2014 NFL Draft: Scouting Notes from Stanford vs. Oregon

Marcus MariotaMore than 20 NFL teams were represented in Palo Alto to watch one of the more anticipated games of the 2013 college football season.  Needless to say, it wasn’t quite the outcome many were expecting as Stanford stymied Oregon to a season-low 20 points on their way to a huge win. 

The stories of the night were Stanford’s dominant offensive line and Oregon’s inability to get any sort of rhythm on offense.  Regardless, scouts got to see some of football’s best prospects play against top competition.  We saw the ceilings of some prospects, while others exposed their floors.

(RsSoph) Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon, (#8), 6’4, 215
This was Mariota’s worst game of his career at Oregon.  Unfortunately, for Marcus, it was in front of several NFL personnel executives and a national Thursday night audience.  It was apparent from the start that a sprained MCL he’s playing through limited his ability to make plays with his feet and add the extra dynamic that makes Oregon’s offense so explosive.  While he still maneuvered well in the pocket and on roll outs, he didn’t exude the same confidence we’re accustomed to seeing.  He was pressured all night and had a tough time settling his feet and resetting before throws.  This caused inaccuracies down the field and even some misfires on rather routine throws.  He flashed some of that big play arm talent late in the game but it was too late by then.  Overall, this game shouldn’t cause his stock to plummet severely, but it is a reminder that he is still very young, having just turned 20 nine days ago.  

(JR) David Yankey, OG, Stanford, (#54), 6’5, 311
While the entire offensive line dominated, the guard play was particularly impressive starting with Yankey.  He put on a clinic on pulls uncoiling out of his stance quickly and using nimble footwork to wrap around the line to engage moving targets all night.  His awareness was outstanding scooping up to find 2nd level defenders to block once he chipped his first points of contact at the line of scrimmage.  He isn’t a road grader but he’s got plenty of functional strength that should translate well to the NFL game.

Kevin Danser, OG, Stanford, (#76), 6’6, 301
Yankey is the big name on the Cardinal offensive line but Danser has had a very good season thus far and his impressive play continued in Thursday’s contest.  He looks bigger on film than his listed weight indicates and he consistently wins at the point of attack.  He excels in the run game so this film may as well be his highlight reel with Stanford running the ball 66 times.  Danser isn’t quite the athlete Yankey is, but he does show a technician’s footwork and balance to maneuver in space and engage moving targets.  Oregon’s defenders are very athletic so Danser helped his stock by consistently climbing to the second level and neutralizing their speed and quickness.

Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford, (#11), 6’3, 244
Skov is playing at an all-time high and continues to impact games in multiple ways.  He led the team in tackles and made what might have been the play of the night after running down De’Anthony Thomas in the red zone before forcing and recovering a fumble.  Like many of his big plays all season, it was a momentum shifter.  He continued to show impeccable timing on blitzes and is an absolute bull coming up the A gaps.  Skov isn’t a special athlete but he anticipates extremely well and took outstanding angles to the ball all night to limit yardage.

Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford, (#93), 6’6, 261
Murphy didn’t do much to the stat sheet but he was a force all night.  He was doubled on most plays but he still made his presence felt collapsing the pocket and forcing Mariota into uncomfortable situations.  Early in the first half, Murphy displayed his quick first step to put the tackle on his heels early and dropped his weight to collapse the edge resulting in a half-sack he shared with Henry Anderson.  He seems more comfortable playing from the standup position but he has the size and length to set the edge with his hand in the dirt.

Other Notes
(JR) Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford, (#7), 6’2, 215
With only 13 attempted passes, Montgomery simply wasn’t going to be a big part of Stanford’s game plan.  But, like most playmakers, he still found a way to make his presence felt by returning a kick 57 yards to start the second half.  He is outstanding with the ball in his hands demonstrating patience with his blockers and special acceleration for his size.

(JR) Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon, (#27), 6’0, 190
After a solid start to the season, Mitchell was tested on occasion in this game and he was disappointing.  He wins by using his length and physicality but his average long speed was exposed when he was beat deep by one of Stanford’s faster receivers for a 47-yard gain.  While his competitiveness and tenacity are assets, he may not have the foot speed to compete at a high level in the NFL. 

Taylor Hart, DT, Oregon, (#66), 6’6, 292
Put simply, Hart looked in over his head for the majority of the game.  This shouldn’t surprise anyone as he is a DE/DT hybrid best suited as a 3 technique. He just isn’t the type of player who clogs gaps against the power run, which is what Stanford’s power run schemes required him to do.  Hart used his length well to keep from getting engulfed on every play but he simply didn’t have the anchor or girth to make the plays needed.  Hart remains a top prospect as long as teams adhere to his strengths and limitations at the next level.

Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford, (#25), 6’1, 220
Gaffney is the epitome of a “what you see is what you get” prospect.  He gained 157 yards on a school record 45 carries with only one attempt resulting in negative yardage. But, as impressive as his night was, you just didn’t see anything that made you say “wow”.  He lacks any special qualities as a running back but he’s a hard-nosed runner and has been very productive behind an exceptional offensive line.  He could be a late pick-up for a team that runs a zone scheme but chances are he’ll end up a priority free agent.

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