As we transition away from the college football season and start to focus on the upcoming NFL draft, the idea of future success and different fits in certain schemes at the next level come into play.
Much of our attention has been on quarterback Bo Nix, wide receiver Troy Franklin and defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus in the Oregon Ducks universe. We shouldn’t be quick to look past running back Bucky Irving, who also declared for the 2024 draft. He had a highly productive two years in Eugene: almost 3,000 total yards and 21 total touchdowns. Irving is ready to head to the next level and hopefully have a successful professional career.
But how much success can a 5-foot-10, 195-pound back have at the NFL level? That’s something I asked Oregon legend Jonathan Smith, a former Pro Bowl running back for the Carolina Panthers, on the latest episode of the “Sco-ing Long” podcast.
“I think that at the next level, he is going to be able to, you know, be a secret weapon in a lot of guys’ eyes,” Stewart said.
One of the things that was most impressive about Irving’s time at Oregon was his ability to play through contact, always keeping balance and gaining extra yards long after many other backs would go down. Though he is smaller in stature, there was a power Irving always ran with.
Because of that, I compared Irving to Kansas City Chiefs’ RB Isaiah Pacheco, or Jacksonville Jaguars’ RB Travis Etienne when talking to Stewart. He agreed, but said there also is a mix of Austin Eckler and Darren Sproles due to his pass-catching abilities.
Bucky Irving had an enthralling career at Oregon. Will that production translate at the NFL level?
— Zachary Neel (@zacharycneel) February 6, 2024
“He’s a bit shorter in stature, but he delivers blows unexpectedly for his size,” Stewart said. “The strength is there. He’s obviously a great pass catcher, which is going to be something that you know, a lot of teams at the next level will love and be able to utilize as far as his skill set and offense and make him more of a double threat.”
No matter what type of mold the Oregon RB ultimately fits into at the next level, Stewart has an important piece of advice that he always looks to give young NFL players.
“One of the things I like to tell guys is, you know, you can have your favorite players and you can have a picture of them on your wall for motivation. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to invent yourself,” Stewart said. “You have to be someone who is different than anyone else has ever seen. And I think, you know, to Bucky, the University of Oregon’s never seen him running back like him.”
At this point in the predraft process, Irving is projected to be a mid-round pick during the NFL draft in April. However, he could greatly improve his stock with solid performances at both the NFL combine and Oregon’s pro Day.