Late to the Game: It’s Drafty in Here


Assistant editor Chris O’Connell isn’t from Texas; he’s from New Jersey. That’s OK though—he’s here now. But without growing up in a place that cherishes college sports the way many parts of the South—and especially Texas—do, Chris has taken it upon himself to learn more about all aspects of college athletics in a series we like to call Late to the Game.

Draft Day: It’s more than just a terrible Kevin Costner movie I haven’t seen. For most football fans, there were two reasons to watch the 2015 NFL Draft last Thursday through Saturday. If you’re a damn Yankee like me you were closely following along to see which millennials your favorite NFL team would bestow anywhere from six to eight figures upon. If you’re like most of my friends in Austin, you were just making sure some Longhorns get taken—the more, the better. I did both, because it’s my job.

I won’t bore you with the war-room minutiae of the New York Football Giants, except to say that the NFL world was befuddled when the G-Men took Texas safety Mykkele Thompson in the fifth round. Worlds collided for me in that moment. It was beautiful. Life made sense, but the pick may not have. According to experts, the Giants could have waited and signed Thompson as an undrafted free agent. But alas. Let’s talk Texas.

Those Austin friends had to sigh in utter relief—nay, actually smile!—as defensive tackle Malcom Brown was taken 32nd overall by the New England Patriots. Brown is a perfect run-stopper for the Patriots, and will likely slot in for a recently departed Vince Wilfork. And at least he didn’t land in Cleveland. He also lends some much-needed NFL credibility to Texas recruiting. I know Longhorns don’t need reminding, but there were zero Texas players taken in 2014. No one—Strong especially, as he once told me that the events of 2014 NFL Draft didn’t bother him one bit—would admit this, but Brown coming off the board on Thursday had to feel great for everyone in the program.

My Eagles-fan friend texted me twice, once on Friday night when the Eagles took linebacker Jordan Hicks in the third round, and once on Saturday night when John Harris signed with Philly as an UDFA. He had no idea who either player was. The East Coast, ladies and gentlemen: We know nothing of major college football! Of course, I had nothing but nice things to say about the pair of outgoing Longhorns to my misguided friend who has never seen his favorite team win a Super Bowl.

Other than Thompson, who I mentioned went to my New York Giants, cornerback Quandre Diggs went in the sixth to the Lions, and tight end Geoff Swaim to the Cowboys in the seventh. If you can count, and I swear I can, that’s five drafted Longhorns, and, with Harris to Philly, Cedric Reed to Buffalo, Malcolm “I’m the One With the ‘L'” Brown to St. Louis, and Nate Boyer to Seattle as UDFAs, that’s nine new players from Texas on NFL rosters. Boyer, a 34-year-old former green beret, joins the Seahawks as a long-snapper, without so much as a workout with the team. He walked on to the Longhorns in 2012 without any prior football experience. This is a very whimsical story, one seemingly concocted for the elder statesman of NFL journalism. In fact, I’ll bet Peter King has already written something about Boyer. He has? OK.

Anyway, this is more news than this writer can handle. I’m a magazine writer for heaven’s sake. As a tribute to Longhorns in the draft and because I really like researching sports, I’ve gone through every draft since 1983—the year I was born—and selected the Longhorn who went on to have the most illustrious NFL career from each one. Here we go:

1983: I’m starting with a tough one. Kiki DeAyala came off the board first, in the sixth, but he barely played in the NFL. I’m going with UDFA Raul Allegre. He made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season and won two Super Bowls with the Giants. I know I’m breaking the rules on my first entry, as he wasn’t actually drafted, but this is my column and I can do what I want.

1984: In a draft with Texas players named Mossy Cade and Fred Acorn, you’d think this would be an easy one. But alas, this is not a best name contest. It comes down to Doug Dawson and Adam Schreiber, two offensive linemen. Schreiber wins for durability: He played 16 years as an NFL center.

1985: Defensive back Jerry Gray. Four Pro Bowls easily beats the rest of his former teammates.

1986: Ah, the Bo Jackson draft. Not much to see here. Let’s say Ty Allert. He had 10.5 sacks in one year.

1987: Yikes. Browns and Dolphins defensive back Stephen Braggs wins merely because he’s the only Texas player from this year with a Wikipedia page.

