Life In LC

Ducks In the Draft

in Firehose/Rotator/The Sports Desk by

Alex Shoemaker, EDN Sports Editor

NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. (Photo credit: Howard Smith/US PRESSWIRE)

With the conclusion of the 2012 NFL Draft, what might be more shocking to Ducks fans are the players who were not taken as opposed to those who were.

While the University of Oregon is the only football program to play in three consecutive BCS Bowl games, only four players were drafted with three coming off the boards in the 5th, 6th and 7th rounds.

But with each round a Duck went undrafted, it reemphasized just how great of a coach Chip Kelly really is.

What truly makes a coach special, is getting the most out of his players and being able to win with what he’s got.

Oregon has not been one of the top teams in the draft year-in and year-out, but they find a way to win with the good players they have.

How else would they be the reigning three-time conference champions, and the ones to dethrone the Trojans of USC?

Four players from the Ducks were drafted, and two more signed in free agency.

Here’s a look at who from the Ducks was drafted, signed in free agency, and still waiting to get that phone call.

Those Taken in the Draft

LaMichael James: Round 2 Pick 29 (61) to 49ers

James was the first to go off the boards for the Oregon Ducks, patiently waiting for his name to be called. Nearing the end of the second round, Ducks fans were beginning to worry about James’ chances of dropping down the board as team after team passed on him.

Finally, he found his home – the San Francisco 49ers.

“I’m so thankful to be in the position I’m in thank you god for blessing me lets go 49ers words can’t express how I feel!” James tweeted on Friday, just after his name was announced.

James’ lone concern will be finding his role on a stacked 49ers depth chart at running back. Lucky for James, he’s one of a kind.

“There seems to be no reason why James cannot find success in the NFL on the same level as someone like Darren Sproles,” said Joe Penkala, a featured writer for Bleacher Report. “Like Sproles, LaMichael James can make up for a lack of size with agility, speed and elusiveness.”

The 49ers, led by power back Frank Gore, have all big backs on their roster, with James now being the compliment “speed back”. I have no doubts James will be on the active roster for the start of the season.

James joins former Ducks defensive tackle Will Tukuafu.

Josh Kaddu: Round 5 Pick 20 (155) to Dolphins

Kaddu, an underrated and often overlooked linebacker over the past three years, was the next Duck to be drafted. Kaddu will join a rebuilding Miami Dolphins team, a team still looking for an identity.

“So excited to be a part of the @MiamiDolphins #blessed” Kaddu said via his Twitter account.

Kaddu received numerous shoot-outs from numerous Ducks, including former Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews who now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Being taken with a late draft pick, Kaddu will have to compete to earn a spot on team. Spring and summer practices will go a long way in determining his role on the team.

Kaddu may be asked to play special teams, or scout team, if a role on the defense isn’t available.

Mark Asper: Round 6 Pick 8 (178) to Bills

Asper followed in suit, becoming the third Duck to come off of the board.

When the Buffalo Bills took Asper with eighth pick in the sixth round, he became the first Ducks offensive lineman to be drafted since Fenuki Tupou in 2009 to the Philadelphia Eagles. Asper will be a strong addition to the Bills, and could see playing time after a few years of adjusting to the league.

He joins former Ducks’ safety Jairus Byrd with the Bills.

David Paulson: Round 7 Pick 33 (240) to Steelers

The final Oregon Duck drafted was Paulson late in the seventh round.

Fans were beginning to worry that the loveable tight end from Renton, WA would go undrafted after three standout years in college.’’ During his three seasons with the Ducks, Paulson recorded 67 receptions for 1,041 yards (15.5 YPC) with 10 TDs.

Paulson would have joined former Oregon great Dennis Dixon, but the one time Ducks quarterback was cut from the team.

Those Not Taken in the Draft

Darron Thomas

After a shocking decision to enter the NFL Draft, for Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas went undrafted. This prompts more questions of why Thomas chose to leave school early and forgo another chance at a national championship.

Thomas has yet to be signed, but his agent Drew Rosenhaus has yet to express concern on the situation.

During his time at Oregon, Thomas passed for 5,910 yards and a school record 66 career TDs. Thomas also rushed for 719 yards and nine TDs.

The Houston, TX native will look for a team to acquire his talents this offseason.

Cliff Harris

Harris also went undrafted, after a rocky career at Oregon, but didn’t have to wait long to hear from NFL teams. Harris has signed a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles and could see immediate playing time if he impresses in practices.

Philadelphia’s acquisition of Harris is similar to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ signing of LaGarrette Blount a few years ago, with character issues playing a large part of him going undrafted.

The Eagles have decided to take a chance on Harris, arguably the most talented player who went undrafted, and it could pay great dividends in the long run. Philadelphia will have to replace starting cornerback Asante Samuel (Atlanta Falcons) this offseason, and while Harris will likely not be the frontrunner for the job, he’ll be in the hunt for significant playing time.

Haris joins former Ducks linebacker Casey Matthews in Philadelphia.

Eddie Pleasant

It’s hard to imagine the Ducks defense without Eddie Pleasant. In fact, it’s hard to remember a team without him roaming around, ready to pounce on a unsuspecting victim.

Pleasant has been such a vital part of Nick Alliotti’s defense for the past four seasons, it will difficult to replace his leadership and experience.

After playing as a linebacker for his first two seasons, Pleasant switched to rover/strong safety for his final two seasons to fix a glaring hole in the defensive backfield. While Pleasant might have been more suited as a linebacker, he transitioned relatively smoothly a found a nice role on defense.

Questions have been asked about his ability to cover in the secondary, but he silenced most of his critics with a two-interception performance against Washington last season.

Pleasant was picked up by the Houston Texans. He joins Ra’Shon Harris and Jeff Maehl.

Lavasier Tuinei

It’s hard to imagine what more Tuinei could have done to solidify his draft stock. I mean, what more do you want from the 2012 Rose Bowl offensive MVP?

Tuinei went undrafted but was quickly picked up by the Seattle Seahawks. He joins a depleted offense that was one of the worst in the entire NFL. His presence could be felt immediately.

Tuinei joins Walter Thurmond III and Max Unger in Seattle.

Terrell Turner

Turner unfortunately went undrafted as well, with questions about his role in the NFL. While listed at 273 LBS, some scouts questioned if he had the size and strength to be an NFL defensive linemen.

Turner will wait to see if a team will sign him. If not, he plans on returning to school and possibly pursuing a master’s degree.

Darrion Weems

Weems was the final Duck to be signed to a contract, as has been announced, accepting a deal with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings drafted OT Matt Kilil (USC) with the No. 4 pick in the draft, so Weems is not expected to compete for the starting job. But as is the risk of injury in the NFL, you can never have too many linemen.

Weems addresses a big area of concern for the Vikings: depth on the offensive line. There is a great chance Weems will be on the roster for the start of the NFL season.

Weems joins former Duck Geoff Schwartz on the offensive line.

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