Ranked the fourth-highest recruiting class of 2021, Oregon has now cracked the top 10 three times in as many years, according to 247Sports.
There’s no better place to see the impact of Oregon’s recruiting than the field itself. Through just four games, Oregon has already been forced to dig deep on its bench to replace the number of injuries sustained. The team still hasn’t skipped a beat, as they sit No. 3 in the country heading into October.
Another way to see the effect of Oregon’s recruiting is on the NFL gridiron. Many of the players recently drafted out of Oregon have already made an influence on their respective NFL teams through just two weeks. Here’s how some of the former Ducks are holding up.
Lenoir has made an instant impact playing defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers. After an impressive preseason where he recorded an interception in his first game, Lenoir got the starting nod in week one against the Detroit Lions.
In that 41-33 victory, Lenoir played all 90 defensive snaps — the most by any player that week. He also showed versatility by lining up on special teams.
Lenoir was thrown at just three times in those 90 snaps. Of those three passes, only one of them was completed for three yards. With eight tackles through two games and a banged-up 49ers defense, it’s hard to imagine Lenoir won’t see tons of reps in the San Francisco secondary for the rest of the year.
Since being drafted in 2020, Johnson has made the shift from wide receiver to tight end for the New Orleans Saints.
In his rookie season, while playing behind a plethora of talented skill players, Johnson hauled in just four passes for 39 yards. He teeter-tottered from the Saints practice squad to the 53-man roster all season without landing a steady role — until now.
Thanks to injuries and a few players finding new teams, Johnson has become a prominent target for the Saints in 2021. In fact, in their week one blowout over the Green Bay Packers, Johnson used his long and bulky frame to haul in two difficult touchdown passes. It’s apparent that he’s one of Saints quarterback Jameis Winston’s favorite red-zone targets early this season.
After just taking two games to one-up his statistics from 2020, Johnson’s new role looks to play heavily into the Saints 2021 game plan.
Holland, one of the many Ducks to opt-out of the 2020 COVID-shortened season, has looked sharp in his limited opportunities thus far for the Miami Dolphins.
Unlike everyone on this list, Holland doesn’t start for his respective team. A big reason for this is because the Dolphins secondary is loaded with talent and is one of the best in the NFL. But one couldn’t tell by their week two 35-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
In the blowout loss, the 2021 second-round pick did a sufficient job by tackling three Bills and recovering a fumble. That increases his early-season total to five tackles. Through two weeks, Holland is Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded defensive rookie with a mark of 85.2.
As Holland currently sits second on the depth chart with names surrounding him like Byron Jones, Xavien Howard and Jason McCourty, being a backup and learning from some of the league’s best may not be a bad thing.
Sewell was another Duck to forgo the 2020 college season. But, entering 2021 as one of the highest-drafted Ducks in school history, he has surpassed all expectations for the Detroit Lions.
Sewell hasn’t allowed a sack playing left tackle since 2018. In the Lions’ week one loss to the 49ers, Sewell silenced former defensive rookie of the year Nick Bosa. Bosa exposed most of the offensive tackles he lined up against in his first three seasons. But, in Sewell’s first career start, Bosa was neutralized — recording just four tackles.
Week two’s 35-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers was more of the same from Sewell. The Packers’ edge rushers did damage on Sewell, but he was impactful in the run blocking game as the Lions rushed for 108 yards.
Sewell has been one of the brightest spots for the Lions thus far and will look to build on his eye-opening start week by week.
While all four of these men have represented Oregon well, there’s more to come. A few Ducks currently sit high on many NFL draft boards like Kayvon Thibodeaux and CJ Verdell. These two, and many other Ducks, will look to improve their draft stock by the week as the Ducks look to win their first National Championship.