The 2021 NFL Draft is finally here. It’s time for big boards, trades, and Mel Kiper digging up film of D3 punters.
It could be a fun weekend for Oregon fans as nine Ducks could make their NFL dreams come true. Here, I break down the top three landing spots for each Duck in the draft.
Penei Sewell - Offensive Tackle
- Cincinnati Bengals - The 2020 Outland Trophy winner deserves to be the first non-quarterback off the board in this draft. He will start immediately for most teams in the NFL, and the Bengals could benefit the most from his services. Joe Burrow got sacked 32 times in 10 games and was pressured on what felt like most of his dropbacks. The Bengals also finished with the ninth-worst rushing attack in the NFL last season (104.3 yards per game). Protecting the franchise quarterback must be the priority for the Bengals, especially as he returns from a torn ACL next season, and there simply is not a better pass blocker than Sewell in this draft. According to Pro Football Focus, Sewell has only allowed one sack on 678 pass block snaps.
- Carolina Panthers - There are several directions that the Panthers could go with the eighth overall pick, but if Sewell is available, he would be inserted right into the starting lineup. Russell Okung is a free agent, and the starting left tackle would likely be free agent signing Cameron Erving. Sewell would be new quarterback Sam Darnold’s best friend; Darnold has been sacked at least 30 times in each of his first three seasons with the Jets. Sewell is also a brick wall as a run blocker, which is great news for star running back Christian McCaffrey.
- Los Angeles Chargers - Every Oregon fan’s dream. The Bolts would undoubtedly have to trade up to get Sewell, as they have the 13th pick. Former Duck and reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert was pressured more than any other quarterback in 2020 (187 times), often from the left side of the line. The Chargers have already done a lot to protect their star quarterback this offseason by signing All-Pro center Corey Linsley and former Steelers’ guard Matt Feiler. Why not add the best offensive lineman in the draft to protect his former teammate’s blindside once again?
Jevon Holland - Safety
- Philadelphia Eagles - Holland can play all over the defensive backfield and can cover wide receivers and tight ends. The Eagles need a lot of help in the secondary, even with the addition of former Vikings safety Anthony Harris.
- Minnesota Vikings - The Vikings had one of the youngest secondaries in the league last year, but Holland would get to learn from Pro Bowlers Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson. The Vikings gave up 12 plays of 40+ yards passing last season, tied for the most in the NFL with the Eagles and Dolphins. He can help defend some of the top pass catchers in the NFC North like Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Robert Tonyan, and TJ Hockenson.
- Dallas Cowboys - The Cowboys don’t have a lot of experience at safety, especially at free safety. Holland is a Swiss army knife in the secondary and would likely be given a free rein to develop at any position he wants in Dallas. Plus, he has already played at AT&T Stadium, picking off a pass and returning it for a touchdown in the 2019 season-opening loss to Auburn.
Thomas Graham Jr. - Cornerback
- Seattle Seahawks - The Seahawks lost starting corners Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar after a season where they struggled mightily in the secondary. They allowed the second-most passing yards in the NFL (4,560) and could use a young corner to develop. Graham would be a great fit, and he would be reunited with former Duck teammate Ugo Amadi.
- New Orleans Saints - The Saints may satisfy their cornerback needs before Graham is expected to be selected, but adding Graham would give them an instinctive and feisty young corner. He would join a secondary group coached by Kris Richard, who was the defensive backs coach for the Seahawks during the “Legion of Boom” days.
- Tennessee Titans - Malcolm Butler, Desmond King, and Adoree Jackson are all gone. The Titans need some young cornerbacks to shore up their secondary, especially after a season in which they gave up the fourth-most passing yards in the league (4,439).
Deommodore Lenoir - Cornerback
- Green Bay Packers - You never really know what GM Brian Gutekunst will do in the draft, but the Packers need a talented cornerback to pair up with Jaire Alexander. The Packers secondary got torched in the NFC Championship Game by the Buccaneers. Outside of the All-Pro Alexander, the Packers don’t have a deep cornerback unit, and Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan are on one-year deals. Lenoir is not the tallest corner at 5'10”, but he makes up for it with his physicality and his elite ball skills. He could compete for a starting job in 2022 if selected by Green Bay.
- Pittsburgh Steelers - Lenoir would learn from a former Pro Bowl cornerback with similar physical traits in Joe Haden. Mike Hilton is gone, and the Steelers don’t have a deep cornerback unit either. Lenoir could make an immediate impact in Pittsburgh.
- Detroit Lions - The Lions had a horrific pass defense in 2020, allowing more touchdown passes and 20+ yard passing plays than any other team. The two-time Pac-12 All-Conference selection is fast, physical, and has solid coverage skills.
