Four Oklahoma Sooners were selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. Baker Mayfield in the first, Orlando Brown and Mark Andrews in the third, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo was taken in the fifth. Many of us expected Dimitri Flowers to hear his name announced over the weekend as well, but instead he has to take the route of signing on as an undrafted free agent. So how do each of them fit with their respective NFL teams?
In order of when they were drafted, I’ll start things off with Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick, and the Cleveland Browns. Mayfield brings just about everything you’d want in a QB to the table. He’s accurate, he’s capable of making every throw, he’s elusive enough to escape a collapsing pocket, and his eyes are always looking down the field. He also understands the quarterback position at a level unmatched by his draft counterparts.
While he’s truly exceptional in all of those aforementioned areas of his game, perhaps his greatest trait is his hyper-competitiveness. Mayfield is a straight up gamer, and he’s at his absolute best whenever the odds are against him. The Browns have needed a quarterback that makes his teammates better, and Mayfield knows how to get the most out of those around him.
As far as the QB situation goes in Cleveland, Mayfield finds himself with the opportunity to sit back and learn a bit before being thrust into the full-time starting role. Tyrod Taylor, a veteran entering his eighth season in the league, is penciled in as the Browns’ starting signal caller, but the competition is wide open for Mayfield to work his way up to starter status throughout training camp and the pre-season. If Mayfield is the Day 1 starter after the pre-season, it’ll likely be because he out-performed the competition.
"He plays with a ton of passion and swagger. I know this, the spotlight won't be too bright for @bakermayfield" @TroyAikman on the @Browns selection of #BakerMayfield #OUDNA ➡️ https://t.co/b4lA64o4d4 pic.twitter.com/GPkPJn7QZI— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) April 27, 2018
In the third round, the Baltimore Ravens earned themselves some legitimate rooting interest from Sooner fans. Baltimore drafted OT Orlando Brown Jr. and TE Mark Andrews with the 83rd and 86th overall picks, respectively. It’s great that Brown and Andrews are continuing their playing careers together as professionals, but the Ravens didn’t just acquire talent for the sake of adding talent. These two draft picks were actually smart moves at positions of need.
Following the conclusion of the college football season, Orlando Brown was widely considered a virtual lock for a first round selection. Then the NFL Combine shed a harsh light on Brown’s athletic deficiencies, and his draft stock paid the price. Still, Brown’s tape doesn’t lie, and while he may not test the best, he has a proven track record of getting the job done when it matters most — on game day.
“It’s an incredible blessed opportunity to be able to play here and play for a team that I grew up loving.”— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) April 28, 2018
Ultimately, it’s a win-win for both parties. Brown is where he wants to be (he’s the legacy of his late father ‘Zeus’, a former Raven), and Baltimore was able to pick him up at a great value. The current situation at right tackle for the Ravens isn’t very strong, and Logan Levy of Baltimore Beatdown writes that “without a doubt, Brown is an upgrade over (current starting right tackle) James Hurst.”
Ravens QB Joe Flacco was once regarded as one of the best signal callers in the league. After winning Super Bowl XVLII, and subsequently being named Super Bowl MVP, Flacco was at the highest of highs. Since then, his performance on the field has seen a steady decline, but a unique receiving target like Mark Andrews could start to buck that trend.
Andrews can be a third-down/red zone security blanket for Flacco with quality size and excellent route running ability. At Oklahoma, Andrews was rarely used as a blocking tight end, but I wouldn’t say that was because he was a poor blocker, rather his prowess as a receiver was just that vital to Lincoln Riley’s offense.
Speaking of the Oklahoma offense, the versatility of the Sooners’ spread offense prepared both Brown and Andrews for the specific roles they will be assigned with as pros. Brown saw it all and performed at a high level in his 40 career starts at left tackle, and there isn’t a route Andrews isn’t familiar with running. That kind of experience is invaluable, and while there will be a learning curve for both players (Brown on the right side and Andrews in blocking sets), they’ve already shown the mental capacity to handle such offensive challenges.
In the fifth round, the Los Angeles Rams drafted Ogbonnia Okoronkwo with the 160th overall pick. For the first half of his Sooner career, Ogbo was viewed as a pass rushing specialist, but over his final two seasons, Ogbo began to tap into his potential in other areas of his game. Now that he’s with the Rams, he can continue to grow and learn under Wade Phillips, one of the best defensive coordinators in the league.
Aside from Ogbo entering the mix, the Rams linebacking corps will look vastly different this season than it did a year ago. After having to replace two of its starting linebackers, the door is wide open for Ogbo to earn a significant amount of playing time this season, depending on how quickly he can adjust to the game.
Not many players possess Okoronkwo’s combination of size, quickness and motor. He also uses his low center of gravity to his advantage, and bigger tackles will often have problems blocking him once he puts it all together. The Rams Wire’s Cameron DaSilva says Okoronkwo could end up being the steal of the draft, and given Wade Phillips’ track record with developing edge rushers, Ogbo could have tremendous success in time.
Now for Dimitri Flowers, who somewhat surprisingly went undrafted, the path for a long a successful career in the NFL is still his for the taking. It’s only a little unfortunate that he’s labeled as a fullback, because that position simply isn’t as popular as it was years ago. In fact, there were only two fullbacks taken in the 2018 NFL Draft — a fifth rounder and a seventh rounder. Still, Flowers is so much more than just a fullback, and a lot of teams may regret passing on a player with his versatility.
The Jets signed #OU FB Dimitri Flowers.. I could see him playing in the NFL for a decade. Really versatile and might've been the smartest football player in the Sooners program.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) April 29, 2018
Luckily, the New York Jets made the call and signed Flowers as an undrafted free agent. This contract doesn’t bind Flowers to the Jets, but it does guarantee that he will get the opportunity to sign on with the team in the future depending on how well he performs in practice and how he compares to Thomas Lawrence — the other fullback on the roster. For the next several months, the more exposure Flowers has with the Jets, the more other teams will pay attention. He has the blocking ability, the hands and the intelligence. Now it’s up to him to make the most of this chance.
Other Sooners who have signed with NFL teams as UDFAs since the conclusion of the draft are Jeff Badet with the Minnesota Vikings, Steven Parker with the L.A. Rams, DJ Ward and Erick Wren with the Cleveland Browns, Du’Vonta Lampkin with the Baltimore Ravens, Jordan Thomas with the Philadelphia Eagles, Emmanuel Beal with the Seattle Seahawks, and Jordan Smallwood with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Badet should have a good chance at finding a spot on a roster somewhere (if not with the Vikings) as a special teams weapon or situational receiver. Even though Parker wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, he hasn’t stopped working towards his goal, and he relishes the opportunity to join Okoronkwo in L.A. full time. As far as Beal is concerned, Seattle’s history of turning undrafted free agents into defensive stars has to be encouraging.
With the 2018 NFL Draft officially in the books, it figures to be another compelling season for former Sooners turned pro. At the moment, it appears that each of the drafted Sooners and a few of the UDFAs are in a great situation to not only improve their individual games, but also to have fulfilling careers that Sooner Nation can celebrate for years to come.
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