Given his success as an NFL receiver, it`s easy to overlook the fact that Randall Cobb didn’t really play the position until his final year at Kentucky. True story. In his first season he touched the ball most as a passer, in his second the most as a runner and in his third the most as receiver.
In advance of Saturday night’s showdown against Michigan State, I`d like to shine the spotlight Oregon’s Byron Marshall, whose career has followed a similar path, and who could be among the most intriguing receiver prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft.
The 2013 season saw sophomore Byron Marshall lead the Ducks in rushing, amassing more than 1,000 yards as Marcus Mariotas wingman. Fastforward to 2014 and the loss of Josh Huff to the NFL and Bralon Addison to injury meant that Oregon was hurting for depth at receiver. Marshall switched positions to wide receiver and this time lead the Ducks in receiving, amassing more than 1,000 yards through the air.
Not totally relieved of his rushing duties, Marshall actually accumulated nearly 400 yards toting the rock last year, giving him a rare level of dual-threat production. In fact, if we look at BCS/Power5 conference receivers since 2000 who accumulated 750+ receiving yards and 200+ rush yards in a season, we get this cohort of 13 players (note that I am not 100 percent sure on Marshall’s age, but have researched dilligently to arrive at this number)
|WR||School||Season||Age||Rush Yards||Rec Yards||MS Rec Yards|
|Kenneth Moore||Wake Forest||2007||22.9||316||1011||39%|
|Brandin Cooks||Oregon St||2013||20.3||217||1730||36%|
|Pharoh Cooper||South Carolina||2014||19.8||200||1136||31%|
|James Rodgers||Oregon St||2009||21.0||303||1034||29%|
|Tavon Austin||West Virginia||2012||21.8||643||1289||29%|
|Preston Parker||Florida State||2007||20.9||270||791||25%|
|Wes Welker||Texas Tech||2002||21.7||244||1054||19%|
Taking away Marshall and Pharoh Cooper, who will get his own prospect article later this fall, 11 players have reached the NFL, six were first rounders, one was Randall Cobb and another was Wes Welker. Pretty impressive company that Marshall is keeping.
Moreover, if we zoomed out to include small-conference players, TY Hilton, Charles Clay and Antonio Brown would also be on this list. Do I have your attention?
The Oregon System
If there is reason to pooh-pooh Marshall`s 2014 season, it probably stems from the fact that Oregon played 15 games and/or that Marshall only accounted for 21 percent market share of receiving yards. Specifically on the market share issue, here’s a quick look at every top Oregon receiver since 2009 when Chip Kelly became head coach. Basically, outisde of Josh Huff, who I still think can be a thing in the NFL, Marshall was about as good as can be expected in that system.
Should we be concerned that none of those guys have succeeded in the NFL? Maybe. But I’m not entirely sure any of them can match Marhall’s level of dual-threat skill along with his size (5 feet 11 inches, 200 pounds).
Have a look at Marshall in action in this video courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com. Or, if you want to read about more top college prospects, see last week’s piece on young, dominant Ezekiel Elliott.