Texas Football: Projecting the Longhorns' Top 2014 NFL Draft Prospects
The 2013 NFL draft is in the books and the 2014 watch lists begin to pour out.
The Texas Longhorns made a modest splash in the recent draft, as Kenny Vaccaro, Marquise Goodwin and Alex Okafor all landed within the top four rounds. A small class by Texas' standards, but it did not lack in quality.
Quantity, as it turns out, could end up defining the 2014 draft class for the Longhorns.
Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and receiver Mike Davis figure to get some attention from the professional ranks.
But who else may appear on the scouting radar in the coming months?
Honorable Mentions and Draft-Eligible Juniors
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For the sake being concise, the honorable mentions who could get looks in the 2014 draft will be projected here.
Seniors: DT Chris Whaley, DT Ashton Dorsey, OL Donald Hawkins, DE Reggie Wilson, S Adrian Phillips
Juniors: DB Quandre Diggs, LB Jordan Hicks, RB Malcolm Brown, RB Joe Bergeron, WR Jaxon Shipley
Virtually every player listed above would need to turn in exceptional 2013 campaigns to make enough noise to noticed.
Many of the juniors would do very well to return for their senior years, although Hicks presents an intriguing situation. If Hicks can stay off the injury report and produce at an All-Big 12 level, he could be easily forgo his final season to enter the draft.
As for the seniors, many of them have flown quite under the radar. However, the Longhorns will be relying on all of them to make big plays this season, offering plenty of opportunities to add to their draft stock.
OG Mason Walters
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Mason Walters has seemingly been in Austin forever, yet he also seems to lack the highlight film that makes him stick out as a great guard prospect.
The Longhorns are expecting big things from Walters' senior season, but the same things were said about his junior campaign as well.
A standout season will lift Walters' draft stock, as it cannot be very high at this point. Fortunately for Walters, that explosive season could be a special one with this year's Texas team.
CB Carrington Byndom
Cornerback Carrington Byndom has quietly put together solid sophomore and junior campaigns at Texas as often one of the most reliable defenders on a questioned Texas defense.
Likely helped by the presence of Kenny Vaccaro behind him, Byndom could be in a position where his true talent shines as he becomes the unquestioned veteran in the Longhorns' defensive backfield.
Although Quandre Diggs may be the most dynamic player in the secondary, Byndom will always line up against the opposition's top receiver. And in a Big 12 where reputable pass-catchers have come through the conference, Byndom will have plenty of spotlight to further the 'DBU' moniker.
OG Trey Hopkins
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Some dubbed Trey Hopkins as the next Justin Blalock, and many are still waiting for that emergence.
Although that praise may still be a little premature, Hopkins has been completely solid along the interior offensive line, despite dealing with some injuries over the course of his career in Austin.
Hopkins has an opportunity to shine on a Texas offense that could be re-energized by a spread attack, and for a guy who has played since he was a freshman, Hopkins has a boatload of experience and will have to execute at a high level.
It will be easy for Hopkins to fall into a group of average, draftworthy linemen. Can he put in the work to stand out from that group?
WR Mike Davis
Texas' most dynamic deep threat has to be receiver Mike Davis.
A one-time LSU commit, Davis has slowly improved over the course of his career and even considered declaring for the draft. As it stands, Davis will return for his senior season and is expected to take the next leap as a competitor.
Davis set career-highs in receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns and yards per catch in 2012, and with Texas moving to an uptempo offense, Davis could see his numbers balloon a little more.
DE Jackson Jeffcoat
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Jackson Jeffcoat has already hit the mock drafts as a first-round selection, but the body of work does not match those projections.
Jeffcoat has the bloodlines and has shown flashes of great potential, but consecutive offseason surgeries has to be a red flag.
Nevertheless, Jeffcoat will be under the microscope significantly this season as he inherits Alex Okafor's role as the go-to playmaker in the defensive front four.
If the Dallas native can have that same explosive senior campaign that Okafor managed last season, Jeffcoat can easily sustain that first-round potential.