Oklahoma Football: Power Ranking the Sooners' 2013 NFL Draft Prospects
I think it's safe to say that if you're an Oklahoma Sooners fan, you're now also a Detroit Lions fan by association.
The Lions were able to nab three Sooners in last weekend's NFL draft: Ryan Broyles (Round 2, pick No. 54), Ronnell Lewis (Round 4, pick No. 125) and Travis Lewis (Round 7, pick No. 223).
After tearing his ACL and missing the final four games of the 2011-2012 season, Broyles had an uncertain draft status. However, he proved his worth after running in the mid-4.5 second range during his pro day. He'll be a perfect complement to Calvin Johnson.
Travis Lewis falling to the seventh round was a shock, but the Lions will appreciate the leadership and tenacity he will bring to the field every day. He could be a steal.
Four other Sooners will also be playing on Sundays next season. Donald Stephenson went to the Kansas City Chiefs (Round 3, pick No. 74), Jamell Fleming went to the Arizona Cardinals (Round 3, pick No. 80), Frank Alexander went to the Carolina Panthers (Round 4, pick No. 103) and James Hanna went to the Dallas Cowboys (Round 5, pick No. 186).
It's great that seven Sooners were selected in this year's draft, but could even more be selected next year?
While the Sooners still have a relatively young squad, there are a handful of juniors and seniors that could turn out to be well-sought-after NFL prospects.
The outcome of the season and individual player performances will determine who stays and who declares, but it's never too early to make projections!
15: Casey Walker, Defensive Tackle, Sr.
Starting off the list is senior defensive tackle Casey Walker. Walker, who has been a situational starter for the last two seasons, is once again a likely starter this season.
At 6'2" and 308 pounds, Walker has good size that will translate over to the NFL. However, once you get past the size and experience, Walker doesn't have a lot going for him.
In 22 games (12 as a starter), Walker has only produced 24 tackles and one sack. If his production stays limited, Walker could see himself on the sideline more than normal this season, due to the emergence of freshman defensive tackle Jordan Phillips.
As of now, Walker remains a projected undrafted prospect.
14: Javon Harris, Strong Safety, Sr.
Ever since Javon Harris' lackluster showing in last season's Baylor game, I have 100 percent defended him.
That doesn't mean I just haphazardly let his inconsistencies slide by, though. The truth is simple: Harris has some issues in coverage. He's a great open-field tackler and an excellent athlete, but too many times last season Harris played more through his athleticism rather than fundamentals.
I'll concede, it's possible that he was just playing the wrong position last season. After moving over to strong safety, I'm really hoping to see a change in production.
However, until then, Harris remains a projected undrafted prospect.
13: Jamarkus McFarland, Defensive Tackle, Sr.
Jamarkus McFarland is finally a senior, and all the Sooner fans are still waiting for him to live up to his potential.
The once highly rated recruit has failed to be the player everyone has expected him to be. Instead of being next in line for great defensive tackle prospects from Oklahoma, McFarland has only started in 10 of his 34 career games as a Sooner.
Last season, McFarland totaled 20 tackles and 0.5 sacks, which puts his career numbers at 51 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Just like Walker and Harris, McFarland has to see a spike in his production in order to get any sort of draft recognition.
Unfortunately, as of now, McFarland is likely to go undrafted.
12: Stacy McGee, Defensive Tackle, Sr.
Projection: Undrafted/Signed as a UFA
I'll say this: Stacy McGee has the best chance of any Oklahoma defensive tackle to get drafted this season.
This may come as a surprise to some, especially because (by the numbers), McGee has been less productive than McFarland throughout his career. McGee has totaled 49 tackles (22 last season) and 1.5 sacks (all last season) through 28 career games (14 starts).
However, McGee is the most athletic of the bunch, and if invited, he will likely test the best at the combine. He also has great size at 6'4" and 299 pounds, which is going to appeal to NFL scouts more than McFarland's 6'2" frame.
McGee is also ranked higher than both McFarland and Walker on CBS Sports' big board for the 2013 NFL draft. However, McGee is still only ranked No. 17 amongst all senior defensive tackles.