1988: Jeepers creepers. Paul Jetton for the exact same reason as above.

1989: First round pick Eric Metcalf by a country mile. Did you know that Metcalf still holds the UT long jump record at 8.44 meters? You do now.

1990: Metcalf appears to have been a nice blip to round out the ’80s. Tony Jones wins basically unopposed.

1991: Fun fact, Texas had two players named Stanley taken in the first round in 1991, Stanley Richard and Stan Thomas, neither of which were very good in the NFL. Another fun fact: I have two grandfathers named Stanley. We’ll go with a tie on this one, between twin brothers Kerry and Keith Cash.

1992: Shane Dronett was a very durable player for 11 seasons. He sadly committed suicide in 2009, and an autopsy revealed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), likely caused by head trauma inflicted during his playing career.

1993: Lance Gunn was the only player taken this season.

1994: All Pro and Pro Bowler Winfred Tubbs wins 1994. Great name, too.

1995: I would love to give this to Lovell Pinkney, but it’s offensive lineman Blake Brockermeyer.

1996: Tony Brackens. Move along, folks.

1997: I’m breaking my rule again. Despite numerous draftees from Texas, UDFA Priest Holmes is far and away the best Longhorn from this draft.

1998: Aaaaand I’m doing it again. UDFA kicker Phil Dawson is still playing—and thriving—in the NFL at 40. By the way, if not for the Packers taking Chris Akins in the seventh round as a compensatory selection, the streak of consecutive years for Texas draftees would have ended this year.

1999: Wide receiver Wayne McGarity. Just kidding, you know it’s Ricky Williams.

2000: Wow, I still have 15 of these to go? Speeding up. Cedric Woodard.

2001: Slowing down. This is the toughest one yet. Leonard Davis, Casey Hampton, and Shaun Rogers are all multiple Pro Bowlers. Hampton has five though, and two rings, so he wins 2001.

2002: Back-to-back Longhorns taken in the first round! Quentin Jammer beats out OL Mike Williams, for longevity’s sake.

2003: DL Cory Redding is still playing at a serviceable level at age 34. Also my Longhorn friends might kill me if I pick Chris Simms.

2004: Pro Bowler WR Roy Williams was quite good for the Lions. Then he wasn’t on the Cowboys.

2005: This was a nice year for Texas draftees. Cedric Benson always seemed on the brink of something. Bo Scaife was a nice TE but his career was derailed by injuries. Derrick Johnson wins though, as a three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker still playing for the Chiefs and still the go-to comparison whenever Texas nabs a four- or five-star linebacker recruit.

2006: I don’t care what you say, Vince was awesome when he could keep it together in the NFL.

2007: Another year of back-to-back Longhorns in the first round. Michael Huff wins this one over fellow defensive back Aaron Ross.

2008: All hail Jamaal Charles.

2009: Another class with a couple of Pro Bowlers. DL Henry Melton went in 2012, and Brian Orakpo has gone thrice, in 2009, 2010, and 2013. Orakpo wins this year.

2010: A lot of familiar faces in this one—Colt and Jordan Shipley went back-t0-back in the third, which was almost too-sweet-to-be-true—but first round pick and perennial Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas is the cream of this class.

2011: Not really a standout in this class. Sam Acho over Aaron Williams?

2012: The UDFA strikes again! Justin Tucker all day.

2013: We’re getting into too-early-to-tell territory, but so far, Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro looks like he might have the most promising NFL career despite a bit of a sophomore slump in 2014.

2014: This is a wasteland. An UDFA has to come out on top, by rule, and Washington LB Jackson Jeffcoat looks to be the only Texas player from this class who will see significant playing time in 2015.

2015: Don’t be silly, the season hasn’t started yet.

All-in-all, not too shabby. A 1983-2015 Texas NFL team would have VY throwing to Roy Williams, a three-headed monster of a backfield of Jamaal Charles, Ricky Williams, and Priest Holmes, a stout defense led by Earl Thomas and Derrick Thomas, Eric Metcalf returning kicks and punts, a roster with two incredible kickers, Mossy Cade rounding out the squad because I love a great sports name … is it football season yet?


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