The art of sportsbetting is an intricate one, and in 2013, the Oregon Ducks will offer some challenges to interested bettors. The team will also be hard for NFL talent evaluators to ultimately asses, because the style of offense the Ducks use is not a pro-style offense. Oregon runs the spread option, which is not quite the same as the read option, though there’s a measure of overlap between the two concepts. The spread option is a full offensive approach and structure. The read option is a specific play that is included within a spread option package. What Oregon did under Chip Kelly (and what Kelly will try to do in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles) has not yet become a mainstream entity. Fast, athletic quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III use read-option plays, but the Eagles will be the first team to adopt the spread option as their fundamental offensive system. For this reason, Oregon players aren’t as easy to evaluate as other college players at more traditional pro-style programs such as Alabama and Stanford.
Here’s an attempt to assess the Ducks’ three best professional prospects. Let’s start at center, where Hroniss Grasu anchors the team’s offensive line. The spread option is a spread offense that’s dedicated to running the ball. This is what sets apart the spread option from various spread-based passing attacks. In order to have a good spread option offense, one must have a superb offensive line, but the nuance for a spread option team is that its offensive line must be quicker and more agile. In an old-fashioned smashmouth context, linemen must be brawny and massive, but in a tempo-based, spread-oriented framework, agility counts for more, and Grasu owns this quality to a considerable extent. He’s going to make a huge difference for this team as long as he stays healthy in 2013.
A second foremost pro prospect for Oregon is safety Erick Dargan. One has to realize that cornerbacks, not safeties, are the members of a team’s secondary who must defend the highest number of passes. Safeties help on deep routes while also providing run support, but it’s the corners who have to do most of the work on pass defense because they’re the ones who are on an island on go routes and other isolation patterns along the sidelines. Cornerbacks will get more chances to pluck interceptions. Safeties won’t be primarily responsible for covering certain receivers as frequently as cornerbacks are. Therefore, with all of this in mind, it’s striking and impressive that in the 2012 season, Dargan came up with five interceptions. That’s a terrific year for a safety in terms of getting takeaways. If Dargan snares five more picks in 2013, Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti will be very happy.
The third main NFL prospect on the team is De’Anthony Thomas, a running back who has lived in the shadows for the past two seasons but should now get his turn to shine. Thomas possesses world-class track speed and should be able to become a home-run threat in Oregon’s backfield. Everyone in and around the program is waiting for him to bust loose this season.
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