As of now, he projects as an undrafted prospect, but I really think he has a chance to be signed after the draft is over.
11: David King, Defensive End, Sr.
Projection: Round 6-7/Undrafted/Signed as UFA
I may be the only one, but I expect big things out of David King this season, and that's why I have him as a possible late-round draft pick.
Regardless of whether he's drafted or not, I believe King will be on an NFL squad come this time next season. He has so much potential that it's not even funny.
It all begins with his size—King is a monster at 6'5" and 273 pounds, and that's mostly muscle (check the picture). On top of being that big, King is also quick enough to move around linemen and get in the backfield.
After starting five of the 13 games he played in last season, King figures to be a full-time starter this year. He should improve on the 31 tackles he was able to amass last season, as well as his two sacks.
At times last season, King looked like a star, but he did occasionally fade into obscurity during numerous games. If he can play at a high-level all of the time, he is going to create some havoc and get some draft recognition in the process.
10: R.J. Washington, Defensive End, Sr.
Projection: Round 6-7/Undrafted/Signed as UFA
After ranting and raving about David King's potential, it's time to move on to Oklahoma's other projected starting defensive end, senior R.J. Washington.
Really, King should have been labeled 10-A and Washington should have been 10-B, as I'm projecting both to either be picked up late in the draft or be signed as an undrafted free agent.
Washington, however, doesn't have King's sought-after size. Instead, Washington is going to have to prove his worth on the field, and I have no doubt he'll be able to do that.
Here's a fun fact: Washington didn't start a single game last season, but he still was able to manage five sacks.
If he can build on that and become an every-down defensive end, I foresee a Frank Alexander-type season from him.
9: Dominique Whaley, Running Back, Sr.
Projection: Round 6-7/Undrafted/Signed as UFA
While healthy, Dominique Whaley showed exactly what he's capable of doing last season.
In seven games, Whaley rushed for 627 yards and nine touchdowns. If you want to extrapolate his production out to the full season, that's approximately 1,164 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.
Needless to say, that's a pretty solid season. If Whaley can return to the lineup at 100 percent by the time the season opener rolls around, there should be no doubt about him also returning to his role as the starter.
A full season of production and a good showing at the combine should put Whaley in the mix for being drafted in a higher round than what I've currently projected, but a few things have me a little worried about his draft status.
Even if Whaley returns to the lineup healthy, how many carries is he going to forfeit to Roy Finch, Brennan Clay, Damian Williams, Danzel Williams, Trey Millard, Blake Bell...shall I go on?
Also, Whaley isn't exactly a speed demon. He should work out well at the combine, but he's not going to blow anybody away with his 40-time. I understand that isn't exactly Whaley's strength in the running game, anyway, but given his size, how well is his power-attack going to translate to the NFL?
These are questions that need to be answered this season, but as of now, I only see Whaley earning a late-round draft pick, if anything.
8: Tress Way, Punter, Sr.
Projection: Undrafted/Signed as UFA
Don't be confused. That's definitely Tress Way, a punter, you see ranked higher than Dominique Whaley, a running back.
Here are some logical questions to ask me after seeing this slide: Do you really think Way is better than Whaley? You have Whaley projected as a possible draft choice, as opposed to Way, who you have projected as going undrafted—still, you have Way ranked higher—what up with that?
Here are some logical answers. Typically, you wouldn't think of Way as a better player than Whaley due to the subjective way the majority of us view skill players versus kickers and punters. With that being said, you have to ask yourself, "Is Whaley better at his job than Way is at his?"
There's no denying that both are above average at what they do. Had Whaley remained healthy the entire year, I may not even be having this inner (and written) monologue trying to decide which player has a better chance of being drafted.
However, Way is a top-five punter—is Whaley a top-five running back? If he has a great season, maybe, but Way is almost assuredly going to keep up his standard, high-level of production.
So, in that sense, yes, I do think Way is better than Whaley. However, Whaley, being a running back, still has a better chance of getting drafted.
Hopefully that makes sense.
