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Monday, April 29, 2013
Three Horns drafted; more coming in '14?

By Carter Strickland

AUSTIN, Texas -- Kenny Vaccaro, Alex Okafor and Marquise Goodwin already have stopped thinking about what was -- the NFL draft -- and started to work on what will be -- their respective NFL futures.

Really it’s that type of drive that is what made the three Longhorns NFL players in the first place.

Mike Davis
Speedster Mike Davis could be a high draft pick in 2014, especially if the Longhorns air it out in 2013.
"I can’t let them down. Can’t be done," said Okafor of his new employer, Arizona. "I’ve got to be successful."

"I understand that if you’re going to draft a safety that high, you want a guy that’s going to come in and make plays," added Vaccaro. "I know that I need to be ready and ready to play quickly. That’s how I’m going to take it. I’m not worried about anything else, I just want to come in and dominate early on."

Oddly enough, it was Vaccaro who was not seen as a dominant player coming out of high school. And now, just like several other defensive backs before him -- like Aaron Ross and Michael Huff -- Vaccaro has to live up to the billing of the No. 15 pick. Right now there doesn't appear to be any worry that he can do just that.

"We felt like if he was available, we were getting an awfully good defensive football player to help our team," said New Orleans coach Sean Payton. "Now it will be up to him and us as coaches to get him up to speed along with everyone else."

Speed is what Buffalo got with Goodwin. The Olympian ran the fastest 40 at the NFL combine in February.

"The first thing that comes to your mind is speed," Buffalo coach Doug Marrone said of Goodwin. "And that is the one thing, and you hear this a lot from coaches, but it is the one thing you cannot coach."

Goodwin insists it is not the only thing he has to offer, either.

"It was a question whether I could run routes, rather than running in a straight line," Goodwin said. "Little did people know, yeah, I ran vertical; really I ran a lot more routes with cuts more than I did vertical. For people to be skeptical about if I could be a polished route runner, it was totally over my head. It’s all good now."

Now what remains for Texas, at least, is to figure out how good this day can be for them in the future. In the end the Longhorns had only three players drafted. Oklahoma and Alabama, two teams Texas would like to compare itself to in terms of talent, had six and nine players selected, respectively.

One of the main selling points for any program is the ability to put players in the NFL. Texas' ability to do that lately, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, has slacked off. And it might not pick up in 2014.

Jackson Jeffcoat, Mike Davis and Carrington Byndom should be the top prospects in the 2014 NFL draft. In fact, Davis, a wide receiver, declared for this year's draft for about three hours before thinking better of the decision.

Jeffcoat, if he can remain injury-free, should be at the top of that NFL draft class for Texas. He is currently considered a top-five prospect at his position. But he has injured both his pectoral muscles in each of the last two seasons. As a result his production is not where many thought it would be at this stage f his career. But he still has first-round potential.

With a big year, and given that Texas appears to be ready to throw the ball more in 2013 that might happen, Davis should be a top-10 prospect at his position.

Byndom will need to bounce back from what was a disappointing junior season in order to make it in the top 10. He’s chasing Oklahoma’s Aaron Colvin and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert for top corner in the Big 12 honors.

Linebacker Jordan Hicks could be a part of the 2014 NFL draft but he is more likely to wait until 2015. While Hicks is technically a senior, Texas is asking for a medical redshirt for Hicks. If he gets it, Hicks might be best advised to stay and prove that he can remain healthy and productive for two straight seasons.

Ashton Dorsey and Chris Whaley have a chance to become draft picks largely because defensive tackles are such a premium in the NFL. But going into the season both have a lot of work to do if they want to catch the eye of the NFL. That might be difficult given that both are going to be splitting time with Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson.

Along the offensive line Mason Walters and Trey Hopkins will have the best chances to be the first Texas offensive lineman drafted since Tony Hills in 2008. But neither is assured of a draft spot and will go into the season seen as late round prospects at best.

As for coming out early, there is a chance Quandre Diggs could flirt with the possibility. But he is going to be hurt by his size. Only one corner shorter than 5-foot-10 was taken in the 2013 draft and that was Tyrann Mathieu who was selected in the third round. Diggs is listed at 5-10 but has not been measured by NFL personnel.

For now, though, the immediate future, the one with mini-camps in it, is all about the most recent three NFL players from Texas measuring up in their new jobs.