Texas hasn't been a championship-caliber program for the last four years, but at least NFL talent has come through Austin.
Not in 2014.
As tweeted by Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and noted by other media outlets, zero Texas players were taken in this past weekend's NFL draft. The last time that happened? 1937.
That 76-year streak was the draft's longest, according to Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News.
Meanwhile, Baylor, which won its first Big 12 championship in football this past season, led the conference with five players drafted. (Granted, all players were drafted in the final day, but were drafted nonetheless.)
Does first-year Texas head coach Charlie Strong have a lot of work ahead? Of course. He basically said as much when he told fans last month that there would be no championship for the Longhorns in 2014-15.
Even at a place like Texas, rebounds don't always happen overnight. Couple that with other schools undoubtedly using Texas' draft "absence" against it in recruiting, and Strong's job of elevating the program back to an elite level just got a bit harder.
Put simply, the Longhorns don't have a lot of momentum at the moment.
Strong can get it back, of course. He had three Louisville players—safety Calvin Pryor, defensive end Marcus Smith and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater—taken in the first round of the draft. That's something Strong can point to.
However, there's a distinct difference between getting recruited in college and getting drafted in the NFL. In college, the recruiting "star system" may be an inexact science, but there's some correlation between it and fielding a championship-caliber team. The same can't be said for the NFL.
Pro organizations want guys who grade out the highest. Period. What recruiting ranking, statistics or accolades a player had in college hardly matters.
Former Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack was drafted fifth overall on Thursday by the Oakland Raiders (and probably could have gone higher). Mack was a 2-star recruit out of high school with no major offers. He wore No. 46 in college because it reflected his rating on EA Sports' NCAA Football video game franchise.
Former Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles, another player generally overlooked by bigger programs, was taken two spots ahead of Mack by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Bortles probably has the most work to do of any of the big-name quarterbacks who were drafted. But, because he's 6'5" and 230 pounds with a great skill set, he was the first quarterback off the board.
|Texas Players Drafted in the Last 10 Year|
Also consider SMU and former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who was selected in the sixth round of the draft by the St. Louis Rams. Gilbert, who threw waves of interceptions with the Longhorns and was literally booed out of Austin, turned things around with the Mustangs.
Yes, Gilbert was a former 5-star recruit, but how many fans would say Gilbert played like a 5-star recruit for most of his college career? He was drafted late because of his potential.
Or, consider former Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, whose whole college career could be summarized with the phrase "We’ve got to get the ball in his hands more." But Goodwin has world-class speed and was drafted in the third round of the 2013 draft by the Buffalo Bills.
The examples could go on and on. In theory, Texas could recruit entire classes of 4- and 5-star players and compete for championships—and none could get drafted. That's quite unlikely to happen, of course, but recruiting and drafting are viewed through two different lenses.
Longhorns defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, an All-American and Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year, was a force for the Horns in 2013. He went to the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent. Jeffcoat was a 5-star member of the 2010 class, which was second nationally.
This may feel like rock bottom for Texas fans. And, yes, it's not a flattering look. However, the number of players drafted during any given year doesn't dictate, by itself, how successful a program is.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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