Safety Kenny Vaccaro will likely end Texas' streak of not having a player taken in the first round of the NFL draft.
The former Texas safety represents a chance for Texas to put a player into the first round of the draft for the first time since following the 2009 season. His selection -- which should be right around the middle of the first round -- will signal an end to a two-year draft slide in which Texas produced one second-round player, a third-round player and five others selected in the fourth round or higher. Before that slide, Mack Brown had not gone two consecutive years without producing a first-round pick. (Defensive end Alex Okafor is currently not in either of the first-round mock drafts done by ESPN’s Todd McShay or Mel Kiper.)
So let’s see here: Brown had two of the worst years of his tenure at Texas in 2010 and 2011. And then neither of those drafts produced a first-round pick. Anyone else see the correlation?
OK, just in case the point slipped by. Texas, with one first-round draft pick, had nine wins last year. The program, as Brown has said repeatedly, is on the right track to getting back to 10-win seasons. So it takes talent to win and sometimes to overcome decisions made on the sideline. The reason Vaccaro is so important is he represents what should be a new wave of talent going from Texas into the NFL and therefore maybe a new streak of 10-win seasons.
While projections can be shaky, a shake of the crystal ball does appear to show Texas with increasing top NFL talent in the near future.
Take the 2014 NFL draft. Quandre Diggs will likely be a very hot commodity. The defensive back is versatile and has proven to be the most talented player on the field in several games in his career. Yeah, he might not come out after his junior year. But given that he has a brother, Quentin Jammer, in the NFL and knows the economics of the NFL vs. college, him staying beyond his junior year is not likely. Diggs, if he plays the way he has in his first two years, could very well be a first-round pick. And Texas doesn’t stop there. Jackson Jeffcoat and Carrington Byndom both have potential to reach up into the first round.
Jeffcoat has the skill set but injuries have plagued him. A solid season without injuries could make him a sought-after prospect. Byndom was a dominant corner as a sophomore, so much so that there was talk he might leave after his junior season. He stumbled in 2012 but still does have the size and potential to be a high value draft pick.
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So Texas has a chance to get two players selected in the first round of 2014. That’s important because, with the exception of 2001, the years Texas had multiple first-round picks (2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007) it produced a 10-win season on the field. Texas has never had three first-round picks under Brown. There is an outside possibility that could happen in 2014. The aforementioned three players all have a shot at being taken in the first round. And added to that is wide receiver Mike Davis.
In the offseason, Davis did step out of college and into the draft. His toe-dipping lasted about three hours before he decided to come back to Texas. Had he stayed eligible for the draft, Davis might have been a mid-round pick.
Now he comes back as a top-10 player at his position with the potential to move up. Wide receiver is somewhat of a murky position in the draft because in exceptional years (2007, 2009), up to six wide receivers have been taken among the first 32 players. But then there are years like 2008, when no wide receivers were taken in the first round. So Davis has to battle his position perception as well as produce.
Additionally to produce, Davis, unlike the defensive players, has to relay on another person. Actually, a lot of other people. He needs quarterback David Ash to be sound, co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to call his number and the offensive line to block long enough for him to get open.
Add all that up and it is much tougher to project what type of senior season, and therefore draft projection, Davis might have.
The addition is not all that hard to figure out when it comes to the talent-wins equation. If one player, Vaccaro, equals nine wins, then two or more possible NFL first-rounders should add up to even more for Texas in 2013.