A few months ago, it seemed highly unlikely that Oklahoma’s standout, Heisman-finalist wide receiver Dede Westbrook would slip past the 2nd Round of the 2017 NFL Draft. In the middle of his breakout season, Westbrook demonstrated exceptional speed and hands and cruised to OU’s first Biletnikoff Award.
But ever since troubling revelations about his past came to light, Westbrook has struggled to demonstrate that he’s a different man. There’s no denying the talent that Westbrook showed on Saturdays, but his Sunday future is unclear.
Westbrook grew up in Cameron, Texas, and attended Cameron Yoe High School, becoming the team’s star receiver. In a freak accident during the first game of his senior season, Westbrook ruptured his small intestine after coming down on an opponent’s knee, ending his high school career.
In August of 2012, Westbrook was arrested for allegedly striking his child’s mother (the charges were eventually dropped, and OU later claimed to have had no knowledge of them). He enrolled at Blinn College that same fall and played well, ignoring his doctors’ advice to avoid the gridiron. But he struggled in the classroom and later returned to Cameron. His football career appeared over, and he was arrested for family violence again in April 2013.
In the fall of 2014, Westbrook finally went back to Blinn with an arrangement that allowed him to spend more time with his children. In 2014, he had a fantastic season and committed to the Sooners that November.
Westbrook was overshadowed in Sterling Shepard’s final year, but he still had a great first season in Norman with 46 receptions for 743 yards. He was expected to be among OU’s leading receivers in 2016, but it was still unclear what the Sooners would get from the JUCO signee.
Of course, Westbrook turned out to be one of the biggest deep threats in Oklahoma history. After a slow start — in which OU went 1-2 as Westbrook nursed a hamstring — Dede broke out in Big 12 play and ended the season with 80 receptions for 1,524 yards, 17 touchdowns and an incredible average of 19.1 yards per catch en route to winning the Biletnikoff Award.
Westbrook’s biggest asset is undeniably his speed. Even when double-teamed by a safety, Westbrook’s seam routes torched Big 12 defenses over and over again as Baker Mayfield dropped in deep passes over his shoulder.
Westbrook can fake out corners with double-moves and quick cuts, and won’t be caught once he’s earned a step on his man. He’s also willing to be physical despite his 6-foot, 175-pound frame, regularly stiff-arming bigger players and embracing contact. Westbrook can also be a major asset in the return game at the next level.
After reports of new red flags from some draft insiders, it seems like Westbrook is off some boards entirely. Yet some team will undoubtedly take a flyer on the high-upside receiver — the question is, when?
Meanwhile, Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball predicts Westbrook will go at the beginning of Round 4, 108th to the Browns.
So there’s definitely a feeling that Westbrook’s off-the-field troubles have made him a mid-round guy rather than a top-five receiver. But who knows? All it takes is one franchise that thinks he’s worth a shot.