Oregon Ducks: Desmond Trufant

Pac-12 leads all-under-25 NFL team

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
7:00
PM ET
Elliot Harrison of NFL.com wanted to make a list of up-and-coming NFL players, so he tapped an all-under-25 NFL team, and nine of his 26 selections played in the Pac-12.

Not only that, the conference, stereotyped as offense-first, had just as many defensive players -- four -- as offense. And his omission of Star Lotulelei, the former Utah defense tackle now starring for the Carolina Panthers, is notable because he finished fourth in the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year vote.

Further, these nine guys came from seven conference teams, so this isn't just about USC's pipeline of five-star recruits to the NFL.

Here's the Pac-12 players on his team.

Offense
QB Andrew Luck (Stanford), Indianapolis Colts
WR Keenan Allen (California), San Diego Chargers
OT Tyron Smith (USC), Dallas Cowboys
OG David DeCastro (Stanford), Pittsburgh Steelers

Defense
DT Jurrell Casey (USC), Tennessee Titans
LB Vontaze Burfict (Arizona State), Cincinnati Bengals
LB Kiko Alonso (Oregon), Buffalo Bills
CB Desmond Trufant (Washington), Atlanta Falcons

Special teams
P Johnny Hekker (Oregon State), St. Louis Rams

Of these players, only Burfict and Allen received high recruiting rankings from ESPN.com. Burfict was the nation's No. 1 inside linebacker and Allen was the nation's No. 5 "athlete." ESPN.com ranked Luck the nation's seventh-best quarterback in 2008.

Casey, DeCastro, Trufant and Alonso rated as solid to off-the-radar prospects in most recruiting rankings.

So, again, the best response when Pac-12 teams don't rate highly in recruiting rankings to shrug and move on with your day.

 
ESPN's Todd McShay recently released his latest mock draft -- and there was a lot of movement involving the Pac-12 players projected to go in the first round.

And, for the first time, McShay taps into the second round. You can see the complete mock draft here Insider.

One of the biggest movers was Oregon's Dion Jordan, whom McShay now projects to go second overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. McShay had Jordan projected as the No. 6 overall pick last month.
Jordan is the top pass-rusher in this class, but that's not all he can do. His fluidity and range in coverage are rare for a DE/OLB prospect with his length. He wouldn't be a great fit in many 4-3 defenses, but his ability to get after the passer when turned loose upfield, as well as drop into coverage from a two- or three-point stance, is ideal for the scheme new head coach Gus Bradley and defensive coordinator Bob Babich are bringing to town.

The biggest drop was California wide receiver Keenan Allen -- who was No. 12 last month and checked in at No. 25 in the latest mock. McShay has him slated for the Minnesota Vikings.
Many of the players coming off the board in this area would make sense for the Vikings, who are in something of a sweet spot late in the first round. They can sit tight and be fairly certain of getting a player who addresses a need and is nearly top-10 quality but will cost far less. In Allen's case, that means a receiver with good body control and hands who could become a very good No. 2 receiver at the next level.

Another player dropping was Utah's Star Lotulelei, who went from No. 1 overall to No. 11. It's worth noting that McShay's projection came out before Monday's Salt Lake Tribune story that after testing, Lotulelei's heart showed "no evidence of dysfunction." So expect his draft stock to trend up with this news.

Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant jumps from first-round maybe to No. 21 and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Corner is a top need for Cincinnati on the other side of the ball, and now that Trufant has verified his top-end speed his suddenness, balance and closing burst give him the look of a very good man-cover corner at the next level. Scouts I've talked to are also impressed with his professional demeanor, and the bottom line is that teams can never have enough good cover guys in today's pass-happy NFL.

Players projected for the second round include USC quarterback Matt Barkley, Stanford tight end Zach Ertz (potentially reuniting with Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco), Oregon guard Kyle Long and USC wide receiver Robert Woods.
David PaulsonJim Z. Rider/US PresswireWashington native David Paulson was a formidable weapon at tight end for the Ducks and now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Most elite football programs work to build their rosters from the inside out. The same can be said in recruiting. Put a fence around your state or region in order to sign all the local talent and build around those players.

Schools such as USC, Texas, Florida State, Miami and nearly every other school in the South all have the ability to fill at least half of their recruiting classes with players from within a few hours of campus. What makes the rise of the Oregon football program so unique is that its home state is in the lower third of all states in producing Division I talent.

The Ducks have never had the benefit of loading up on local players who dreamt of being Ducks. The truth is, they never will. The Ducks have been able to adjust and piece together recruiting classes full of talent from around the country while adding local stars any time they have the chance.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ESPN 300 Ranking Motivates Byron Cowart
After a recent rise into the top 10 overall, defensive end Byron Cowart of Armwood (Seffner, Fla.) joins ESPN's Matt Schick to discuss recruiting and the new ESPN 300.Tags: Byron Cowart, Armwood, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Matt Schick
VIDEO PLAYLIST video