Last year I speculated that in the later rounds of the draft Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman might draft a player or two in part because they were sought after by Kelly while at Oregon. 212 picks into the draft, that speculation was rewarded when the Eagles took Joe Kruger, who was heavily recruited by Kelly’s consigliere Jerry Azzinaro but ultimately decided to stay near home and attend Utah. Kelly's background led him to draft players he could not stop, but the selection of Kruger shows that guys he or his staff could not land were also on his radar.
Perhaps we will see the back of the 2014 draft play out like that again. Combing through high school prospect profiles and recruiting websites, I have identified 38 players at the Combine plus one player who is not at the Combine who were once recruiting targets by Kelly, and a Oregon transfer. This is a nominal improvement from last year's list of 33 players, the real difference is the depth. The caliber of these players span from potential #1 overall pick to undrafted free agents, and there are less fringe prospects than last year. That is not surprising, to take a program from good to great like Kelly did requires having both a better eye for talent and a further grasp than your predecessor. Top players are top players, but could we see a 5th or 7th round selection be used to nab a player that got away?
Players are listed alphabetically by position. An asterisk means I was unable to verify Oregon's interest by a second source. A hash tag means I was unable to confirm that an offer was made. I kept those players listed because every unconfirmed player is listed by Rivals.com, which has a far more detailed historical database than any other site. Do not consider this list 100% accurate. There are likely players I could not find that were recruiting targets and chances are a player or two on this list that I could not confirm were not actually recruiting targets. (Last year I was able to confirm two players by asking them on Twitter, but with the Combine already underway the players are busy.)
Tajh Boyd, Clemson (by Chip Kelly); Johnny Manziel (read this), Texas A&M; Keith Price, Washington (not at combine)
George Atkinson, Notre Dame; Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona*; Storm Johnson, Central Florida; Silas Redd, USC; Bishop Sankey, Washington; Lache Seastrunk, Baylor (transferred from Oregon); James Wilder, Florida State; Damien Williams, Oklahoma*
Odell Beckham, LSU*; Isaiah Burse, Fresno State; Brandin Cooks, Oregon State; Shaq Evans, UCLA; Marqise Lee, USC
Anthony Denham, Utah; Xavier Grimble, USC#; Nic Jacobs, McNeese State (LSU transfer); Jake Murphy, Utah; Troy Niklas, Notre Dame; Richard Rodgers, California; Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Seantrel Henderson (OT), Miami#; Taylor Lewan (OT), Michigan; Jake Matthews (OT), Texas A&M; Greg Robinson (OT), Auburn*
I would be remiss if I did not include Kevin Hart, "California."
DeAndre Coleman (DT), California; Scott Crichton (DE), Oregon State; Dominique Easley (DT), Florida; Cassius Marsh (DE), UCLA; Jeoffrey Pagan (DE), Alabama; George Uko (DE), USC
Anthony Barr (OLB), UCLA (listed as an athlete); Devon Kennard (OLB), USC; Trent Murphy (OLB), Stanford*; Ronald Powell (OLB), Florida
Dion Bailey (SS), USC (recruited as a LB); Deone Bucannon (SS), Washington State; Antone Exum (CB), Virginia Tech (listed as an athlete)#; Craig Loston (SS), LSU - (by Chip Kelly); Rashaad Reynolds (CB), Oregon State; Brock Vereen (FS), Minnesota
None. Come on Chip, no special teamers? Disappointed!
Unlike players that performed well against Chip, I'm not so sure any of these will be drafted because they were former recruiting targets. Kruger was perhaps a special case: the only reason he turned down Oregon was because he decided he did not want to leave home, otherwise he would have been a Duck. With three seventh rounders last year and Kruger being enormous, it was fairly obvious to connect the dots that he would get drafted. This year though, nobody quite stands out like Kruger did, and the Eagles will not have a bunch of late picks where the team has some leeway to take a flyer on a pet project. We'll find out for sure in May.