat pass protectors with his pure speed off the line of scrimmage.
Part of Jordan’s rise to consensus top 10 pick amongst NFL Draft experts was his performance at the combine in Indianapolis. Jordan wowed scouts with a surprising 4.60 in the 40 yard dash. The speed Jordan has mixed in with his incredible stature is something that makes for the quintessential 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. While rushing the passer is a major part of being a successful OLB on Sundays, there is much more to the position.
While playing under Nick Aliotti, Jordan was asked to be more than just a pass rusher. Against pass-happy spread offense teams, Jordan could be found lined up on a slot receiver. Thanks to his aforementioned speed, Jordan managed to cover speedy slot receivers found in the Pac-12. With the NFL moving to a pass oriented offensive attack, players with Jordan’s special skill set are essential for NFL defenses going forward. That being said, there is no doubt that Jordan will be selected very early come draft day.
Projection: Jacksonville Jaguars (1st round 2nd pick)
According to General Manager Dave Caldwell, the Jaguars have limited their search for the 2nd overall pick down to two players. Speculation around the league is that one of those two players is Dion Jordan, and I agree with them. New head coach Gus Bradley, formerly the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator, wants to build his team around speed and explosiveness. Dion Jordan is a pivotal first step in that direction. Jordan is a rare prospect that doesn’t come around very often, he can step in on the first day of training camp and immediately improve a defense that was dismal, to say the least, last season.
One of the more intriguing prospects in the draft, Kyle Long has been rising up the draft boards recently. At 6’7″ and 317 pounds, Long possesses the build to be a very successful offensive lineman in the NFL.
One of the intangibles the Long has in comparison to other offensive line prospects is his family pedigree. Kyle’s father Howie is a Hall of Fame defensive lineman and his brother Chris is a Pro Bowl defensive end currently playing for the St. Louis Rams.
One of the knocks against Long is the fact he only has a small sample size of experience against top college talent. Originally, Long accepted a baseball scholarship to Florida State but later transferred to Saddleback Junior College where he excelled on both sides of the football. Long eventually chose to attend his remaining college years at Oregon, where last season he was a integral part on the Ducks offensive line. Under Chip Kelly, Long proved that he isn’t isolated to only one offensive line position spending time at both tackle and guard.
Projection: St Louis Rams (2nd round 46th pick)
While the obvious brother reunion is apparent with this selection, the Rams need some offensive line help to protect Sam Bradford. With the loss of Steven Jackson to the Atlanta Falcons, more attention will be on Sam Bradford and the passing game. Long, with his ability to play both guard and tackle, is a perfect fit for Jeff Fisher and the Rams.
By the end of his tenure at Oregon, Kiko Alonso had endured more ups and downs than your local roller coaster ride. After being arrested and sidelined due to a knee injury in 2010, Alonso came on strong in his final two seasons for the Ducks. Alonso combined for 127 tackles and was named the 2011 Rose Bowl defensive player of the game.
Despite some red flags, Alonso has been viewed as a raw inside backer with an incredibly high ceiling. Alonso excels at blitzing the A gap of the interior offensive line and getting after the quarterback. Alonso has also proven he can be an asset in coverage, totaling six interceptions over the past two seasons.
The linebacker from Los Gatos, California is incredibly instinctive, and can be counted on to make a big play at any moment, a quality that not many prospects possess.
Projection: Oakland Raiders (3rd round 66th pick)
While Oakland doesn’t have a huge need for an inside backer, Kiko Alonso is a player that would thrive in the Raiders’ Silver and Black. Heading back to his home in Northern California, Alonso could fill a hole left by former first round draft pick Rolando McClain. Coach Dennis Allen would love to groom the 6’4″ linebacker into a Raider to remember.
After a senior season in which Kenjon Barner ran for 1767 yards and was the runner up to Montee Ball for the Doak Walker award, many Duck fans would expect Barner to be rated as a top running back prospect in this year’s draft. However, scouts and NFL Draft experts consistently underrate the running back from Oregon, due mostly to his height.
While proving to be a ball carrier with top NFL speed, scouts believe Barner lacks the ability to be an every-down running back on Sundays. Labeled as a “3rd down back” by NFL scouts, teams are more reluctant to take a player with a first or second round pick who can only contribute on 1/4th of a teams offensive snaps regardless of what they did in college.
While being small in stature, Barner has the ability to succeed at a high level in the pros. With the game evolving into an offense oriented on setting up the run through spreading the defense out, Barner could come in and fit that need for a team looking to dive into a read option type of rushing attack. Barner has the potential to be a guy who can earn a well paid second contract while being undervalued for his first coming out of college.
Projection: Pittsburgh Steelers (5th round 150 pick)
After cutting 2012 5th round pick Chris Rainey, and Rashard Mendenhall signing with Arizona, the Steelers are a team that could be in the market for a running back in this years draft. Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, while being decent running backs, won’t be enough to compliment Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game of the Steelers. The last time the Steelers took a chance on a surprise speed back, they got Willie Parker who helped Pittsburgh win the Superbowl. Kenjon Barner could compliment Dwyer and Redman to form a formidable three-headed attack for the Black and Gold.
Coming back from two knee surgeries is never a easy thing for a player to do; Oregon free safety John Boyett will attempt to do that with an NFL team this coming fall. While on the field for the Ducks, Boyett proved to be a heat-seeking missile for Nick Aliotti’s defense. No.20 for Oregon finished his career with 278 tackles and ten interceptions while being named to 2nd team all Pac-12 in his last full season of play.
Boyett has had plenty of time to heal from his injury and is expected to be ready for training camp.
Projection: San Francisco 49ers (7th round 237th pick)
With 14 picks in the upcoming draft, the San Francisco 49ers have a lot of flexibility in regards to who they select. With a need after the departure of Dashon Goldson to Tampa Bay, the 49ers can take a chance on a guy like John Boyett. Vic Fangio would love to have a guy with high football intelligence and the ability to make plays in the back of the secondary. If Boyett isn’t healthy, the 49ers could stash him for a year or two on the practice squad, because most likely 14 rookies won’t make the 49ers very talented 53-man roster.
Michael Clay, while not being invited to the NFL Combine, is a player that could be extremely valuable not only for what he brings on the field, but for what he does off the field. He’s the epitome of a multiplier to a team, a player that every coach in the NFL would love to have. While being undersized and sometimes over-matched by larger Pac-12 linemen, Clay always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
He’ll need to improve on his coverage skills, but overall Clay has the potential to make a 53-man roster and be an asset on special teams as a rookie.
Projection: Atlanta Falcons (7th Round 249th pick)
At Oregon’s pro day, the Atlanta Falcons spent about an extra 45 minutes to an hour testing Clay in the classroom and apparently they liked what they saw. While Michael Clay may be available to Atlanta as an undrafted free-agent, something tells me that it won’t be that easy. Clay will be a sought after undrafted free agent so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Atlanta or another team select Clay in the latter part of the 7th round.
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