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Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

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Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine have big decisions to make.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

As far as the NFL Draft goes, this year looks like a pretty quiet one for Oklahoma. With guys like Orlando Brown and Jordan Thomas announcing their intention to return, Dede Westbrook might be the only sure-fire draft pick on the OU squad.

That is, unless Joe Mixon or Samaje Perine decide to come out.

The running back duo appears to be the last holdout of players mulling their options when it comes to the NFL Draft, and it’s easy to see why. For one thing, it’s very likely that the first running back to decide will influence the decision of the other. It’s also true that both players are dealing with circumstances that impact their choice.

We probably won’t know until after the bowl game which way they’re going to go. Bringing both back would vault the Sooners into the national title conversation in 2017, while losing them both might make it difficult to win the Big 12.

But let’s look at this from their perspective. What are the pros and cons of a jump to the NFL?

Samaje Perine

Jake Trotter broke down Samaje’s choice over at ESPN the other day. For Oklahoma fans, Perine’s draft stock seems somewhat obvious: he’s a physical, hardworking bruiser built like a Greek god who should go no lower than the second round. But Samaje’s been overshadowed by the gaudy performances of several other backs this season, including one on his own team.

That’s not really his fault—he didn’t have time to rack up career numbers because he got hurt. But DraftWire still lists eight other backs who could go ahead of him in this class, including Mixon. Eight! Perine seems to have slipped out of mind among national pundits.

Personally? I don’t think NFL scouts have forgotten about Samaje. That said, Perine might be looking at a fourth-round pick—or later.

At the end of the day, I think Perine can only boost his draft stock if Mixon leaves for the NFL. In 2014, Perine was the featured back and barreled into the national consciousness. But with Mixon, Perine looks merely like the nation’s best change-of-pace back. And no one spends a high draft pick on that.

But hey, there are bigger things than boosting draft stock. Samaje seems like just the sort of team-first guy who might just defy the pundits and come back to chase a national title. Sooners fans should cross their fingers.

Joe Mixon

I’ve heard two different, equally convincing arguments about Joe.

One line of thought basically says: How can he stay here? Now that everyone has seen the video and the program has taken so much heat, won’t the administration do everything possible to distance itself? I mean, this was the plan all along, right? Joe’s talent has always made him seem like a shoe-in candidate for an early exit, even if he could theoretically play for two more years. As a five-star talent, Mixon was always going to go as soon as he could.

But the other side of the coin says that Mixon’s draft stock has never been lower than it is right now. At this moment, NFL teams aren’t thinking of the dual-threat capabilities or the elusiveness, not the speed or the potential for yet more growth. They’re thinking of that video, and what fans and pundits (like this one or this one) will say about their franchise if they take Joe Mixon with any pick, even a late-round pick, in the draft.

Plus, Mixon’s draft stock isn’t all that high even without the video. There are at least three running backs, probably four, who would leave the board before he does. Can another year change that? That has a lot to do with Perine’s decision. I think the Sooners are more reliant, at this point, on Mixon than they are on Perine. A heavy workload on Mixon represents — in addition to a grave injury risk — a chance for some truly staggering numbers.