With the 2014 bowl season wrapping up tonight, thoughts in the football world move towards the upcoming NFL Draft and where some of the Pac-12's finest will land to play on Sundays. While the list of early entries is not finished (players have until January 15 to decide), the names are enough to cause scouts to salivate.
Notable Seniors: Josh Huff (WR), Taylor Hart (DE), Avery Patterson (S)
Notable Early Entries: De'Anthony Thomas (RB/WR), Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB), Colt Lyerla (TE)
Of the many skilled players the Ducks are sending to the draft, no one has created the buzz that junior cornerback Ekpre-Olomu has, though Ekpre-Olomu has not officially declared yet. One scout called him "the best cornerback prospect in the nation", with his acceleration, footwork, and eye for the ball both in the passing game and in run defense. He will go in the first round unless something catastrophic occurs at the combine.
Thomas will see a lot of looks from a lot of teams for his athleticism and raw speed, but his injury history will likely push him into day two territory. His small size at 5'9 and 170 will also hurt him. I think a team will take a chance on him in the third round.
The biggest disappointment has to come from Lyerla, a supremely talented tight end with behavioral issues. A team may take a chance on the troubled Lyerla, but it will not come before the seventh round.
Notable Seniors: Keith Price (QB), Sean Parker (S)
Notable Early Entries: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE), Bishop Sankey (RB)
Seferian-Jenkins has scouts raving across the board, with many scouts calling him the best tight end in the nation, and instant comparisons have come out to Vernon Davis and even Shannon Sharpe. He has excellent size at 6'6 and 276 pounds, a dazzling 4.75 40-yard time, with receivers hands and a solid run blocker. Some teams are wary about his finger surgery this year, as well as previous off the field issues in 2012, but a team will pick him in the first round, and for good reason.
Sankey is a polarizing prospect, with his small size and extreme quickness, but an aggressive running style that does not fit a player of his build. It has resulted in numerous injuries, and while none of them were severe or long-term, his health will cause his stock to drop, especially at such an injury prone position. Expect Sankey to be taken as a change of pace back in the second round.
While Keith Price was a fantastic quarterback at the University of Washington, his small size and lack of downfield accuracy will cause him to fall into late in the draft.
Oregon State Beavers:
Notable Seniors: Rashaad Reynolds (CB), Cody Vaz (QB)
Notable Early Entries: Brandin Cooks (WR), Scott Crichton (DE)
Reynolds will be an amazing coverage corner at the next level. He is fast enough to keep up with even the swiftest wideouts, and has above-average timing and play recognition skills. While knee surgery before the 2013 season will drop him out of the first round, he will be taken halfway through the second round.
Crichton has drawn raves from scouts for his ferocious attacking style that wears down offensive lineman, and his tenacity to fight for sacks. While he does not have the speed that a pass rushing defensive end requires to succeed, his motor and refined technique will make him a force. He will go in the second round, and may sneak into the end of the first round.
Washington State Cougars:
Notable Seniors: Deone Bucannon (SS)
Bucannon was rated by Scouts Inc. as the top strong safety prospect in the country after an illustrious career in college. He is the all-time college leader in solo tackles, and tied for second most in interceptions. While the new rules in the NFL work against roaming safeties, a role that would make Bucannon a terror in the vein of Darren Woodson, he will still be a run-stopping force and a ball hawk, with easy comparisons to Troy Polamalu. He will go in the late first-round.