BBD Contributor: Ryan Glaze
There will be no shortage of NFL talent on display when the Texas Longhorns square off with the Oregon Ducks in the Alamo Bowl on Monday (6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN). While Oregon top quarterback prospect Marcus Mariota has announced his intentions to return to Oregon for his junior year, both teams feature a solid array of NFL talent, much of which hails from the great state of Texas, which should only add to the intrigue in San Antonio.
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas, Sr. (6’5″, 250 lbs)
Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat will likely be the first Longhorn selected in the 2014 NFL draft. Jeffcoat’s athleticism won’t be confused with that of former Longhorn pass-rusher Brian Orakpo, but he is a fluid runner who has good lateral quickness and shows tremendous balance. These attributes, along with solid length, suggest a positional versatility that will likely help his draft stock as he could project as either a strongside defensive end in a 4-3 defense or as an outside linebacker in a 3-4.
Ranked as one the nation’s top-rated recruits coming out of high school, Jeffcoat has arguably underachieved in his college career. That said, he has played with improved physicality and strength in his senior season and was selected as a consensus All-American, leading the Longhorns with 80 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 18 quarterback pressures and tied for first with three fumbles recovered.
Jeffcoat is at his best defending the run, where he is stout at the point of contact and does a good job of fighting off blockers and wrapping up. Though he only shows average burst rushing the passer, he gives persistent effort in pursuit and dips his hips well, suggesting some upside as a pass-rusher with improved technique and strength.
A torn pectoral caused the senior to miss eight games in 2012 and consecutive offseason surgeries may raise questions about his durability, though starting every game this season may assuage some of those concerns.
The son of former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Jim Jeffcoat, Jackson Jeffcoat is also a leader in the locker room who was voted a team captain and team MVP of Texas this season. If he checks out medically, Jeffcoat should be considered a safe pick with solid potential, projecting him as a second- or third-round pick.
Mike Davis, WR, Texas, Sr. (6’2″, 195 lbs)
There is a lot to like about Longhorns senior wide receiver Mike Davis as an NFL prospect. Davis has the height NFL teams covet in a go-to receiver and the deep speed to get behind secondaries and stretch defenses. Davis also shows solid run-after-the-catch abilities that make you wonder how much better he (and Texas) could have been with solid, consistent quarterback play.
Despite these gifts, Davis may struggle early in the NFL. He lacks the type of athleticism, leaping ability and body control that premier receivers like A.J. Green have.
He shows a lack of development in other aspects of his game as well. He lacks polish in his route running, getting away with rounding them out in the Big 12, a luxury he will not have in the NFL. His ability to release off the line hasn’t been challenged much either. While the senior wideout ranks fourth in career receptions (198) and receiving yards (2,741) and fifth in career receiving touchdowns (18) at Texas, he has battled inconsistent hands his entire career and will drop the occasional easy one.
Davis might be best suited to start his career out as a slot receiver.
Davis figures to be in for a fight in the Alamo Bowl. Oregon’s secondary is arguably its most talented unit on either side of the ball, and Davis will likely be matched up against Oregon’s best cover cornerback, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. The Longhorns could look to pound the ball on the ground to beat Oregon, but an unexpected big play or two from Davis could make a significant difference in the outcome.
Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas, Jr. (5’10″, 200 lbs)
Though just a junior, Texas defensive back Quandre Diggs is an intriguing NFL prospect. That he’s already started in 35 games in an talented Longhorn secondary speaks to his talents. Where to best use those talents is the question projecting him to the next level.
Diggs is an explosive, quick-twitch athlete who can get to top speed in an instant, allowing him to quickly close on receivers in zone coverage. Diggs also shows tremendous agility and balance which stands out in both his man coverage and on kickoff returns. Perhaps most impressive, however, is Diggs’ affinity for contact. Whether in run defense or in coverage, Diggs seems to love to hit.
As a corner at a generously-listed height of 5’10” and without exceptional length, Diggs might be a bit of a liability in the red zone against bigger receivers. While Diggs shows solid instincts playing the ball, he doesn’t have especially gifted hands, having recorded only eight interceptions in 38 games played, and seems to be much more comfortable making plays on the ball when playing zone coverage. Those qualities, along with his willingness to hit, might make Diggs a better safety prospect, reminiscent of athletic playmakers like Ed Reed. Mack Brown has had a long history of playing his four most talented defensive backs, regardless of position, and a switch at the next level wouldn’t be unprecedented for a Longhorn defensive back.
Diggs is a dangerous weapon as a returner and that should help his draft stock. Though he has yet to announce his intentions for the 2014 season, a standout Alamo Bowl against the nation’s sixth-best offense might push Diggs to go pro. A terrific athlete with high potential, Diggs would likely project somewhere between the late second to early fourth rounds.
See page 2 for a look at Oregon’s top prospects.
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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Alamo Bowl, Boseko Lokombo, Bowl Games, Bowl Previews, De'Anthony Thomas, Game Previews, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jackson Jeffcoat, Josh Huff, Mike Davis, Oregon, Prospect Previews, Quandre Diggs, Texas