With the 2011 NFL Draft in the books, college football seniors across the nation are preparing for their final year in school and hoping that they will be able to advance their status in the eyes of NFL scouts and general managers. This will be an important season for these players as their futures will likely be determined by what happens next season.
Looking at just the seniors coming into their final year with the Longhorns, let’s take a look at those players that will be eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft and how their prospects look heading into the season.
Emmanuel Acho-LB: Acho will probably end up being the top defender on the Longhorns defense in 2011 and could be one of the most sought after linebackers in the 2012 NFL Draft. Keep an eye on him because a good season next year could push him into the first round of the draft.
Tray Allen-OG: Allen could have come out this year but he redshirted this past season due to a foot injury and has one more year of eligiblity left. Before he was injured, Allen had played 31 games at both the guard and offensive tackle position, and if he can have a solid season in 2011 and show that he’s over the injury, he could get some strong interest from NFL teams.
Blake Gideon-S: Gideon is a very interesting prospect who, if he has a strong season in 2011, could find himself in the conversation of the best safeties in the 2012 draft class. Not only can he play the safety position well, but also, he can play special teams, which will be appealing to NFL draft scouts and general managers.
He’s had a pretty productive career at Texas, and with a good season as a senior, we could be seeing him often on Sundays.
Ahmad Howard-TE: The interesting thing about Howard is that he has played defensive end in the Longhorns' system, which might be of some interest to teams in the NFL. Players that have played a couple of different positions (mostly on offense then on defense and vice versa) are attractive to scouts and general managers.
Howard’s production as a tight end may not be very spectacular, but his ability to block and catch passes should get some notice, possibly making him a top 10 tight end in next year’s draft.
Blaine Irby-TE: Irby has been injured for the past two seasons but will try to give it a go again in 2011. It’s doubtful that he will have an NFL career waiting for him after he graduates this year, but if he has an outstanding season you just never know.
Luciano Martinez-DL: Martinez has been relegated to scout team duty during his time with the Longhorns and will not get any interest from NFL teams next year.
Luke Padgett-RB: Padgett has only been a scout team running back during his time with the Longhorns and won’t get getting any looks from NFL teams.
Kheeston Randall-DT: The Longhorns have had a lot of success turning out some great talent on the defensive side of the ball and Randall may end up being another one of those highly sought after defenders. He’s had some nice stats leading up to his senior season, and if he can have a great senior season, he could move himself up in the eyes of scouts and see his name called early in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Christian Randolph-DB: Randolph has been relegated to scout team duty and won’t draw interest in next year’s draft.
Josh Richardson-CB: Richardson hasn’t done anything but work on the scout team since coming to the Longhorns.
Keenan Robinson-LB: Robinson will present himself as an interesting prospect to NFL scouts this season, as he has the potential to be one of the better prospects at the linebacker position in 2011. If he can have a good season this year, he could make a case for being one of the top linebacker prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Christian Scott-S: Scott has been one of the more consistent players in the Longhorns' secondary and has been quietly productive. Not only does he have good starting experience, but he has also been productive, which is important to NFL scouts and general managers.
Having a strong 2010 season will help propel Scott further up draft boards and make him an interesting prospect to watch next offseason.
David Snow-C: Snow has been one of the most consistent linemen on the Longhorns' squad, having appeared in 39 with 19 starts. Snow is slated to be a starter this year, and with a consistent effort, you can bet that scouts will be looking at Snow in next year’s draft. Good centers are always a hot commodity and Snow just might be one of those that makes it in the NFL.
Justin Tucker-K: Kickers aren’t usually highly sought after in drafts, but there are a few taken in each draft and Tucker could be one of those in 2012. Tucker has managed to get decent enough yardage on his kickoffs, is fairly accurate in kicking field goals and always makes his extra point attempts. With a good season (and one in which the Longhorns score a lot of points) Tucker could get some draft consideration.
Foswhitt Whittaker-RB: “Fozzy” was supposed to have a breakout season last year, but unfortunately neither Whitaker nor the Longhorns had a great season, and his stock has dropped in the eyes of NFL scouts.
In 13 career starts, Whitaker has 847 yards and six touchdowns. He needs a very productive 2011 season in order to find his way into the minds of scouts. A big season—which is definitely not out the question—would help propel Whitaker into the conversation of higher value running backs and could earn him a higher draft grade.
Trey Wier-LS: Wier has spent his time on the scout team and won’t draw any interest from NFL scouts in 2012.
Malcolm Williams-WR: Williams has struggled—along with the rest of the team’s offense—and right now may not be looked at as a potential NFL draftee. That could all change with a good season and the way that things are looking for the Longhorns right now (after observing some of the spring workouts).
A good season next year will help get Williams noticed, and possibly drafted.
Nick Zajicek-OL: Zajicek has been a member scout team and won’t draw interest from NFL scouts.
Alex Zumberge-DS: Zumberge has been the Longhorns' long snapper since coming to the team, but this will probably not be enough to get him noticed by scouts. But, there have been some successful pure long snappers in the NFL (Chicago Bear’s long snapper Patrick Mannelly is a good example) so he may see some interest as an undrafted free agent.
As can be seen, Texas has a sizeable number of potential draft picks heading into the 2011 season. Keep and eye on these guys next season and see if they can improve their chances of reaching the NFL in 2012.