The discussion around 2020 NFL Draft prospects as it relates to the Oregon Ducks this season will generally be centered around quarterback Justin Herbert, who has the makeup of a high first round pick. The Ducks are stacked on the offensive line and Herbert has some intriguing playmakers, but don't sleep on the defensive talent Oregon has to offer.
After recently spending time studying the Oregon defense, let's examine which defenders are the best NFL prospects on the unit entering the season.
Jordon Scott, DT, Oregon
- 6-1, 329
- 2018 Production: 29 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 0 sacks
Pros - The man is a load to deal with on run downs. Features a massive frame, natural leverage and power to anchor and hold his gap. When he cranks up the motor and wins with first contact he is capable of resetting the line of scrimmage. Power at the point of attack is outstanding. Doesn’t profile as an impact pass rusher but he can certainly generate push and challenge the depth of the pocket. Isn’t technically-refined but he can dispose of blocks quickly to disengage and finish in condensed areas.
Cons - NFL role is likely limited to early downs. Needs to improve his play recognition skills and technique for combating blocks so that his run fits aren’t compromised. He won’t get driven out of his run fit but he will fail to process quick enough and concede body positioning. Range is limited and he can get stretched out and unable to keep pace on wide zone runs. Lacks length which creates issues playing with extension and unhinging. Has a natural, squatty frame but he rarely plays with good pad level and bend. Redirecting his weight and changing directions are laborious and slow.
Troy Dye, LB, Oregon
- 6-4, 224
- 2018 Production: 109 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FF
Pros - Highly productive defensive playmaker across three seasons for the Ducks already. Has excellent range and the athletic ability to counter today’s pace and space offenses. Likable player in space when he has a clear path to the football. Has upside in man coverage to matchup with tight ends. Zone drops reveal comfort with spacing and route anticipation. Has the flexibility and quickness needed to slip/undercut blocks. Pursuit-style player with hot motor. Brings a lot of energy to the field.
Cons - Plays the game through a straw with little anticipation of blockers. Lacks consistency playing through contact and getting off blocks, while doing himself no favors in terms of awareness. Has issues with run fits, leveraging gaps and not vacating space he’s responsible for with inconsistent reads. Must improve his key and diagnose skills against the run - as it stands he’s more of a see and chase type player. He’s lean and needs to add mass and functional strength. Angles in pursuit are all over the place, guilty of both under and over pursuing. Contact balance and hitting power is modest at best.
Thomas Graham, CB, Oregon
- 5-11, 191
- 2018 Production: 57 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 INT, 18 PBU
Pros - Love how he embraces the physical components of the position. Willing to be physical in the contact window and down the field in coverage. Does well to play through contact in pursuit and always competes hard to get to the football. Illustrates good tackling skills by consistently aiming low and wrapping up. Brings his feet through the ball carrier and features good hitting power. Strong reactionary skills playing forward and diagnosing what is in front of him. Excellent feel for spacing and defending split zones. Route anticipation skills are excellent. Ball skills are terrific. Excels at reading the backfield, working into throwing lanes and disrupting at the catch point. Smart, physical and ultra-competitive football players with the ability to make plays on the football.
Cons - The struggles come as routes elongate. Must clean up his footwork when transitioning to not allow easy separation when he flips his hips. Tight and elongated when it comes time to get out of his pedal. Needs to play with better leverage. Is he best suited to play safety in the NFL?
Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon
- 5-11, 196
- 2018 Production: 52 tackles, 3 INT, 9 PBU
Pros - Really like how natural he is at finding the ball in the air and competing at the catch point. Does a great job of positioning his frame at the catch point. Love how he’s willing the be physical with receivers and leverage routes. Does well to pin outside releases to the sideline. Illustrates good wrap-up technique as a tackler. Sound as a d-gap defender and maintaining outside leverage. Flashes good balance and hand usage in press coverage.
Cons - Still developing his coverage instincts in terms of both mirroring routes and anticipating routes to his zone. Can be a tick late processing what unfolds in front of him and reacting. Still a younger player that would benefit from adding functional strength. Should take a step forward in terms of processing and play strength in 2019, but we need to see it.