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Hogs Haven 2020 NFL Draft Coverage: Oregon Ducks Preview

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An early preview of the Oregon players who may be prominent in the 2020 NFL draft

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California v Oregon Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

As part of Hogs Haven’s pre-draft coverage, I am going to preview one team per week throughout the college football season. One of the biggest games this weekend will be when #13 Oregon visits #25 Washington in Seattle.

I have not seen much of Oregon this season, just their week 1 loss to Auburn, a pair of 15 min highlight clips of their wins over Stanford and Cal, and the first half of last weekend’s blowout win over Colorado.

Known primarily for their spread offense, three times Ducks have had a quarterback selected with one of the draft’s first three selections (Akili Smith, 1999, Joey Harrington 2002, Marcus Mariota 2015) and they have an excellent chance to make it four this year.

It has been ten years since the Ducks have not had more than five players drafted in a single year (6 in 2009). In 2019, they had four players selected, however none before the fourth round.

POTENTIAL FIRST ROUND PROSPECTS

#10 Justin Herbert (Sr.) QB 6’6/237

After an encouraging but injury shortened sophomore season, Justin Herbert was considered by many to be the top quarterback in the nation going into the 2018 season. He likely would have been a first-round pick in the 2019 draft, but he decided to return to college for his senior season. With 10 of 11 starters on offense returning, including what has been touted as the top offensive line in the nation, Herbert certainly returned to an enviable situation in Oregon.

Over the summer NFL Draft Geek took a deeper look at his anticipation, ball placement, and touch, and came away agreeing with the masses, that Herbert could be the first quarterback selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Criticized for lack of awareness in Oregon’s opening day loss to Auburn, in which his final pass went 10 yards out the back of the end zone, Herbert had a solid game. On one hand, Oregon led virtually the entire game after Herbert guided the Ducks on a touchdown-scoring drive on their first possession. In the end, he connected on 28-of-37 of his throws for 242 yards, including one stretch when he completed 18-of-19. However, he also led his team to just 4-of-14 conversions on third down and averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt.

Later in the season, against Cal and Stanford, there were significantly more throws down the field, throwing the receiver open, and into tighter windows.

While I only watched the first half, Herbert completed 18-of-32 passes for 261 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in Oregon’s 45-3 blowout win over Colorado.

Herbert is on pace for his best season yet, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes with a touchdown to interception ratio of 17:1.

There is a lot to like about Herbert. A prototypical pocket-passer, with “plus” movement, he has the size, arm strength, and athleticism to succeed at the NFL level.

At 6’6/237, Herbert looks even bigger than his listed size. Long and athletic, he has good straight line speed and can pick up a good amount of yardage with his legs. He gets good velocity on his short and intermediate passes, and will occasionally let loose a beautiful deep ball.

However, the Oregon offense doesn’t require him to go through progressions. Most everything is predetermined. From a size/traits basis and playing predominantly in the shotgun/pistol, there were times when watching Herbert I felt like he looked like Colin Kaepernick or Paxton Lynch.

His mechanics look a bit quirky - a byproduct of his size and long arms is that Herbert has a little bit of an elongated delivery. Often, he does not throw with a firm base, so he throws too many balls off balance, which impacts accuracy. Despite having arguably the top offensive line in the country, and playing a schedule which includes very few top-level pass rushers, he needlessly abandons the pocket too often.

Around this time last year, draft analyst Matt Miller wrote “There are also those scouts, who did not want to be named, who say Herbert is soft or immature or quirky, not really a leader of men.”

This past summer, Tony Pauline echoed the sentiment, saying “he’s a little bit of an introvert...and may struggle with the media if he has to play in a big market.”

While anonymous scouts quotes should be taken with a grain of salt, there were similar suggestions about Oregon’s last star quarterback, Marcus Mariota, who coincidentally lost his starting job just this week.

In the end, many of the criticisms heard in 2018 are still there. The dropping of the eyes and attempting to run out of the pocket at the first sign of pressure is concerning. He has never seemingly willed his team to win in the “big game” (losses to Stanford 2018, Auburn 2019).

POSSIBLE DAY TWO (ROUNDS 2-3) PROSPECTS

#54 Calvin Throckmorton (RSr.) T/G/C 6’5/309

Three-star recruit according to 247Sports, Throckmorton has started every game since coming off his redshirt 2015 season. In 2018, he was the only FBS player to start at four different (RT, C, RG, RT) offensive line positions. Made six starts at right tackle, five at left tackle, one at center and one at right guard.

