Does Texas Football Have the Talent to Rebound at the 2015 NFL Draft?

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Does Texas Football Have the Talent to Rebound at the 2015 NFL Draft?
USA Today

The 2014 NFL draft wasn't good to the Big 12, which finished with the lowest number of drafted players (17) of any of the so-called "Power 5" conferences. For what it's worth, having only 10 teams may have something to do with that as well.

The draft was especially rough for Texas, which didn't have a single player selected for the first time in nearly 80 years. There's no question that this was a low point for the Longhorns program, whose bad years were, at one point, said to still be better than Missouri's good years. 

Being shut out of the draft is a bad look that will undoubtedly be used against it in recruiting. As David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest notes, only defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat could have been realistically considered a draft "snub"

Yes, Texas was left without a pick, but Jackson Jeffcoat was really the only major snub. That's troubling. He sounded like a middle-rounder for most of the draft process, but his durability issues (ankle injury as a freshman and major pectoral injuries as a sophomore and junior) and less-than-ideal technique surely were the reason for his tumble. 

However, first-year head coach Charlie Strong can point to three first-round selections he coached at Louisville: safety Calvin Pryor, defensive end Marcus Smith and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater

Can Strong pull a similar turnaround in Austin after one season? 

Consider the players who could have declared for the NFL draft but decided to come back to Texas for another season: Defensive end Cedric Reed, cornerback Quandre Diggs and running back Malcolm Brown. (Fellow running back Johnathan Gray will also be a draft-eligible junior in 2014-15.) 

For all the attention on Jeffcoat, Reed was a force along the Horns' defensive line as well, finishing second on the team in tackles for loss. Diggs led the team in pass breakups, and Brown led the team in rushing. 

Eric Gay/Associated Press

2015 mock drafts and big boards are already being posted. At this point, they're nothing more than preliminary guesses and should be treated as such; so much can change in a year. 

Still, early marks have been favorable for the Horns. B/R's Matt Miller has Brown as the No. 7 running back, Reed as the No. 3 defensive end and Diggs as the No. 2 cornerbackEven oft-injured linebacker Jordan Hicks is getting some early 2015 draft love

Furthermore, USA Today's Brent Sobleski and Dan Kadar of SB Nation have Reed going 19th overall in next year's draft. 

Eric Gay/Associated Press

These way-too-early posts are subject to change dramatically, of course, but they provide a snapshot of where players stand. 

Who knows how many wins Strong's team will have this year? But one thing seems certain: Texas will likely run the ball a lot and play sound defense. That's where the team's strengths lie, and it's a defensive-minded coaching staff. 

That plays into guys like Reed, Diggs, Brown and Gray having big years in 2014—provided they can stay healthy. 

Being shut out of the NFL draft was a bad look for Texas and a sign that moving on from former coach Mack Brown was a good call. The turnover on the defensive coaching staff—defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was relieved of his duties two weeks into the season in favor of Greg Robinson—certainly didn't help the cause. 

Strong has a good reputation, though, and the Horns' new coaching staff has some solid pieces to coach up. No matter how the draft shakes out next year, it seems unlikely that Texas will come close to being shut out again. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. 

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