The decline in the quality of defense played by the Oklahoma Sooners for the better part of a decade has carried over to the program’s production in the NFL draft. Of the eight OU players selected a year ago, zero came from the defensive side of the ball (although Oklahoma did return a lot of its defensive depth last offseason). In 2018, edge rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo went in the fifth round to the Los Angeles Rams. The year before that saw linebacker Jordan Evans go to the Cincinnati Bengals in the sixth round.
That will almost certainly change this season, with Kenneth Murray looking like one of the first linebackers off the board and defensive tackle Neville Gallimore in line to hear his name called on the second day. If cornerback Parnell Motley can sneak into the back half of this year’s draft to give the Sooners three picks this year, it will constitute a major step forward.
Parnell Motley’s Story
Motley arrived in Norman in 2016 as a mid-tier recruit, one of the earliest members of OU’s emerging pipeline in the Baltimore-Washington area. By the spring of 2017, he was turning heads as an up-and-coming talent at cornerback, earning a starting role as a sophomore. After showing early signs of promise that season, Motley’s play deteriorated along with the rest of the defense in the second half of the year.
Motley’s slide continued in his junior season, as opponents frequently victimized him on deep balls over the course of the year. In a scenario that became a theme for the secondary in ‘18, he worked his way on and off the field throughout the 14 games. That left him fighting for a job in 2019.
Fortunately for Motley and the Sooners, he flourished in OU’s new defensive scheme under coordinator Alex Grinch and new cornerbacks coach Roy Manning. He showed a particular knack for creating timely takeaways and eventually became arguably the top cover corner in the Big 12. After breaking up 13 passes on the season, he was rewarded at the end of year with a first-team spot on the media’s All-Big 12 team.
Pro Day Results
The NFL declined to offer Motley a spot at its draft combine in February, so he had to make the most of OU’s pro day. The results were less than spectacular.
Motley ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, which would put him around the middle of the pack among defensive backs at the NFL combine. However, he tested poorly on the vertical leap (30 inches), broad jump (108 inches), bench press (12 reps), three-cone drill (7.2 seconds) and the shuttle drill (4.47 seconds). All would have ranked near the bottom among NFL combine participants at DB.
With those kinds of numbers, Motley needs to hope he put enough on game film in the last three seasons to merit a pick.
Sampling mocks from the usual suspects among draftniks suggests Motley will be lucky to hear his name called this weekend. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report and Chad Reuter of NFL.com both left him off their latest seven-round mocks. Dane Brugler of The Athletic is projecting that the Chicago Bears will take Motley with the 226th pick in the final round.