He is also applying to medical school and wants to be eventually an orthopedic surgeon.

While most of his experience has come at RT, RG appears to be his best position. On film, Throckmorton appears to have short arms, and while generally effective, he often appears lumbering in pass protection. He had a few struggles while filing in at center vs Stanford, and occasionally had difficulty with speed on the edge when playing RT in the Auburn game.

Throckmorton reminds me somewhat of Dalton Risner (Pk#42) a RT to LG convert from this past draft class, but athletically might be more similar to Michael Dieter (Pk#78).

#55 Shane Lemieux (RSr.) Guard 6’3/316

Just a 3-star HS recruit, Lemieux started all 12 games after coming off his red-shirt 2015 season, and has remained a starter ever since.

In 2018, Lemieux graded out as the No. 1 guard in the Pac-12 and the No. 3 guard in the nation, according to Pro Football Focus, who explain he allowed just 11 pressures on nearly 500 pass-blocking snaps in 2018. With only two combined sacks and QB hits a season ago, he heads into 2019 as the nation’s highest-graded returning guard.

USA Today’s DraftWire has an informative interview with him HERE, where Lemieux tells us who were the toughest defensive lineman he has faced, and which NFL offensive lineman he likes to watch on film.

The size and resume are all there for Lemieux, who probably will be one of the first to receive his Senior Bowl invite. How he does there, and how athletic he tests at the NFL Combine will determine if he is a top-100 prospect.

#6 Deommodore Lenoir (Jr.) CB 5’11/202

Lenoir came to Eugene as a consensus 4-star, ranked as a top-60 overall recruit by some services. After seeing playing time in all 13 games is a freshman, he started all 13 for the Ducks in 2018, when he finished with 52 tackles, picked off three interceptions, and finished second on the team with nine pass breakups.

Recently, The Athletic’s Dane Bruger included him in his Five under-the-radar NFL prospects who could be potential first-rounders. Brugler explains “over the last two weeks, I spoke with two west coast scouts who singled out Lenoir as an up-and-coming junior prospect who has impressed them.”

Then, just this week, Lenoir showed up on PFF’s Mid-season All-American First-Team.

PFF explains “If you haven’t watched the Ducks secondary this season, you’ve missed out on some beyond-stellar play. Lenoir is the tip of that coverage iceberg as he’s been targeted 26 times and allowed just 11 receptions. He’s incredibly sticky in coverage against any type of receiver as he can run with the best of them and follow along with any route on the route tree. He’s made three defensive stops in the coverage game and four more against the run as he’s not afraid to take on any challenge that comes his way.”

LIKELY DAY THREE (ROUNDS 4-7) PROSPECTS

#4 Thomas Graham (Jr.) CB 5’11/197

Considered the teams’ top corner going into the 2019 season, Graham arrived to Eugene as a consensus 4-star and top 150 prospect in the class by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports, then started 12 of 13 games as a true freshman, while finishing third in tackles (62).

Graham made the All Pac-12 Second Team in 2018. He tied for No. 3 nationally with 18 pass breakups, while finishing second on the team in interceptions (3) and sixth on the team in total tackles (56).

This season, Graham has 1 interception and is tied with Lenoir with 5 pass break-ups this season.

#35 Troy Dye (Sr.) LB 6’4/226

Dye has led the Ducks in tackles in each of the past three seasons, and went into his senior season with 313 career tackles. He had a career best 115 tackles in 2018, en route to earning second-team all-Pac-12 honors.

This season, Dye’s tackle numbers have dropped off a bit, but it appears that is because the defense as a whole is better. Dye profiles as a durable, productive, and very athletic off the ball LB with both scheme and positional versatility.

#27 Jacob Breeland (RSr.) TE 6’5/250

In the midst of a breakout season, Breeland was on crutches after last weekend’s 45-3 victory against Colorado, and was said to be out for the year. After six games, he still leads the Oregon offense in receptions (26), receiving yards (405), and touchdowns (6) this season.

Advanced statistics point to his combination of reliability (81% catch rate, 65% success rate) and explosiveness (15.6 yards per catch). PFF charts him with a national-best 158.3 passer rating on his targets.

Prior to his injury, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler wrote that “The favorite target of Justin Herbert, Breeland looks noticeably stronger and quicker this season and his motivated attitude this off-season has translated to the field. NFL scouts have definitely taken notice.”

