It is often said in poker that if you can't spot the sucker at the table, then the sucker is you. When Oregon senior linebacker Troy Dye gets brought up in the draft community, I often come back to the game of poker. His combination of elite traits and performance on tape is being severely undersold right now, similar to a poker player leaving money on the table by not betting more on a good hand. While Dye may not be a three of a kind -- he is a one-of-a-kind linebacker prospect in the 2020 NFL draft class.
Why is Troy Dye "one of a kind" in this linebacker class? You would be hard pressed to find many 6'4 linebackers with his blend of speed, range, cover skills, and finishing power. He fits the mold perfectly of what the NFL looks for in a linebacker prospect, from a traits perspective. But that is not all. Not only has Dye started nearly every game since his freshman season, but he's also put up over 300 tackles, 10 sacks, and three interceptions for the Ducks defense. That production is not a fluke -- and when you can combine those numbers with his traits and physical profile, you have a potentially elite prospect in the making.
The best part about Dye's game is his ability to make an impact in coverage. Whether in man or zone, Dye looks as natural as any linebacker in this area of the game than anybody I've studied at the position so far this summer. He understands zone concepts and plays with an instinctive, quick mental trigger when reading and recognizing route development.
Most valuable at the next level though, will be his prowess as a man coverage defender. He locked down opposing teams' best tight ends last year in man coverage, which is a testament to his 6'4 length and elite athletic ability. When do you ever see a linebacker have this kind of hip fluidity to flip and mirror a receiver's route like this, let alone make an incredible play on the ball at the highest point? Dye was a safety coming out of high school, so to see this level of coverage ability and ball skills is no surprise. He will walk into an NFL camp next year as one of the best defenders in coverage on the team, and I would be surprised if teams don't utilize him as a matchup piece in man coverage against top tight ends.
Despite multiple years of production in a power conference, Dye is still incredibly young in linebacker years. That shows on tape often, as he is more reactionary than instinctive right now, which means he relies more on his functional speed than processing speed. The good news? Dye has improved dramatically in this area each year for the Ducks, and I'm confident he is only going to more steps forward in this regard. Nonetheless, Dye has special sideline-to-sideline range. His ability to chase down ball carriers at this level of quickness and speed is asinine. He makes up so much ground with his long strides and often tracks down plays like this where he should have no business being a part of it. I guarantee you a coaching staff will fall in love with Dye's traits and continuously-improving mental processing -- believing they can mold this player into a Pro Bowler.
I think one of the biggest myths about Dye's game is his lack of physicality. This dude finishes through ball carriers on every tackle he makes. Do I think he needs to maximize his length better to keep himself free against the run? Absolutely. But to say he doesn't provide any power as a linebacker is completely false. He has shown on tape the last couple seasons that he can be a tone setter. One of the biggest parts of Dye's game that I love is he does not hesitate coming downhill. He translates his burst and closing speed into legit stopping power, and he is not satisfied by just getting the ball carrier to the ground. His energy and toughness as a finisher is something I believe is severely underappreciated on his film.
I currently have Troy Dye as the 34th overall player on my 2020 NFL draft preseason big board, and quite frankly, that still seems a little low for a prospect with his traits, production, and consistency in coverage at the linebacker position. While he does need to get better at taking on blocks and using his length more effectively at the point of attack, I am truly "all in" on Dye's potential and projection to the next level as an off-ball linebacker. While the rest of the draft media is ready to fold on his draft stock as a top prospect, I'm willing to bet several NFL teams will push their chips in with me on Oregon senior linebacker Troy Dye.