The four-star recruit joined the Oregon program after missing half of his high school senior season due to a knee injury, spending his first year with the team as a red-shirt. Erick Dargan appeared in nine games the following year, posting 15 tackles. After excelling on special teams, he earned three starting assignments at free safety to close out the 2012 schedule, delivering 54 tackles, as he ranked third in the Pac-12 Conference with five interceptions for 77 yards in returns.
The second-team All-Pac 12 pick registered 24 tackles on special teams during his junior season. He opened the 2014 schedule as the Ducks’ starting free safety, but also lined up on the strong-side. When All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was shut down for the final five games due to an ACL tear, Dargan saw his role in the secondary increase, as he was also called upon to help improve the depth at that position.
Dargan had a banner senior season, as he ranked among the nation’s leaders while pacing the league with seven interceptions for 110 yards in returns. Dargan’s thirteen career pass thefts are surpassed by only six active players in the major college ranks. His 187 yards via pass theft run backs is 16th-best in that active group. He also led the Ducks with 95 tackles, as he broke up six passes and caused two fumbles entering the national title clash vs. Ohio State.
Dargan might lack great speed, but he demonstrates quick footwork to be productive all over the field, especially vs. run and pass plays in front of him. From the deep alignment, he reads the quarterback well, doing a nice job of planting, driving and closing on the pass in time to cut in front of receivers and break up passes or make interceptions (26 passes defended; 13 break-ups and 13 thefts). He has a compact backpedal and transitions out of it in a blink to make plays on passes in front of him.
Dargan also shows sideline-to-sideline range in deep pass coverage. He hustles to track down running plays in pursuit and has the valid closing burst to get to ball carriers when given a clear path to the ball. Last season, he played with much better control, resulting in good balance and wrap-up tackle technique to make violent hits.
While projected as free safety at the next level, I doubt that he has the speed to stay on the hip of NFL-caliber receivers. As a strong safety, in-the-box type, he looks the part and while just average in the weight room (17 reps at 225 pounds) he has good upper-body development for the strong-side position.
Dargan is an aggressive defender that attacks in run support and has become a reliable open-field tackler. He’s a heavy hitter that can separate the ball from the running back and while not fast, he appears to have at least adequate straight-line speed, good balance and a low backpedal. His interception rate proves that he has good leaping ability to battle for the ball, which makes his recent 29-inch vertical jump a bit puzzling (and disappointing).
The Ducks senior can jump underneath routes and he is very physical, flashing a violent punch. He’s the type that willingly sells out and makes ball carriers pay for trying to tight-rope the sideline. There were a few times where he lost track of the receiver trying to read the quarterback's eyes and can get caught out of position when he tries to go for the pick-six rather that playing the hand he is dealt, though.
Dargan might not be track fast, but he shows average to above-average closing speed coming out of his backpedal, but you can see on film he isn't as explosive coming out of his cuts. He does an adequate job of opening his hips when asked to cover the deep half of the field, but lacks prototypical hip fluidity and is going to struggle if asked to turn and run with slot receivers.
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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