by Tim Kearney, Oregon Sports News
The NFL Scouting Combine is almost upon us. Players are already starting to report to Indianapolis to get their official measurements for the draft. The combine has turned into a huge media event with cameras and talking heads everywhere. So, it can be a little hard to cut through everything to see why you are watching.
I am going to highlight a few players from the University of Washington, Washington State University and the University of Oregon who made it to the combine. You watched them in college and now you can see part of their audition processes for the NFL.
Dillon Mitchell WR, Oregon
As with most Oregon wide receivers going into the draft, Mitchell has great speed and agility. He is a threat with the ball in his hands and can make defenders miss. He has 14 touchdowns in his two years playing and was the only receiver threat the Ducks had in 2018.
Mitchell had 700 more receiving yards than the next Oregon receiver. He knows how to produce when he is the only threat on a pass play. His weakest trait is probably tracking the ball on shorter throws and getting off of press coverage. He is a playmaker who can boost his stock by showing scouts the speed they saw on film.
Justin Hollins LB, Oregon
Hollins is a great athlete whose best attribute is coming off the edge of a defense. He is a disruptive presence behind the line of scrimmage. Hollins got 14 sacks and 36 tfls in his four years as a Duck. He is a better run defender than a pass rusher despite his speed.
Hollins uses speed as his only pass-rush move and needs to develop a counter to that. His best attributes are his block-shedding and his athleticism, while his weakest ones are his awareness and power moves. If he develops a little more strength and develops his pass-rushing moves, he could be a double-digit sack defender.
Ugo Amadi S, Oregon
Amadi is a ballhawk and was a stalwart for Oregon’s defense for the past four years. He was a four-year starter who could score whenever he got the ball in his hands. Amadi scored four touchdowns for the Ducks. He took two interceptions, a fumble and a punt back for touchdowns in the past two years.
Amadi was a guy who did a lot of different things for the Ducks. Amadi is solid against the run and can make plays behind the line of scrimmage. With his nine career interceptions and three forced fumbles, Amadi shows his nose for the ball. I think he will be a very good slot corner or nickel back in the NFL, and if he tests well he could hear his name called in the third or fourth round.
Byron Murphy CB, Washington
Murphy is the highest-rated player I am looking at here. Murphy could be picked as early as the top 10. Cornerbacks with his cover skills are a rare commodity in the NFL Draft, so as long as he runs the 40-yard dash in less than 4.6 seconds, I think he solidifies himself as a first-round talent.
Murphy’s best skill is his zone coverage; he has good instincts and seems to understand offenses and how they will attack him. He goes after the ball well in the air, and when he has to make a tackle, he does not shy away from contact.
Murphy will compete hard on every snap and will never be a problem in your locker rom.
Greg Gaines DT, Washington
Gaines is another big defensive tackle coming out of Washington with above-average movement skills. He eats up blocks and can control the middle of a defense. He has very good strength and plays with leverage and awareness.
Gaines was mainly used at Washington as a block eater; his job was to make sure the linebackers weren’t blocked, and he did that very well. He racked up 9.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles-for-loss in his four years as a Husky. And while he was there, he helped anchor defenses that led the Pac-12 the past four years and gave up an average of 17.2 points per game.
Gaines is a hard worker who can really make an impact for a defensive line.
Myles Gaskin RB, Washington
Gaskin has been one of the most consistent running backs in college football for what seems like the past 10 years. He averaged more than 1,300 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns per season while at Washington. He ends his Husky career as the record holder for many rushing records and he is in the top-five for most Pac-12 rushing records as well.
Gaskin will need to test well at the combine for NFL teams to take him seriously. He does not have prototypical size or speed and he has been a workhorse in college. Evaluators look at him a little like Chris Polk: great production but not great measurables. Gaskin has the potential to be a very good NFL back because of his lack of weaknesses.
Andre Dillard T, Washington State
Dillard is another guy who has been getting first-round buzz this year. He is one of the best offensive tackles in the draft and is looking it in Indy.
Dillard is a three-year starter and his experience shows in his game. He has good athleticism and is quick on the move. Pass blocking is his strength, as that is what he was doing most of the time as a Cougar.
I don’t know if he can come straight to the NFL and play. He struggles using his hands at times and does not show a powerful punch to lock up defenders. Given some time, I see him being a good starter for several years for a passing team.
James Williams RB, Washington State
Williams made so many plays for the Cougars the past few years. He scored 27 touchdowns at Washington State in three years and was utilized as much as a receiver as a runner for them. He had more than 200 catches in his career and can be a huge threat coming out of the backfield. He did not work much out wide, but it looks like he has the skills to learn some routes as a wide receiver.
Williams is a small back but packs a surprising punch and has a nose for the end zone. He is the perfect third-down back for the modern NFL and he could easily become a bigger contributor.
Gardner Minshew QB, Washington State
Minshew burst onto the national scene this year with a high-powered offense and a killer mustache. After spending two years at East Carolina, he went to Wazzu and threw 38 touchdown passes against only nine interceptions this season.
Minshew has a smooth release and deadly accuracy. He doesn’t rush throws very often and he is patient in the pocket.
Minshew has the potential to be a Tony Romo-type player. I think he can be very productive, and he is a gamer who loves the sport.
I think that despite his party-dude persona, he is a hard worker who will compete with every quarterback he is in a room with.