Countdown to College Football Kickoff: Top NFL prospects at Oregon
College football is scheduled to return Saturday, August 29. Each day until then, NFLDraftScout.com will be evaluating the rosters of the best teams in college football, including all 64 within the Power Five conferences.
Head Coach: Mario Cristobal (third season)
2019 Record: 12-2
2020 NFL Draft Picks: Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers – 1st Round, No. 6 overall
Troy Dye, ILB, Minnesota Vikings – 4th Round, No. 132 overall
Shane Lemieux, OG, New York Giants – 5th Round, No. 150 overall
Jake Hanson, C, Green Bay Packers – 6th Round, No. 208 overall
The 2019 season was a magical one in Eugene, kicked off by homegrown star quarterback Justin Herbert putting off his NFL dreams to return for his senior campaign.
Doing so came with personal risk for Herbert, of course, but it worked beautifully for he and the Ducks, as they glided through the Pac-12 schedule at 9-1, taking back the conference title from rival Washington and culminating the season with a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin and a 5 placed landing in the final AP poll.
The only two blemishes in Oregon’s 2019 campaign was a 27-21 season-opening loss to Auburn (which finished 14 in the final polls) and a 31-28 upset in Tempe at the hands of an improving Arizona State squad, meaning that the Ducks’ two losses were by a total of nine points – not much when the team averaged 35.4 per game.
Talents like Herbert, of course, are pretty rare and how head coach Mario Cristobal is able to replace the production and leadership lost with the star quarterback now taking snaps for the Los Angeles Chargers is clearly the biggest question facing his squad in 2020.
Currently, the Ducks have just four quarterbacks on the roster with redshirt sophomore Tyler Shough the only one to have actually completed a pass during a college football game. Shough competed 12 of 15 passes last year for 144 yards and three touchdowns without throwing an interception.
The rest of the roster is loaded with talent, however, with Oregon boasting one of the great secondaries in the entire country, arguably the top NFL prospect in the land at left tackle and a future brighter than the sun reflecting off the Willamette River in July with true sophomores Kayvon Thibodeaux (DE), Verone McKinley III (DB) and Mycah Pittman (WR) already flashing professional grade skill-sets.
Featured 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Penei Sewell, OT, 6-5, 325, 4.90, JR
In just two seasons at the college level, the prototypically-built Sewell has already established himself as one of the elite blockers in Pac-12 history, becoming the first sophomore offensive lineman to ever win the Morris Trophy and one of the few in national history to win the prestigious Outland Trophy (as the country’s best blocker) in just his second season.
It is difficult to discuss Sewell, the nation's top blocker, and not threaten hyperbole. A consensus four-star recruit who could have signed with any program in the country, Sewell won the starting left tackle job his first summer in Eugene. He was given the unenviable task of replacing 2017 Morris Trophy winner – and current Detroit Lions blocker – Tyrell Crosby as the blindside protector for star quarterback Justin Herbert and actually improved the level of play at the key position, becoming the first freshman in team history to earn all-conference accolades. In 2019, behind Sewell and a senior-laden offensive line, the Ducks soared to Pac-12 and Rose Bowl championships, accumulating an average of 450.7 yards and 35.9 points per game with Sewell becoming just the third player in Oregon’s history to be named a unanimous All-American, joining Marcus Mariota and LaMichael James.
The massive and freakishly athletic Sewell appears to be in prime position to become the first back-to-back winner Morris Trophy winner on the offensive line since former Cal center Alex Mack – a six time Pro Bowler and first round NFL draft pick – won in 2007 and 2008.
Strengths: Already possesses an NFL-caliber frame and power and he’s still a teenager, literally not turning 20 years old until October, 2020... Prototypical frame with broad shoulders, long limbs and excellent weight distribution. A naturally large man who isn’t carrying extra, needless weight. Shockingly quick and agile for a man of his size, dancing off the line of scrimmage and zipping to the second level.
Adjusts on the fly, showing an almost unfair combination of balance, agility and awareness. The proverbial bear in a china closet in space, not only intimidating the smaller defensive backs by getting in their way but actually catching and obliterating them.
Capable of making difficult down and seal blocks due to his quickness and power. Terrific grip strength and upper body power to lock on and lockout defenders, often rendering them useless once he gets his hands on them. Accelerates smoothly and generates knockdown power through his hips, driving opponents off the line of scrimmage. Isn’t a cheap shot artist but shows plenty of nasty on double-team blocks, looking to knock defenders to the ground when they are occupied with others…
Natural knee bender with the core strength to remain balanced against bull rushers, sinking his hips and anchoring. Sees twists and stunts coming and reacts quickly, passing off one defender to latch onto another. No known injury or off-field issues.
Weaknesses: Able to dominate opponents at this level with just his natural tools and can’t forget his technique if he is maximize his talents… Pad level rises as he tires and will get away with leaning into defenders, at times. Almost too athletic for his own good, attempting to make extra blocks that can border on illegal, extending his arms too far outside of his frame or hitting defenders on the side or back.
Protected his first two seasons by one of the most experienced supporting casts in college football, including Lemieux, who started the past 52 consecutive games at left guard for the Ducks. Relative lack of dominant DL (including speed rushers) in the Pac-12 raises questions for some Sewell’s level of competition…
NFL Player Comparison: Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers – The 6-5, 320 pound Williams was the fourth overall selection of the 2010 draft and has been voted to seven Pro Bowls since, dominating the NFL’s defensive lineman with his remarkable blend of size, strength and athleticism (he was timed at 4.88 seconds in the 40 yard dash). Like Williams, Sewell is a top five lock and future Pro Bowl fixture.
Current NFL Draft Projection: First Round
The Top 10 NFL Prospects at Oregon
1. Penei Sewell, OT, 6-5, 325, 4.90, JR
2. Jevon Hollard, S, 6-1, 196, 4.45, JR
3. CJ Verdell, RB, 5-09, 210, 4.45, rJR
4. Brady Breeze, S, 6-0, 196, 4.55, SR
5. Austin Faoliu, DT, 6-3, 293, 4.95, SR
6. Thomas Graham, Jr., CB, 5-10, 197, 4.50, SR
7. Deommodore Lenoir, CB, 5-11, 202, 4.50, SR
8. Isaac Slade-Matautia, ILB, 6-0, 235, 4.60, rJR
9. Johnny Johnson III, WR, 6-0, 199, 4.45, SR
10. Jordon Scott, DT, 6-1, 322, 5.25, SR
*All 40-yard dash times are estimates