The NFL Combine is officially underway, and with that said, it’s time to look at the Oregon Ducks that have been invited. The Ducks will have six players represented at the combine: De’Anthony Thomas, Josh Huff, Taylor Hart, Boseko Lokombo, Terrence Mitchell, and Colt Lyerla.
De’Anthony Thomas (running back) will look to showcase his elite speed that made him such a threat for Oregon. While Thomas can definitely run, he will need to show NFL teams that he has the size and strength to play at the next level. There is no doubt that Thomas will get drafted, the question is where will his name be called? Last year a similar player, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, was drafted 8th overall. Austin and Thomas have many similarities; both have great speed and can catch the ball as well as carry it. They are also both about the same size, but play different positions as Thomas is a running back and Austin is a receiver. That might be a subtle difference to some, but there are not many running backs in the NFL standing 5-foot-9 and weighing only 175 pounds as Thomas does. If Thomas tries to play running back at the next level, his size could be a huge question mark moving forward. It’s doubtful that Thomas will be a first round, or even first day, draft pick due to the number of more complete players at his position this year. However, his speed and explosiveness are definitely enticing NFL teams. Thomas should be drafted around the 3rd-6th round range depending on what teams need a versatile weapon.
Josh Huff (wide receiver) might not be moving up draft boards, but the former Oregon receiver should still hear his name called on draft day. Huff was productive while he was a Duck, but the Oregon offense is centered on running the football and spreading the wealth in terms of wide receiver targets. Huff was no doubt the Ducks best and most reliable receiver the past few seasons, but his numbers might shy NFL teams away from him. He will have to showcase his skill set at the combine, a place where he can surely do that. Huff is athletic, quick, has good hands and is a good route runner and will most likely put up good numbers in agility testing and position drills. If Huff’s combine numbers are solid, look for him to go somewhere in rounds 3-5.
Taylor Hart’s (defensive end) name might not be as known as other Oregon Ducks at the combine, but Hart has a shot to be a late round draft pick come draft day. Hart didn’t put up big numbers as a Duck, but he was a statement of the Oregon defense during his career. Hart has the size to play the defensive end position at the next level – standing 6-foot-6 and weighing in at 287 pounds. Hart is an effective down lineman and has great football IQ. As many Oregon athletes often do, Hart should show well at the combine. Look for Hart to put up decent all around numbers and be drafted late in the draft, around the 5th-7th round range.
Boseko Lokombo (outside linebacker) had been a consistent competitor while at Oregon. Lokombo certainly has the football IQ to grasp and NFL playbook and has played in big games for the Ducks. He also has good size measuring 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, but where he seems to lack is in athletic ability. Not even the fastest linebacker on the Oregon defense, Lokombo should slide to late in the draft and may end up being undrafted. There is no doubt that Boseko Lokombo will make an NFL roster, but in regards seeing him on the field early in his career he will have to show his skills and ability on the practice field.
Terrence Mitchell (cornerback) left school early to declare for the NFL draft, a move that left some in Eugene puzzled, as Mitchell was not the best corner on the Oregon defense last season. However, Mitchell can still play, and play well. His career at Oregon got off to a rocky start in his early years, as he was often beaten over the top and only played sparingly. Last season was a different story as Mitchell earned the #2 corner position and put together a great final season as a Duck. Mitchell seems to have developed the ball skills to play at the next level, and still posses’ traditional Oregon speed. Standing at 6-foot and weighing in at 190 pounds, he has adequate size for an NFL cornerback. Mitchell should perform well at the combine and should feel comfortable being a 3rd-4th round pick in 2014.
Last, but not least, is former Oregon Duck tight end Colt Lyerla. Easily the Duck with the biggest question marks, Lyerla is an interesting NFL prospect. Known at Oregon for being benched for misconduct and leaving the team mid season, he will certainly have to answer questions during the interview process. On the flip side though is his great size and talent. Lyerla played the traditional tight end position, as well as in the slot and even in the backfield while at Oregon. He was even being compared to Rob Gronkowski and touted as the best tight end prospect before the 2013 season. He is an athletic 6-foot-5 and 250-pound physical force, and also is a potential problems for owners at the next level. Look for him to fall to at least the 7th round, and should consider even being drafted a win come draft day. If he can interview well, and focus on football, he should still make an NFL roster come next season.
Last season saw five Ducks drafted, and three in the first two rounds. This year we shouldn’t see any Oregon players drafted above the third round, but look for the Ducks to have at least four players drafted come April.