De’Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon, Jr. (5’9”, 169 lbs)
When De’Anthony Thomas switched from USC to Oregon in the final moments of his recruitment, the plan was for him to play all over the field. Due to transfers and injuries at the running back position, Thomas has played primarily at running back for the Ducks.
Projecting him to the NFL, however, Thomas is simply not big enough to be a full-time running back in the NFL. His lack of size has resulted in ball security and injury issues, and he doesn’t possess the vision and instincts required to be an NFL-caliber back.
Any team who drafts Thomas will be doing so projecting what he could be in a multi-purpose role out of the slot, similar to Tavon Austin of the St. Louis Rams and Percy Harvin of the Seattle Seahawks. Though he runs decent routes and has adequate hands, his lack of experience playing receiver at Oregon will be evident when compared to the aforementioned gadget players.
A rarely explosive and multi-talented athlete, Thomas blends world-class speed with tremendous agility, the ability to start and stop on a dime and the toughness of much bigger players. He is a home run threat every time he touches the football.
Thomas has yet to announce his intentions for the 2014 NFL draft. Any general manager drafting Thomas will likely do so based largely upon his long-term potential, though some of the risk associated with drafting Thomas might be mitigated by his ability to contribute immediately on special teams, both in kickoff coverage and as a dangerous return man. Should he indeed declare for the 2014 draft, Thomas’ athleticism could land him in the second round, but he is a high-risk, high-reward player whose abilities could make a team fall in love with him.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon, Jr. (5’10”, 185 lbs)
When you score as often and as quickly as the Ducks have in recent years, your defense is going to see plenty of playing time. After seeing significant playing time in every game of his three-year career at Oregon, junior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has certainly seen his share of playing time. So how, with only seven career interceptions could Ekpre-Olomu possibly be considered a top-50 pick? He’s so good in coverage that most of the Pac-12 has stopped throwing at him.
The Ducks’ shutdown cornerback won’t be the fastest, biggest or strongest in the draft, but he might be the most well-prepared and fundamentally sound.
Ekpre-Olomu has just about everything an NFL team is looking for in a stud corner. He is rarely fooled on double moves thanks to phenomenal footwork and terrific instincts. He shows good physicality and punch at the line to reroute receivers. He has loose hips, great balance and more than enough make-up speed to compete on an island with opponents’ best receivers. Most of all, Ekpre-Olomu is physical and relentlessly competitive.
Ekpre-Olomu has yet to announce whether or not he will enter the 2014 NFL draft, though a report last week from Will Rubin of 247Sports said he is expected to return for his senior season. Whether he leaves after this season or next, his strengths, weaknesses and projection will likely remain very much the same.
At the next level he may lack the top-end speed to be a true “on-an-island” cornerback, but he should be a solid No. 2 cornerback at worst. While his jam at the line has been good enough in the Pac-12, he’ll need to continue to hone those skills in order to compete in the NFL.
Josh Huff, WR, Oregon, Sr. (5’11’, 202 lbs)
The motto at Oregon for their wide receivers is “no block, no rock,” and no Duck has taken that more to heart than senior Josh Huff, who gives everything he has as a run block. As the NFL shifts toward the spread offense, Huff’s effort in blocking for Oregon running backs will likely stand out to coaches as they review his film.
Huff’s toughness shows up in other ways as well. A converted high school running back, Huff runs hard after the catch and rarely goes down on first contact. Huff also shows mental toughness, fighting through nagging injuries for the first three years of his college career while maintaining a leadership role in the locker room.
Though he doesn’t possess elite athleticism or size, Huff is big enough to compete in the NFL and a good enough athlete to succeed. While nothing stands out about his game as exceptional, he has above-average speed, solid hands and runs good routes. Huff won’t enter the draft with many question marks; the biggest knock on him might be the simplicity Oregon’s offense and whether he will be able to pick up more complex NFL offenses.
Huff projects to be a mid-round pick and might draw comparisons to former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward. He will likely never be a dominant receiver in the NFL, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Huff carves out a nice career in the league.
Finally healthy, Huff has truly broken out in 2013. As a team leader and Marcus Mariota’s go-to target, Huff leads Oregon with 57 receptions, 1,036 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns. The Houston native will look to have a strong performance in front of friends and family as the Alamo Bowl marks his final collegiate game.
Boseko Lokombo, OLB, Oregon, Sr. (6’3”, 229 lbs)
Boseko Lokombo came to the Ducks as an extremely athletic linebacker with solid instincts and the frame to become a star. After the graduations of linebackers Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso and team captain Michael Clay last season, the 2013 season appeared to be Lokombo’s chance to shine. Instead, Lokombo has been somewhat of a dud, frequently looking lost or getting overpowered.
The Ducks’ entire linebacking corps has been the team’s biggest disappointment this season as Pac-12 offenses ran roughshod over them in the second half of the season. After a month off, and knowing the Longhorns will try to establish the run, that entire unit and Lokombo specifically should look to turn in a bounce-back performance.
Lokombo has NFL-level athleticism, length and abilities, but has always looked like more of an athlete than a linebacker. Best fit as an at outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, Lokombo is a project who could develop into an eventual steal at the back end of the draft.
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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