The University of Texas has a long history of supplying the NFL with quality football players, but a drought of elite talent has left the Longhorns without a first-round prospect since 2010. This year’s draft should end that dry spell.
Texas held its pro day on Tuesday to showcase its NFL prospects, including three players who have a chance to be Day 1 or early-Day 2 selections in April’s draft.
Safety Kenny Vaccaro, defensive end Alex Okafor and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin have all been in the discussion for early-round candidacy this offseason, and while Vaccaro is the most notable of the trio, Okafor and Goodwin have plenty to offer.
We’ll break down each player’s game, as well as their pro potential and projecting landing spot in April’s draft.
Marquise Goodwin, WR
Goodwin is arguably the fastest player in this draft class. The speedster topped the list of 40-yard dash participants at the combine with a 4.27-second run, edging out West Virginia’s Tavon Austin and Texas A&M’s Ryan Swope, who each posted 4.34-second efforts (per NFL.com)
Austin is the most high-profile receiver of the combine’s speedy trio, but Goodwin will certainly garner a lot of early-round attention.
At 5’9” and 183 pounds, Goodwin doesn’t have the size to be a versatile receiving threat in the NFL. He has terrific straight-line speed and quickness to be deadly in the return game and as an outside threat to take the top off of defenses, but he’s not the type of player who will be a No. 1 producer from the onset.
Given Goodwin’s tremendous speed and athleticism, a second-round selection in April won’t be out of the question. He wasn’t a major producer in the passing game at Texas (1,364 yards and seven touchdowns in four years), but college production means very little when projecting NFL potential.
Goodwin will find a home on Day 2 as a deep-threat option and potential returner early in his career. Speed and athleticism can’t be taught, though he still has some work to do in developing his receiving skills.
Projection: Mid-Second Round
Alex Okafor, DE
One of the most underrated early-round prospects in this draft, Okafor has the size and toughness to be a steal in the late first-round.
At 6’5” and 262 pounds, Okafor projects best as a 4-3 defensive end in the NFL. He plays the run extremely well and has a few quality pass-rushing moves, but lack of elite quickness and flexibility will probably limit his versatility at the next level. He can play in space, but teams will have better 3-4 outside linebacker options in the first round.
One of Okafor’s best assets is his ability to slide inside on passing downs as an interior pass-rusher. Many teams field nickel packages on nearly 50 percent of defensive snaps, meaning smaller, quicker defensive linemen who can move around and create mismatches at the line have become valuable commodities in the NFL.
Okafor isn’t a finished product, but he showed flashes of immense potential at Texas. Expect him to come off the board in the last 12 to 15 picks of the first round, though depth at the position may force Okafor to slide into the first five picks of the second round.
Projection: Late-First Round
Kenny Vaccaro, S
Despite some limitations in zone coverage, Vaccaro is easily the most versatile defensive back in this draft class. He has the size (6’0”, 217 pounds), quickness and awareness to play either safety position in the NFL, and his aggressiveness in run support will certainly have the attention of teams in need of a combo safety who can move around in coverage.
Vaccaro didn’t impress in the 40-yard dash at the combine (4.63 seconds), and while he certainly has the playing speed to overshadow that time, he didn’t participate in the 40-yard dash at Texas’ pro day, as reported by NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
#Texas S Kenny Vaccaro, maybe draft's top safety, won't run the 40 today. Tweaked his hip flexor in a private workout. Will do pos drills3/26/2013, 4:14:47 PM
Not improving his 40 time isn’t all that significant in relation to his draft stock. Given his strong man-coverage skills and versatility, he still stands to be the first player selected from a deep safety class.
Several teams in the top 20 picks will have Vaccaro near the top of their draft boards, and a top-15 selection isn’t out of the question.
Projection: Top 20