Feb 22, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat speaks at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Longhorns Football: The Meaning of No Players Drafted in 2014

Hook’em Headlines profiled three players last week that were likely to be taken in the 2014 NFL Draft, looking at WR Mike Davis, DE Jackson Jeffcoat, and CB Carrington Byndom.  All players had a reasonable likelihood to be taken in the NFL Draft, and Davis/Jeffcoat in particular offered very valuable draft profiles to teams looking for help on the offensive edge or the defensive edge.

As it turns out, all eligible Longhorns went undrafted in 2014.  With Byndom, this was likely a 50-50 proposition anyway, as he was not projected to go higher than the fifth round.  He signed with the Carolina Panthers.  Other undrafted Longhorns in 2013 included offensive linemen Trey Hopkins (Bengals), Donald Hawkins (Eagles), and defensive tackle Chris Whaley (Cowboys) [SOURCE].

The main focus should remain on Jeffcoat (Seahawks) and Mike Davis (Raiders), who have a better than 50/50 shot at sticking on NFL rosters, if not the teams that drafted them.  This article will focus on the “whys” regarding the end of a streak of getting Longhorns drafted that stretched back to the 30’s.  First, the elephant in the room:

Despite a new coaching staff, no eligible Longhorn juniors went to the draft

I was pretty certain JR RB Malcolm Brown was NFL bound, but he’s back in 2014 along with DE Cedric Reed, CB Quandre Diggs, and WR Jaxon Shipley.  And in fact, all juniors from last year will return in 2014.

This will obviously do great things for the depth of the 2014 Texas football team, but the trade off comes on NFL draft day: with only seniors eligible, there were a very small number of Longhorns who could have realistically been drafted.  Counting Whaley, who is coming off a torn ACL and all the loss of value that that causes for NFL teams, only four players from the 2013 Texas Longhorns could have reasonably been drafted.

As has been said elsewhere, this has been problematic when you consider the highly rated Texas recruiting class of 2010.  Any one college recruiting class will only produce a couple of NFL draft picks, no matter how strong the class is, but without any players from the equally strong 2011 class joining them, the total number of chances Texas had to get a player drafted were way down.

Mack Brown didn’t redshirt top talents

This is great for the draft profiles as the players, as they burn through college eligibility faster and earlier than counterparts at other schools.  But it also means that the majority of the 2009 class was already through the program.  Kenny Vaccaro was a top 20 pick in the 2013 NFL draft.  It is unlikely a talent like Vaccaro would have been back in 2014 even if he had been redshirted, so Texas got the most out of him.  But where as a program like Notre Dame developed another 4-star talent in the 2009 class (LT Zack Martin) into a top 20 NFL draft pick over five seasons, the only fifth year seniors Texas brings back are players who have not managed to realize their potential.  This also hurts NFL draft efforts.

Just two members of the 2009 recruiting class got drafted: QB Garrett Gilbert, who spent the 2013 season at SMU, and DE Alex Okafor, who wasn’t as highly touted or accomplished as Jeffcoat.

Projecting NFL success based on college skill is useful, but it’s much harder to predict how teams will act on draft day

Jeffcoat was a five star recruit from Plano, and Davis was a four star recruit from Skyline in Dallas.  Both players had college careers meeting or exceeding their recruiting expectations.  And both players are better prospects than a lot of the players that teams selected in the final four rounds of the NFL draft.  Both play premium NFL positions.  So why didn’t either get taken.

These aren’t good reasons, because there very well not be a good reason beyond “stuff happens, sometimes.”  But in Jeffcoat’s case, his usage at Texas over a period where the defensive coordinator went from Will Muschamp to Manny Diaz to Greg Robinson after he made the starting lineup made it easy for NFL teams to label him a “‘tweener.”  Tweeners are often very good football players with a bright NFL future, but because of the notion that a player is too small to play end in a 4-3 (and Jeffcoat at times shows a weakness vs the run) and not quick enough to play standup linebacker in a 3-4, you have two different kinds of NFL defenses docking you points for not fitting the scheme.  As NFL types know: many teams reservations end up being Seattle’s gain, and Jeffcoat fits the Seahawks’ team defense mentality.

And in the case of Davis, he was equally unremarkable in a strong group of wide receivers, and he didn’t come with the shiny new car smell that a declared underclassman like Marqise Lee might enjoy.  NFL receivers tend to be very spottily graded since many scouts do not appear to be sure what they are looking for, and are rarely looking for the same thing.  It is more difficult to build consensus in the room at the receiver position than at any other (quarterback may be the exception).  No decision maker was able to build a consensus to take Davis in any round, which is a great thing for the Raiders.

There will be someone drafted next year, right?

Of course.  Even if a player like RB Jonathan Gray or DT Malcolm Brown doesn’t come out early, there will still be plenty of buzz around Cedric Reed, and Quandre Diggs should be more appealing to the league than Byndom was.  RB Malcolm Brown still figures to be a great bet to be a top-of-the-depth chart RB at the next level, and could have been one of the five best RBs in this class had he come out early.  The roster isn’t exactly void of talent.

This does happen to every program from time to time, and while Mack Brown doesn’t come away looking great with Texas not getting a single player picked this weekend, I think it is more productive to appreciate what that streak meant, and the men who worked to keep it going.

Hook’em Headlines is the Texas Longhorns blog for FanSided’s Sports Blog Network. We cover the latest Longhorn news and stories while providing some of the best analysis the web has to offer.
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