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Oklahoma Football: Observations from the 2020 NFL Draft

The selections of Kenneth Murray and Neville Gallimore gave OU’s coaching staff cause for celebration.

NFL: NFL Draft Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 NFL Draft apparently got fans feeling all nostalgic for the 2017 Oklahoma Sooners.

With the Dallas Cowboys’ selection of OU wide receiver CeeDee Lamb in the first round, it brought the total number of offensive players drafted from that team to 12 if you count kicker Austin Seibert. That includes five first-round selections and two top overall picks. The loaded group mixed high-end recruits like Lamb with diamonds in the rough such as guard Ben Powers.

Three years later, it’s easy to lament what could have been with that team, which saw its season end in a loss in double overtime to the Georgia Bulldogs in a College Football Playoff semifinal. Let’s approach this from a different angle, though. In the last three drafts (2018, 2019, 2020), the Sooners have had a total of 16 players selected. UGA has seen 20 players picked. That speaks to the deeper roster on the UGA side of the field on that night in the Rose Bowl.

What if you did that with the last two years’ worth of draft picks from OU and the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Sooners’ opponent in the CFP semifinals in 2018? Bama leads 19 to 12.

The LSU Tigers smacked around OU in the 2019 semis, then sent 14 players to the NFL via the draft. That’s a modern-day record. OU had four this year.

The last three years of postseason disappointments have shown that OU didn’t quite have the horses to beat better-stocked teams consistently. Of course, the Clemson Tigers have produced NFL talent at a clip similar to the Sooners lately, so it’s not impossible to win Playoff games and national titles recruiting and developing at that level. That still looks more like an exception to the rule about talent, and it bears mentioning that Dabo Swinney is using his program’s run of success to raise Clemson’s recruiting profile.

The good news is that the window is opening for OU, not closing. Around eight Sooners should hear their names called by Roger Goodell next year. You can see as many as 13 going in 2022. That bodes well for OU on the field in the coming seasons.

Other thoughts:

*OU actually had an okay hit rate this year in terms of eligible players getting drafted. Of the 12 juniors and seniors available, four were selected in the first three rounds.

Eight of 16 eligible players went in the ‘19 draft – half of them were third-day selections.

*Which pick set off more of a celebration in the OU coaching offices: linebacker Kenneth Murray going in the first round or defensive tackle Neville Gallimore? The answer is yes.

OU’s coaches desperately needed something – anything – better than optimism to sell to top-tier defenders on the recruiting trail. The program’s previous three draft classes saw just two low-round picks, edge Ogbonnia Okoronkwo in the fifth round in 2018 and LB Jordan Evans in the sixth the year before.

*Assuming the plan is to use him like Taysom Hill, the Philadelphia Eagles taking QB Jalen Hurts in the second round could represent a shift in how teams approach niche personnel. It also could just be a one-off.

Either way, Hurts had no NFL future before he transferred to Oklahoma. His rise up draft boards cemented Lincoln Riley as the premier developer of QBs on the college level.

*Looking around the rest of the Big 12, TCU coach Gary Patterson has to be wondering what could have been for the Horned Frogs last season. Like OU, TCU had two first-round picks, one in the second and one in the third. The Horned Frogs even added one more selection in the seventh round for good measure.

Don’t ever underestimate the importance of QB play, especially in the Big 12.