Over the past few years, Oregon has produced some of the top prospects in the National Football League. Just last year, two Ducks were selected in the NFL draft, but that is just the beginning of a long list of Ducks who have made NFL rosters.
A veteran running back on this year’s Oregon team, redshirt junior Kani Benoit, said that the Ducks’ staff prepares its players for the NFL in more ways than one.
“This is a really good place because they prepare you not only just as a football player, but to know the business side of the NFL and what to look for, what to stay away from, what to avoid,” Benoit said. “So I think coming here probably helped me for that next stage if possible.”
This past year, Deforest Buckner (7th overall to the SanFrancisco 49ers) and Joe Walker (251st overall to the Philadelphia Eagles) were drafted, while Bralon Addison, Alex Balducci, Christian French, Tyler Johnstone and Byron Marshall were all signed as free agents.
The Seattle Seahawks released French in August, Marshall was signed to the Eagles’ practice squad, Balducci was signed to the 49ers practice squad, Johnstone was waived by the San Diego Chargers in late August and the Denver Broncos waived Addison when rosters were cut to 75.
Joe Walker tore his ACL in August and is forced to miss the upcoming season. Buckner on the other hand, is going strong with the Niners and gained valuable reps in the preseason.
Marcus Mariota may be the most notable Duck to ever be drafted. At second overall in 2015 to the Titans, no Oregon player in history has been drafted higher than Mariota. Another popular Oregon quarterback, Joey Harrington, ties for a close second as the third overall pick in 2002 with Dion Jordan to the Dolphins in 2013. Mariota is set to begin his second year as the starting signal caller in Tennessee this year as he hopes to improve upon the Titans’ 3-13 season last year. Kellen Clemens is another former Oregon QB that is still making his rounds in the NFL. This season will be Clemens’ eleventh season in the league as he backs up Phillip Rivers in San Diego.
Talented running backs are a calling card for the Ducks, and it shows with all the Oregon talent in the backfield for numerous NFL teams. Jonathon Stewart is the number one back for the Carolina Panthers, De’Anthony Thomas plays for the Kansas City Chiefs, Kenjon Barner is in Philadelphia and LeGarrette Blount plays for the New England Patriots.
Super Bowl 50
There have been 42 former Ducks who have played in a Super Bowl. Most recently, in Super Bowl 50 (Broncos versus Panthers), the Ducks had three former players on the rosters. Jonathan Stewart, Ed Dickson and T.J. Ward all played in last year’s Super Bowl, but Ward was the only one to come away with a ring. Ward joins a group of 32 former Ducks with Super Bowl rings.
Over the past summer, a few Ducks have unfortunately been plagued with injuries. After tearing his ACL while at Oregon, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu tore his ACL again in the beginning of August and was cut by the Dolphins. Hroniss Grasu, a third round pick in 2015 to the Chicago Bears, tore his ACL late in the offseason.
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