The NFL draft remains one of the most polarizing events among sports fans. We all hate the preseason. We all love the Super Bowl. But year after year, the conversation as to whether the NFL draft is a television-worthy event remains. Its safe to assume that with football’s rising popularity, amongst the NFL and college ranks, the draft isn’t going anywhere.
Personally, I’ve always loved the draft, but then again, I’m also the type who nerds out on national signing day (the equivalent of the draft for Colleges and high-school players). There is nothing better than watching the front offices of teams I love and hate battle back and forth, trading, negotiating, and selecting what will be the future of their franchises over three days in the doldrums of the offseason.
And when a player from your school is on the big board with a chance to take the next step in their career, it makes it that much more special.
Oregon State will hear at least three of its own called out over the podium in 2014. Reigning Biletnikoff Award-winner Brandin Cooks, speedy corner Rashaad Reynolds, and the rock of the defensive line over the past three seasons, Scott Crichton, are the most highly thought of Beaver candidates in this year’s draft class. All were featured at this years combine, some fairing better than others, but all three turned in strong, respectable performances.
Cooks outstanding 2013 campaign has some projecting him as a late first-round pick landing anywhere in the 15-32. This year’s class is pretty deep at wide receiver, with the likes of Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, and USC’s Marquis Lee headlining the group with Cooks.
Watkins, Evans, and Lee all posses the size and body that NFL scouts and Quarterbacks dream about, though only Watkins has the pure speed to compete with Cooks.
Watkins, a preseason candidate for the Biletnikoff Award and the Heisman Trophy, snatched 101 receptions for 1464 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. Clemson’s dynamic offense was powered by the seemingly endless athleticism of the combination of quarterback Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins.
Boyd himself meandered into the Heisman conversation briefly and is also a 2014 NFL draft hopeful. “The experts” mock drafts lean 99.9% towards Watkins being the first receiver taken by someone like Jacksonville or Cleveland.
Mike Evans joined forces with Johnny Manziel and caught 69 passes for 1394 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Aggies in the school’s second as a member of the SEC. Evans, who only played one year of football in high school, is a shooting-guard by trade.
The Galveston, TX native was a basketball star in high school, and has managed to translate a unique brand of athleticism to the football field. Evans goes 6’5″, 225, which is a nice frame that any NFL quarterback would love to see on the outside. However, scouts have knocked his speed, as he seems to lack a “break-away” burst after the pass.
Evans is still a proven playmaker, producing four multi-touchdown games in 2014. Most have Evans going off the board quickly after Sammy Watkins.
Cooks’ desirability rises to the top of the list at this point. Marquis Lee is another guy who has a great frame and has displayed game changing athleticism throughout his time at USC, but his production decline last year and injury rumors have docked his draft stock in recent weeks.
Teams won’t be able to ignore Cooks for long after Watkins and Evans are taken. Chicago at number 14 would be an intriguing fit for Cooks, lining up with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
The New York Jets at 18 could also use a versatile threat on offense and special teams. Carolina at number 28 could also be a potential landing spot for Cooks, as the Panthers were cleaned out at receiver due to free agency acquisitions during the offseason.
Rashaad Reynolds was one of the most important pieces of the Beaver defense in 2013. Reynolds tied for the team-high with 6 interceptions racked up 61 tackles last year and capped off his Oregon State career by winning the Hawai’i Bowl Most Valuable Player award, returning a school-record 2 fumbles for touchdowns in the 38-23 Christmas Eve victory.
Reynolds did a lot for himself in the combine, posting top flight times in the 3 cone drill and 20 yard shuttle. While his size still knocks him from 1st or 2nd round potential, Reynolds is a sleeper type player, who has the experience and physical gifts to excel in the right system.
In terms of the draft, Reynolds is project as a third round pick, ranked somewhere between the 5th and 10th best corner in the class, depending on who you ask. Based on Seattle’s formula for success last year, predicated on big, physical defensive backs, Reynolds’ stock could take a hit, should the NFL be overcome by a major shift in corner defense ideology.
Large frame guys like Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State, Keith McGill from Utah, and Kyle Fuller from Virginia Tech all stand over six-feet tall, fitting into the new prototype of a physical, jamming style of play. Reynolds tips the tape at 5’10, so his size may be a question mark on draft boards.
However, Reynolds showed up big at the combine, and made heads turn with his quickness and tackling prowess. Arizona, Washington, and Detroit could all be potential suitors on day 2 of the NFL draft.
Defensive end Scott Crichton garnered his first doses of national attention after a dominant start to his career in Corvallis, earning Freshman All-American honors in 2011.
In 2012, Crichton earned all conference honors and finished 2013 second team all-conference. Crichton’s play drew double and sometimes triple team blocking schemes from offensive lines as his career progressed, steadying his stat lines over his sophomore and junior years.
Crichton finished his Beaver career with 165 tackles, 22.5 sacks, and 10 forced fumbles. #95 was a constantly feared presence on the Beaver defensive line whose presence alone took pressure off the other ten players wearing black and orange.
Much like defensive back, the defensive line in the NFL has experienced a bit of a renaissance in recent years. DEs and DLs are expected to be quick enough to drop back into rare pass coverage situations and chase quarterbacks, while at the same time, are still expected to maintain the size and physicality to stop a charging running back cold in his tracks at the line of scrimmage. Where Crichton falls in the draft will be largely influenced by the scheme in which he is drafted into.
Scouts have Crichton listed as a late second to mid third round draft pick. As everyone has already known since his famous demolition of a Michigan running back in the 2013 Outback Bowl, Jadeveon Clowney leads the class of DEs and DLs.
Crichton has been dogged for being a “tweener” due to his size. At 6’3, 273, Crichton won’t be big enough to play anywhere near the middle of the line (at least for the first year or two of his career). His quick feet benefit him greatly though, as he will most likely play DE in a rotation of a 4-3 set.
Pittsburgh has expressed interest in adding Crichton, however after the Steelers pick 14th in the second round (46th overall), the Black and Gold don’t pick again until their end of the third round compensatory pick at 97th overall.
Crichton may not be on the board by then, but if he is, Pittsburgh would be well to have the talents and services of #95. Seattle at the end of the second round would be a dream fit based on his skill set and for the chance to learn a system with one of the best defenses in the modern era.
Its just a few more hours until these three (possibly more) Beavers will dawn their new colors, logos, and numbers. While their landing spots are all up in the air, may all of them remember that they’ll always have a home in Beaver Nation.