7: Tyler Evans, Guard, Sr.
Projection: Round 6-7/Undrafted/Signed as UFA
With a good season, Evans really has a chance to be drafted in next year's NFL draft. Unfortunately for Evans, he's playing at a position that's both deep and unpredictable.
What it really might come down to for Evans is the combine. As we saw with the Sooners this year, the combine drastically helped both Donald Stephenson's and James Hanna's draft stock.
At 6'5" and 304 pounds, Evans has ideal size for a guard in the NFL. As a starter at right guard for the past two seasons, Evans has produced 158 knockdowns. Last season, Evans was named an honorable mention for the All-Big 12 team.
Luckily, Evans joins a group of highly talented players to make up the Oklahoma starting offensive line this season. If they play well as a unit, Evans may get more notoriety than guys on teams with less substantial offensive lines.
6: Ben Habern, Center, Sr.
Projection: Round 3-5
There's no doubt that Ben Habern will be the heart and soul of the offensive line this season.
After starting his career out as a backup, Habern suffered an ankle injury that cut his freshman season short. Luckily, Habern was able to receiver a medical redshirt, allowing him to rehab and play out his freshman season the next season.
Habern started 10 games that season, and he hasn't looked back since. In 2010, Habern had a ridiculous 123 knockdowns, which was good enough to lead all offensive linemen. After getting off to a good start again in 2011, Habern was forced to miss five games due to an arm injury.
Having multiple injuries throughout his career definitely isn't going to help his cause, but Habern is still a solid candidate to be one of the top centers in the draft.
I currently have Habern projected as being a third-, fourth- or fifth-round draft pick, and that actually may be a little high. As we saw this season, Peter Konz (the No. 1 rated center in the draft) was projected as a first-rounder but didn't actually get taken until the late second round (pick No. 55).
5: Kenny Stills, Wide Receiver, Jr.
Projection: Round 2-5
Finally, a junior cracks the list!
Actually, I only have two juniors on this list of 15 players, solely because I believe they're the only two juniors on the Sooners current roster that have a chance of being selected in next year's draft.
Wide receiver Kenny Stills has had a very productive first two seasons as a Sooner. Collectively, Stills has caught 122 passes for 1,635 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has already cracked the Top 10 on the Oklahoma career receiving yards list.
However, when Ryan Broyles went down with an injury last season, Stills showed no signs of stepping up and becoming the No. 1 receiver on the roster, which is what most were expecting. He also dropped a number of passes down the stretch last season that would normally be "easy" catches.
Stills needs to get his head back in the game and play up to his potential this season, because with Jaz Reynolds stepping up and Trey Metoyer looking like a freshman phenom, Stills has a chance of losing his No. 1 job.
The emergence of Metoyer will undoubtedly help the Sooners (and should therefore help Stills, as well), but it also has me questioning whether or not Stills will stick around for his senior season. If Metoyer proves to be the best receiver on the roster, will Stills want to stick around and play second fiddle? Will that help or harm his draft stock?
Stills may also wait around and see what some other guys from his class decide to do, such as USC wide receiver Robert Woods and California wide receiver Keenan Allen. If either Woods or Allen decide to return to school, it may be in Stills' best interest to declare a year early.
Stills would likely be competing against Baylor's Terrance Williams, Arkansas's Cobi Hamilton and West Virginia's Tavon Austin for top draft status.
4: Demontre Hurst, Cornerback, Sr.
Projection: Round 2-4
If Demontre Hurst plays up to his potential this season, he has a solid chance to be one of the first cornerbacks taken in next year's draft.
Hurst will be called upon to be the Sooners' No. 1 cornerback with Jamell Fleming now off to the NFL, and beyond Hurst, the cornerback position is currently up in the air for the Sooners.
CBS Sports currently has Hurst ranked as the No. 4 cornerback of the 2013 draft class, behind only Johnny Adams (Michigan State), Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State) and Jordan Poyer (Oregon State).
Hurst led the Sooners with 11 pass breakups last season, and the secondary desperately needs him to become a vocal leader on the field this year.