Brady Breeze - Safety
- New England Patriots - Breeze is a hard-hitting, play-making safety that would fit right into Bill Belichick’s defense, as well as on special teams. Even though Adrian Phillips and Devin McCourty are both playing out the final year of their contracts in 2021, safety isn’t the biggest hole in the Patriots roster. But the 2020 Rose Bowl Defensive MVP could make a name for himself as a special teams stud.
- Baltimore Ravens - Another spot where Breeze could make an immediate impact. Breeze’s toughness will translate to any team that picks him, and learning from a defensive-minded coach like John Harbaugh could help him thrive at the next level.
- Houston Texans - The Texans are desperate for a defensive playmaker and someone who can force turnovers. They finished dead last in the NFL in 2020 in forced turnovers with nine, and Breeze recorded three defensive touchdowns in 2019 — tied for the most in the country.
Jordon Scott - Defensive Tackle
- Chicago Bears - The Bears' interior defensive line unit is looking thin with the departure of Roy Robertson-Harris and John Jenkins. A big body like Scott (6’1”, 311 pounds) would fill that gap (literally and figuratively) for Chicago.
- Tennessee Titans - The Titans don’t have a sure starter at nose tackle, and Scott has the ability and the frame to move offensive linemen at the line of scrimmage. He could be a steal late in the draft for Tennessee.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The Largo, Florida, native would play for his hometown team looking to defend its Super Bowl title. The Bucs have some solid starters on the defensive line, but just imagine Scott and Vita Vea in the middle of that defense (that’s roughly 650 pounds combined).
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Austin Faoliu - Defensive Tackle
- Kansas City Chiefs - Despite the talent on the Chiefs' defensive line, the reigning AFC champions allowed the 12th-most rushing yards in the league (1954) and forced just one fumble on rushing attempts. Defending the run has been a struggle for the Chiefs throughout Andy Reid’s tenure in Kansas City, and Faoliu was one of the best run-stoppers in the Pac-12 for several years. He could provide a boost off the bench and learn from All-Pro Chris Jones.
- Seattle Seahawks - Faoliu could be a diamond in the rough for a Seahawks team that lost Jarran Reed in free agency. Faoliu is a more athletic defensive tackle than projected starter Poona Ford and was an underrated piece for the Ducks' defense in his career. He recorded 10 tackles for loss, five sacks and three forced fumbles in four seasons.
- Jacksonville Jaguars - The Jaguars defense is miles away from the “Sacksonville” days. They allowed the third-most rushing yards in 2020 (2,452) and only sacked opposing quarterbacks 18 times, the second-fewest in the league. Faoliu would be a great fit for Urban Meyer’s team and could potentially see playing time.
Nick Pickett - Safety
- Atlanta Falcons - In 2020, the Falcons gave up the most passing yards (4,697) any team has given up in a season since the 2015 Giants (4,783). Pickett has great size and decent tackling ability, something the Falcons lacked last season.
- Los Angeles Chargers - Pickett, a Los Angeles native, could be a versatile defensive back in the NFL, with the size to play safety and the agility to play corner. The Chargers could use depth at both positions.
- Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins picked off 18 passes last season, tied for the most in the league. That number was mostly carried by All-Pro corner Xavien Howard, who had 10 interceptions, but the Dolphins still need depth at safety. The three-year Ducks starter recorded 160 career tackles and could be a valuable addition to the Fins secondary.
Hunter Kampmoyer - Tight End
- Pittsburgh Steelers - Kampmoyer, who was recruited to Oregon as a defensive end, has a limited highlight reel on offense. He caught 20 passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns in his three seasons at tight end, but he proved to be a solid blocker for Oregon. Behind Eric Ebron, the Steelers don’t have a solidified backup tight end, and Kampmoyer may be the best blocking tight end for them if he ends up in the Steel City.
- Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals have few tight ends on their roster and would love to pick up a physical tight end like Kampmoyer that can protect Kyler Murray and block for new running back James Conner.
- Jacksonville Jaguars - Kampmoyer (6’4,” 243 pounds) has a similar frame to Jaguars starter James O’Shaughnessy (6’4”, 245 pounds). The tight ends on the roster behind O’Shaughnessy have a combined 13 career receptions. Kampmoyer could be a valuable blocker for Jacksonville, and he showed promise as a pass catcher in 2020.
Former starting offensive lineman Dallas Warmack, who went undrafted in the 2020 draft, also worked out at Oregon’s Pro Day. The Alabama transfer would bring a ton of experience to any team that takes a chance on him.
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