Oregon at Stanford NFL Draft watch notes

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Casual football-watching populace, meet Marcus Mariota. He is good.

When Oregon and Stanford play tonight, 36 39 NFL personnel evaluators, among them 17 general managers,  will be on hand.

What they will see is stellar line play on both sides of the ball, dynamic playmakers, veteran linebackers and possibly the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

When Oregon has the football

As he's emerged as Heisman Trophy frontrunner, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has also come along as an NFL Draft prospect. Mariota is throwing a cleaner football this season and is fitting throws into tighter windows. If Mariota and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater both go pro, as expected, there is going to be a serious debate in May about which one should be taken first overall.

One thing to follow is how many touches Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas get on offense tonight. The Ducks have several talented underclassmen and Thomas is in just his second game back from injury. Thomas' role in the NFL is debatable. He doesn't have the bulk to be a standard running back, and he's a weapon as a receiver. The issue when he goes pro is landing in the right system. As we've seen with Tavon Austin in St. Louis, a player is sometimes only as good as the scheme they're in.

Oregon's other players to watch on offense include junior center Hroniss Grasu. Centers don't tend to go pro early, but the All-American looks ready for the NFL. Wide receiver Josh Huff should get some consideration as a late-round prospect.

Stanford's defense, which held Oregon to just 14 points last season, is again loaded with NFL talent. While defensive lineman Ben Gardner is out for the rest of the season, the Cardinal welcome back end Henry Anderson. A knee injury has kept Anderson out since September, so he may be on a limited number of snaps tonight.

Fellow end Josh Mauro doesn't get a lot of attention, but some team running a 3-4 will fall in love with his 6-foot-6 length. Mauro has 37 tackles, eight tackles for loss and four sacks on the season.

Stanford's pair of linebackers -- Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov -- are both top 100 picks. Murphy in particular has helped himself quite a bit this season. Murphy is a powerful linebacker who can also drop in coverage or play with his hand in the dirtt. Murphy may have to play in space tonight, which will show off whether or not he's good of a pure athlete.

Skov finally looks healthy after a serious knee injury two years ago. He's a linebacker that relies on his instincts, and he'll have to be on point to keep up with Thomas or rising sophomore running back Byron Marshall.

Safety Ed Reynolds, a junior, is also worth monitoring.

When Stanford has the football

Needless to say, there's considerably less to watch when Stanford has the football. The top prospect on offense for the Cardinal is guard David Yankey. The junior plays with proper footwork and should be able to overpower Oregon's defensive line.

If Stanford happens to get in a shoot out with Oregon, the Cardinal will likely rely heavily on junior wide receiver Devon Cajuste. Back from a knee injury, Cajuste has the size of a tight end and is capable of winning difficult jump ball situations.

Stanford's best vertical threat is junior Ty Montgomery. Averaging nearly 16 yards per catch this season, Montgomery has the speed to get deep. The issue for him is that he'll likely be going against Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. In a season where Ohio State's Bradley Roby is struggling, Ekpre-Olomu has a chance to be one of the top two cornerbacks in the draft.

Oregon's defense also features late-round linemen in Taylor Hart and Wade Keliikipi. Linebacker Boseko Lokombo (one of the more fun names to say in college football) has athleticism lining up as a strongside linebacker and should at least get a camp tryout.

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