Even if Hurst himself has a good season, if the secondary remains poor as a unit, that's going to reflect badly on his draft stock. For example, Fleming had a pretty good season, but he fell into the "everyone was bad this year because the secondary was so bad" category.
Hurst isn't very big (5'10" is a stretch), but he makes up for his stature with his quickness and ability to cover the field well. If he has a good combine, then a second-round draft choice seems likely, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him drop to at least the fourth round, either.
3: Lane Johnson, Tackle, Sr.
Projection: Round 2-3
Lane Johnson. What a mammoth of a man.
When Johnson first arrived at the University of Oklahoma, he was projected to be a tight end. Shortly thereafter, he was moved to defensive end. Johnson kept growing and has now made a name for himself on the offensive line.
Last season Johnson started 12 of 13 games at right tackle, but he's making the switch to left tackle this offseason. He is now responsible for the most important job on the line—protecting quarterback Landry Jones' blind spot.
Filling in for the departed Donald Stephenson will be no easy task, but Johnson will be part of one of the most talented offensive lines in college football for a second-year in a row. With one full season of experience under his belt, he should be ready to take on anything.
Johnson's size will certainly help his draft status, but I think Johnson is a guy who is going to win a lot of people over during the NFL combine (much like Stephenson did this season).
Johnson actually played quarterback for Kilgore College before transferring to Oklahoma, if that gives you any idea of how athletic this kid is. Johnson is going to post a really great 40-time, and because every team is always looking for solid offensive linemen, Johnson might even have a chance of being taken in the late first round.
However, as we saw with this year's draft, many linemen projected in the Top 15 fell to the latter half of the first round, or out of it completely.
Regardless, Johnson really has a chance to help out his draft status this season.
2: Tony Jefferson, Free Safety, Jr.
Projection: Round 1-2
Will Tony Jefferson declare this year? I guess a lot of that depends on how he performs, but maybe also who else declares that plays his position.
As of now, Jefferson is the highest rated free safety via CBS Sports for the 2014 draft class. Also in that draft class are LSU standout Eric Reid, Ohio State free safety C.J. Barnett and Mississippi State free safety Nickoe Whitley.
If any of these guys choose to leave early, I imagine Jefferson will stay right where he is. If Jefferson were to declare, he'd already be going up against T.J. McDonald (USC), Robert Lester (Alabama) and Bacarri Rambo (Georgia).
McDonald, Lester, Rambo, Reid, Barnett and Whitley are all at least 6'0", as well. Jefferson is the smallest free safety prospect that has a chance of going in the first two rounds in either this year's or next year's draft—this might hurt him a little, but his play on the field should make up for it.
Jefferson is the most talented defender on the Sooners' roster. He has started 21 of the 27 games he's played in during his first two seasons, and he's going to have to step up and be the leader of the secondary this season.
Jefferson might have the most NFL-potential of any player on this list.
1: Landry Jones, Quarterback, Sr.
Projection: Round 1-2
As if this wasn't obvious—quarterback Landry Jones is likely to be the highest drafted Sooner next season. Jones had thoughts of declaring after his junior season, but he instead decided to return to school and finish out his collegiate career.
That was a smart move.
Had Jones elected to join the 2012 draft class, he would have had to measure up against Andrew Luck (the No. 1 overall selection), Robert Griffin III (the No. 2 overall selection) and Brandon Weeden (the No. 22 overall selection). I highly doubt Jones would have been taken over any of those quarterbacks.
However, Jones now has to go up against USC quarterback Matt Barkley, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, among others that will likely draw interest from multiple NFL teams. While this is a competitive list, with a productive season, Jones could see his name sitting at (or at least near) the top.
Another reason why staying an extra year was a smart move was because Jones was no where near NFL-ready yet. An extra year gives him more experience and more time to work on the areas that need improvement in his game, such as moving around the pocket and making better decisions.
Lastly, and this is going to sound like an obvious realization, but Jones is a quarterback. His chances of being selected in the first few rounds dramatically increased due to his position.
Jones may not be the most talented player on this list, but he has the best chance of being the highest drafted Sooner.