Countdown to College Football Kickoff: Top NFL prospects at Oregon State

Rob Rang

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.

Oregon State Beavers

Head Coach: Jonathan Smith (third season)

2019 Record: 5-7

2020 NFL Draft Picks: Jake Luton, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars – 6th Round, No. 189 overall

Blake Brandel, OT, Minnesota Vikings – 6th Round, No. 203 overall

Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Buffalo Bills – 6th Round, No. 207 overall

Overview:

A trio of breakout performances boosted the Beavers to their best season since winning the Hawaii Bowl under Mike Riley back in 2013, giving former quarterback and current head coach Jonathan Smith the momentum needed to make Oregon State relevant in the Pac-12 again.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the biggest beneficiaries of Smith’s prolific passing attack were 2020 NFL draft picks Jake Luton and wideout Isaiah Hodgins, who went from starters to superstars in the conference last year. The unquestioned starter for the first time in his career, Luton would jump from 10 touchdowns tossed over eight games in 2019 to a sterling 28-3 touchdown to interception ratio last year, completing 62% of his passes for 2,714 yards and earning honorable mention all Pac-12 honors.

Hodgins was even better, leading the conference with 13 receiving touchdowns, while finishing tied for second in receptions (86) and third in receiving yardage (1,171) last season, generating First Team All-Pac-12 honors from the AP and Phil Steele, as well as Second Team accolades from the league’s coaches.

Quietly, fellow NFL draft pick Blake Brandel was arguably the best of the bunch, starting 49 games over his career and allowing just a single sack last season.

Replacing the trio – OSU’s richest draft class since 2015 – will be difficult. The Beavers averaged a healthy 31.2 points per game last year. Barring quick development from new starting quarterback Tristan Gebbia, the opposition could be free to tee off on redshirt junior running back Jermar Jefferson.

Fortunately, there is talent returning on defense, highlighted by the conference’s leading pass rusher Hamilcar Rashed, Jr.

Further, the Beavers showed last year that they are building a foundation for the future, surprising Cal, Arizona State and UCLA last year – all on the road.

The Beavers will be hoping to exact a little revenge at home on Washington State in their scheduled opener September 26 after falling to the Cougars 54-53 on the road a year ago. 

Featured 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Hamilcar Rashed, Jr., DE, 6-2, 245, 4.70, SR

As important as Luton and the passing game was to Oregon State’s rise a year ago, the primary catalyst for the team’s success (among players) and the best NFL prospect on the roster was Rashed, Jr., who simply led the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss and finished third with 14 sacks, setting single-season school records in both categories.

Rashed’s questionable frame (he’s listed at 6-4, 248 pounds by Oregon State) is one of the reasons why he wasn’t more highly regarded as a prep prospect out of Arizona but teams have proven increasingly willing to sacrifice size for speed when it comes to affecting the quarterback. He signed with the Beavers as the seventh rated prospect out of the state of Arizona (according to some recruiting experts) back in 2016 but redshirted his first year in Corvalis in an attempt to get bigger.

Rashed played in all 12 games in 2017 but recorded just six tackles. His ability to disrupt caught Smith’s attention in his first year back on campus, however, and Rashed emerged as a 10-game starter for the Beavers in 2018, jumping to 58 tackles, including 11.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Rashed – whose full name is pronounced Ham-ih-cuh Rah-SHEED – topped those sack numbers in a single game during last year’s breakout. In fact, he did it twice, recording three sacks against Cal and Arizona, alike, helping the Beavers upset their conference foes on their home fields. He had two sacks against Stanford, Arizona State and Cal Poly, as well, recording at least one tackle for loss in every game last year except the Civil War showdown with rival Oregon and their blue chip left tackle Penei Sewell.

Rashed was limited in the final two games of the year, however, playing through a broken thumb which forced him to wear a heavy cast and played a role in his deciding to pass up a chance at the 2020 NFL draft.

In returning, Rashed, Jr. gives Oregon State its flashiest NFL prospect since Brandin Cooks earned the 20 overall pick of the 2014 draft and their first defender with a chance at a top 32 grade since the Green Bay Packers selected another edge rusher, Nick Barnett, 29th overall way back in 2003.

Strengths: Good-looking athlete on the hoof with broad shoulders, long arms, a tapered middle and a bulked-up frame which speaks to time spent in the weight room. Good initial quickness off the snap to pressure the edge whether rushing out of the two or three point stance. Best attribute might be Rashed’s lateral agility, balance and flexibility to elude blockers in tight spaces.

He can scrape the corner and is slippery up close, showing the elusiveness and quick hands to break free and make plays in traffic despite often giving up 50+ pounds on most snaps. Pairs his upper and lower body nicely, showing a smooth swim move and balance in his spin, as well as sharp lateral dekes and counters.

Surprisingly strong, using his length, pad level and speed to generate enough power for effective bull rushes.

At his best rushing the quarterback but shows enough awareness and body control to drop into space. Pursues well laterally, using his hands to fend off would-be blockers and sprawling effectively to keep his feet. Closes quickly, showing a nice, late burst. Uses his long and strong hands to latch onto ballcarriers, dragging them to the turf. Developing awareness of passing lanes, breaking up five passes over the past two years, including one last year vs. Cal (which resulted in a teammates’ interception). Smart player. Changes his gait and sets up opponents, lulling them to sleep. Times the snap, paying attention to down/distance and time on the snap count to get an advantage.

Plays hard. Generates a lot of his hits on the quarterback simply because he plays until the echo of the whistle…

Weaknesses: Undersized edge rusher, who lacks the elite burst to force tackles immediately onto their heels. Reliant on his quickness and balance to slip by would-be blockers in the running game, getting blown off the ball too often when blockers are able to latch on. Often substituted and moved around in a highly aggressive scheme which creates enviable matchups for Rashed, Jr. to exploit. Generates a lot of his production off of so-called “coverage sacks,” getting effectively contained for much of the snap before breaking free from his opponent late.

NFL Player Comparison: Harold Landry, Tennessee Titans – The 6-2, 252 pound Landry was a pass rushing superstar at Boston College and yet fell into the second round of the 2018 draft as teams questioned his fit in the NFL. While perhaps lacking elite initial burst and length, Landry and Rashed, Jr. both each possess enough awareness, flexibility and late suddenness to slip past blockers and make splashy plays near the line of scrimmage.

Current NFL Draft Projection: Second-Third Round

The Top 10 NFL Prospects at Oregon State:

1. Hamilcar Rashed, Jr., OLB, 6-2, 245, 4.70, SR

2. Jermar Jefferson, RB, 5-09, 216, 4.55, rJR

3. Avery Roberts, ILB, 6-0, 230, 4.65, rJR

4. Isaiah Dunn, CB, 6-0, 183, 4.55, SR

5. Jaydon Grant, CB, 6-0, 180, 4.55, rJR

6. David Morris, S, 6-2, 210, 4.60, rJR

7. Trevon Bradford, WR, 5-11, 182, 4.45, rSR

8. John McCartan, OLB, 6-4, 220, 4.75, JR

9. Teagan Quitoriano, TE, 6-5, 255, 4.85, JR

10. Isaac Hodgins, DE, 6-0, 270, 4.85, JR

*All 40-yard dash times are estimates

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