ProFootballNetwork’s Tony Pauline agrees, calling him the fastest rising senior TE in the country.

Breeland caught 24 passes for 377 yards and 2 touchdowns as a junior in 2018, giving him a career stat line of 74-1225-13.

Factoring in his season-ending injury, Breeland gives me a Jake Butt vibe (Michigan, Rd5, Broncos), whose own injury contributed to his significant fall in the draft.

#68 Jake Hanson (RSr.) Center 6’5/295

A 4-star HS prospect by ESPN, Hansen is a four-year starting center, who has missed just two starts in his career. In his school bio it says he didn’t allow a sack for the third consecutive year.

According to PFF, going into the 2019 season, Hanson had allowed 12 total pressures but not allowed a single sack during his entire career at Oregon.

Hanson isn’t quite the same caliber as the trio of Throckmorton, Lemieux, and underclassman LT Penei Sewell, but he’s a three-year starting center, with good baseline athleticism and football intelligence.

#34 Jordon Scott (Jr.) NT 6’1/345

Scott has started 30 consecutive games going into this weekend’s Washington game.

At 6’1” and 345 pounds, Scott looks strange in his #34 jersey - a number normally reserved for running backs. However, he has been an immovable force on the Ducks’ defensive front since he arrived in Eugene, and stated the final 11 games of his freshman season. Voted to several freshman All-American teams in 2017.

A PFF darling, based on his run-stuffing grades, he is nothing more than a pocket collapser as a pass-rusher. His powerful squatty frame and lack of length are reminiscent of Andrew Billings (Rd4) and Daylon Mack (Rd5).

OTHERS/UDFA

#6 Juwan Johnson (RSr.) WR 6’4/225

A graduate transfer, Johnson originally enrolled at Penn State and made 20 starts between the 2017-18 season, but never became the players many analysts expected. Injured during fall camp, he made his first two catches of the season in last weekends game vs Colorado.

While at Penn State, Johnson caught 81 receptions for 1,123 yards in three seasons with the Nittany Lions.

A poor man’s Collin Johnson (Texas Longhorns)?

While he has flashed the ability to win at the catch point, Johnson has been a tease for most of his career, and NFL teams are trending away from jumbo-size receivers.

#32 La’Mar Winston Jr. (Sr.) LB 6’2/227

Highly touted, as the No. 1 HS recruit coming out of the state of Oregon, Winston is a great athlete for the position.

A three year starter, Winston started nine games for the Ducks in 2018, and he finished with 40 total tackles with 23 solo stops. A highly effective pass rusher as a junior, but with just 8 tackles in 2019, he may be struggling adjusting to his new role in Andy Avalos’ new defense.

#56 Bryson Young (Sr.) Edge 6’5/248

At 6-5 and 250 pounds, Young certainly looks the part and primarily plays the ‘Stud’ position, which is a hybrid role between a defensive end and a linebacker Oregon’s scheme. Halfway through the season, he leads the team with 5 QB “hurries” but only has 1.5 TFL and zero sacks. Without much production, an NFL team would have to fall in love with his frame and upside to be drafted.

#75 Dallas Warmack (RSr.) Guard 6’2/328

A graduate transfer, Dallas followed in the footsteps of his brother, Chance Warmack, when he enrolled at Alabama in 2015. In his first season at Oregon, he started all 12 regular season games in 2018.

Clearly, the weak link in an otherwise outstanding offensive line, Warmack was responsible for most of the pressure Herbert faced in the Auburn game, and looked only slightly better against easier match-ups.

#16 Nick Pickett (Jr.) Safety 6’1/200

Just a 3-star recruit, Pickett started 3 games as a true freshman. He started in 12 of the 13 games in 2018, and finished fourth on the team with 59 total tackles. This season, he is tied for 6th with 19 tackles. He also has 3 pass break-ups and 1 interception.

While he may become a solid prospect if he were to return for his senior year, I don’t view him as one of the top-25 safeties in the country, making him a fringe 6th/7th-UDFA.

#45 Gus Cumberlander (RSr.) DE 6’7/256

Suffered a season ending knee injury against Cal, and could apply for a sixth season of eligibility.

Cumberlander finished second on the team with four sacks in 2018, and was the only player on the team to record two sacks in a single game last year, but overall he has never become a productive player in college and his injury would make him a long-shot to be drafted.