There is no shortage of great Oregon Ducks playing in the NFL. From the many years of drafts to the guys who have caught on as undrafted free agents. Oregon has a track record of great success in the highest level of professional football. In recent years, the very best of Oregon have found their way to the NFL and been highly successful. In the history of the Ducks, there have been 227 players drafted to play in the league. The very first player drafted was Stan Riordan back in 1936 during the fifth round to the Cardinals.
Of course, the draft looked much different back then, and the spectacle that is draft weekend has completely changed the way we look at college players and their importance. 227 is a lot of players to be drafted, and there are different ways to judge the best draft picks of Oregon players. I thought it’d be fun to break down three picks as the overall best, the most hyped, and the ultimate steal.
The Best Draft Pick: Dan Fouts, QB, San Diego Chargers – 1973 3rd Round, Pick 64
Dan Fouts may be the all-time greatest player to suit up in the NFL from Oregon. Of course, guys like Justin Herbert and Penei Sewell would like to hold that title when all is said and done, but the resume that Fouts put together in his career is nothing short of impressive. Quarterbacks like Bert Jones, Ron Jaworski, and Joe Ferguson were taken before Fouts. None of those guys are in the Hall of Fame, but the former Oregon Duck is enshrined in Canton.
Fouts was a First-Team All-Pro twice, went to six Pro Bowls, was named the Offensive Player of the Year, and led the league in passing yards in four different seasons. Fouts was named to the 1980’s All-Decade Team and has his number 14 retired by the Chargers. It truly is fitting that Justin Herbert is now following in the former QBs footsteps with the Chargers organization, even if they do play in different towns.
Fouts set 19 school records when he played for the Ducks back in the days of the Pac 8. His entire 15-year NFL career was played with the Chargers, a very rare feat nowadays. Fouts set 9 franchise records for the Chargers in what became a very successful lineage of NFL QBs.
The Most Hyped: Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans – 2015 Round 1, Pick 2
Whenever there is a QB battle at the top of the draft, there is certainly going to be a lot of hype surrounding the pick. In 2015, Jameis Winston and Mariota were entering the NFL Draft, and there was a massive debate as to who should be the first overall pick. Both players had won the Heisman Trophy, both players had played in National Championship games, and both guys had similar styles. Mariota was more of a runner, and Winston had a much bigger arm. Many were split right down the middle on who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should have drafted with the first overall pick, but ultimately it was Winston who went off the board first.
With Mariota still there at two, the Titans snagged him. The Titans have had success in recent years, but when Mariota was drafted, he was thought of as the guy who could save the franchise. It had been many years since the Steve McNair days, and Vince Young hadn’t quite panned out how fans had hoped.
Mariota’s career in Tennessee was by no means terrible, but it wasn’t enough from the second overall pick. In five seasons with the Titans, the QB got his team to the playoffs just once and was benched six games into his final year there. He put together his best year in 2016 when he threw for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns, and rushed for another 349 yards and two scores. He could never replicate a season like this again and now plays as a backup in Las Vegas.
The Ultimate Steal: George Martin, DE, New York Giants – 1975, Round 11, Pick 262
I know what you’re thinking…11 rounds?? The NFL Draft used to look much different than it does now, and there were many, many rounds. That’s how former Oregon Duck George Martin found himself being drafted in the 11th round with the 262nd pick. It seems like his career was doomed, and he’d be a longshot to make any team. Honestly, any team that drafts in the 11th round hopes they get a guy who can stick around for 1 to 2 seasons and add depth to their team.
George Martin exceeded those expectations. He spent 14 seasons with the Giants, is in the team’s Ring of Honor, and was a team captain during the 1987 Super Bowl. Martin amassed 46 sacks and seven touchdowns in his career as a defensive end. He set an NFL record in 1985 for most touchdowns by a defensive end with five. The Super Bowl Champion seems like the most unlikely of hero’s for the Giants but had a long and successful career.
Despite being such a late pick, Martin had some extremely memorable moments in his career, including a sack of John Elway in that Super Bowl win which resulted in a safety. It cut down the Broncos lead heading into halftime and was the turning point for an offensive explosion for New York.