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The Texas Longhorns had three players selected in the 2013 NFL Draft. Kenny Vaccaro is the first Longhorns to be selected in the first round since 2010.
The 2013 NFL Draft had the burden of following up one of the best quarterback drafts in league history, which featured Andrew Luck, RGIII, and Russell Wilson. While it never had the capability to best it, it included some intriguing headlines that kept people interested and guessing for multiple rounds.
In the case of the Texas Longhorns, fans knew what to expect—not any huge surprises in that department. For the first time since 2010, however, a Longhorn was drafted in the first round of the draft when the New Orleans Saints took Kenny Vaccaro. Three were selected in total, Marquise Goodwin and Alex Okafor being the final two. Each will have an opportunity to see decent playing time in their rookie seasons. We’ll take a look at the three picks and determine what amount of production they will provide their new teams with.
Kenny Vaccaro – 1st Round,#15 Overall, New Orleans
Vaccaro carried the highest expectations into this year’s draft of all draft-eligible Longhorns. For months leading up to April, he was considered the top safety in the 2013 class. His 4.63 forty-yard dash at the Combine didn’t showcase blazing speed, but his excellent athleticism and good playmaking ability are things he has always been able to fall back on. His impressive 38-inch vertical boded well for him, and the lack of any huge names at the position gave Vaccaro the opportunity to be the first safety taken. In fact, he was, and with New Orleansas his destination he will have his chances to make an impact soon.
The Saints were one of the worst defenses in the NFL last year, ranking second-to-last in passing defense with 4,681 yards allowed. Out of pure necessity, Vaccaro will be on the field in Week 1 in some sort of role. He never recorded a high number of interceptions while at Texas, but he his aggressiveness usually puts him in the position to make plays. He plays bigger and more aggressively than his 6-foot frame leads you to believe and he can provide solid run support for a porous Saints front-seven that allowed a league-worst 2,361 rushing yards in 2012.
A couple of worries that are associated with the rookie safety is the possibility of not being able to keep up with faster wide outs, as well as the tendency to play a little out of control at times. The Texas defense was prone to allowing big plays through the air and on the ground, so Vaccaro will have to improve on his pursuit angles and play with self-restraint if he is to be trusted consistently in the NFL.
Marquise Goodwin – 3rd Round, #78 Overall, Buffalo
Goodwin’s relatively high draft position can largely be attributed to his impressive performance at the NFL Combine. He posted an amazing 4.27 forty-yard dash time and was the second-ranked receiver in the broad jump with a measurement of 11’0”. At UT’s pro day, he also recorded a 42-inch vertical jump. Goodwin’s track success has been well documented, especially with his recent trip to the 2012 Summer Olympics, and this background was just another intriguing aspect of the former-Longhorn that allowed teams to overlook (to a certain extent) his below-average height and make him a second-day pick.
The Bills lost receivers Donald Jones and David Nelson to the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns, respectively, thus making a concerted effort in this draft to address the wide receiver position opposite their number one, Stevie Johnson. With talented wide receivers Robert Woods (2nd Round) and Da’Rick Rogers (undrafted free agent) being part of the Bills 2013 rookie class, Goodwin will have his work cut out for him to find a starting spot. But the simple fact that Buffalo used a third-rounder on him says something about their plans for the speedy wideout.
Improvement on his route running is imperative for Goodwin, and he will need to continue to prove his fearlessness on the next level, as he did with the Longhorns throughout his college career. But the speed is there, and he will bring a different sort of diversity to Buffalo that could compliment running back C.J. Spiller’s talents.
Alex Okafor – 4th Round, #103 Overall, Arizona
The lasting image of Alex Okafor’s college career was his complete domination of Oregon State’s offensive line in the Longhorns’ 2012 Alamo Bowl victory. In that game he recorded 4.5 sacks and harassed the quarterback at will. For that and other reasons, the 4th round was a little later than expected for Okafor. Scouts have harped on his size, describing him as NFL-ready in that department, and he still has room to increase his strength. He’s a solid tackler who can play laterally, although his run-stopping ability is more impressive than his speed off the edge. For that reason, big sack numbers probably aren’t in his future, but he is a player who can secure the end of the defensive line against stretch running plays.
The Cardinals talent on defense is well known, and for good reason. They have playmakers at the defensive end and linebacker positions already, which is why substantial playing time is difficult to project for Okafor in his rookie season. The 3-4 defense that Arizona has in place will be a transition from the 4-3 scheme that Texas runs in the Big 12. The fact that Okafor was announced at the draft as an outside linebacker is something worth noting. If plans are for him to back up his former Longhorn teammate Sam Acho, he will be playing standing up on the end of the line, rather than with his hand in the dirt.
How Okafor will fit in with the Cardinals defensive scheme will be interesting to watch, but he should find himself in the rotation one way or another. Although he isn’t extremely quick, he still has a nice combination of size and mobility. We’ll see just how he translates to the rough and rugged NFC West in defending those power-running games of the 49ers, Seahawks, and Rams.
Undrafted Free Agents
Brandon Moore, the former Alabama and JUCO defensive tackle, chose to skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft to the surprise of many. The defensive tackle suffered a dangerous neck injury in the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma in October 2012. He has since bounced back and recently signed a free-agent contract with the San Diego Chargers, which was also the destination for Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o.
Speedster D.J. Monroe went undrafted as well, and he has yet to sign a contract with any NFL team. The exact time on his forty-yard dash has been reported within the 4.3-4.4 range.
Running back Jeremy Hills and punter Alex King are among the other notable undrafted free agents.