Mixon heads the list of local draftees

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who was not invited to the NFL Combine, was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of last week’s draft.

Four players from OU and two from OSU were drafted while at least eight other players – including Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans – signed contracts as undrafted free agents.

OU receiver Dede Westbrook was drafted by Jacksonville in the fourth round and former Sooner Samaje Perine was taken by the Washington Redskins, also in the fourth round.

OU linebacker Jordan Evans went to Cincinnati in the sixth round and OSU defensive tackle Vincent Taylor was drafted by Miami that round. Cowboy running back Chris Carson was drafted by Seattle in Round 7. Mixon was the highest pick from an Oklahoma school. Mixon would have been a first round pick if not for an incident in 2014 when he struck a coed and broke bones in her face.

ESPN commentators showed the video during the draft coverage and said they intend to keep showing the incident, maybe throughout Mixon’s entire NFL career.

Mixon entered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor assault charge in October 2014 for punching a woman named Amelia Molitor, causing broken bones in her face which required hospitalization and surgery. The incident happened at Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe in Norman, on Campus Corner.

The surveillance video of the incident showed Mixon and Molitor having an argument, which was followed by Molitor pushing Mixon, him lunging at her, her slapping him, and him punching her. The punch caused her face to slam into a table. Mixon told police that Molitor’s friend had directed a racial slur at him and that he responded with a homophobic slur at the friend.

Mixon got a one-year deferred sentence and was ordered to undergo counseling along with 100 hours of community service. Molitor filed suit in federal court against Mixon and a settlement in the case was reached, and Mixon apologized to Molitor on April 21. Molitor said he accepted his apology and bears no ill will toward him.

OU coach Bob Stoops suspended Mixon for a year and then Mixon played two years for the Sooners before declaring for the draft. Bengals owner Mike Brown has said he’s not “looking for choir boys, he’s looking for football players.” Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis defended the selection.

“We’ve done such a lot of work regarding Joe Mixon, throughout the entire process this year and based on all the time, all the research, we felt that we can continue to move forward,” Lewis said. “Joe’s situation kind of came to a settlement in all ways this week, which also led us to feel better about the opportunity here to move forward. We have done all our due diligence we could do, time spent, interviewing people, everybody around him, everybody around his background, people that have coached at Oklahoma with insight regarding him and how he has carried himself since that day.”

Some think Mixon was the most talented running back in this draft.

“I think I bring the piece they were missing. I feel like I’m going to be very dynamic in that offense,” Mixon said. “I really feel like John Ross and I are going to bring something to the table that they’ve never seen before. We’re basically looking forward to coming up there. Of course the ultimate goal is us getting to the Super Bowl.”

“I’m so excited, I can hardly stand myself,” said offensive coordinator Ken Zampese.  “This guy can flat go — very, very good football player — strong, explosive, change of direction, feel and instincts, catches the ball, can move him around on different places of the field, interviewed football very well, protections, explained his offense well … I think he has a very, very bright future.”

At OU, Mixon returned five punts and two kickoffs last season for a total of 504 yards and a TD. Mixon was taken with the 48th pick.  Mixon said the Bengals have talked about creating an off-the-field support system, which is what the Chiefs did for fifth-rounder Tyreek Hill last year.

“I’m not sure that anyone in the country has had as much talent at running back as we’ve had the last couple of years, and Joe was a big part of that,” Stoops said. “He has the size and speed you love, but he also has great footwork. He picks the right gaps and then he has the acceleration to make the big play. He’s great catching the ball out of the backfield and it’s pretty rare the first guy brings him down. When you add in his abilities on special teams, Joe is something very rare. I’m proud of his development on and off the field.”

Westbrook was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the third pick in the fourth round (110th overall) while running back Perine went to the Washington Redskins with the seventh pick in the round (114th overall). Westbrook is coming off one of the most productive seasons at any position in OU history. He is OU’s first winner of the Biletnikoff Award and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting. He set the OU single-season record with 17 receiving TDs, led all Power 5 players with 1,524 receiving yards and 1.31 receiving TDs per game, and had more receiving TDs (17) over the season’s final 10 outings than 43 teams had on the entire season.

“Dede had one of the all-time great seasons last year and is about as explosive a playmaker as they come,” said Stoops. “You can say the same thing about how sure-handed he is. He’s almost always the fastest guy on the field, and his route running gets him open all over the place. He’s got the ability to take the short routes all the way to the end zone once he makes the catch. And with his speed and ability to create in the open field, he’s also a great asset in the return game.”

Perine opted for the NFL following his junior season and after he set a pair extremely significant records. As a freshman in 2014, the 5-10, 235-pound bruiser rushed for an FBS single-game record of 427 yards against Kansas (he exited the game with 12:16 remaining). Then, to top off his stellar career, Perine ran for 86 yards in a Sugar Bowl win over Auburn in January, passing Billy Sims to give him the OU all-time rushing record with 4,122 yards.

Perine, from Pflugerville, Texas, ranks fourth in OU history with 49 rushing TDs, fifth with 685 carries and sixth with 4,443 all-purpose yards. He ran for 1,713 yards as a freshman, 1,349 as a sophomore and 1,060 as a junior when he missed three full games and three-fourths of another due to injury.

“What can you say about a guy who is your all-time leading rusher in only three years?” said Stoops. “And to do it at a place like Oklahoma with the history and tradition we have at that position is really special. With his strength and power, no one is taking Samaje down with arm tackles, and plenty have failed even with form tackles. He’s very good at finding the right crease and he really punishes defenders. He’s very powerful in his lower body and he has enough speed to break off big runs like he did for us for three years. He’s as tough a guy as you can have.”

The Cincinnati Bengals took Jordan Evans in Round 6 with the No. 193 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. “Jordan was excellent for us and probably hasn’t gotten the attention he deserves,” Stoops said. “He was very productive for us the last four years and has the ability to make big-time plays, even in the passing game. You look at his athleticism and his productivity — I’m not sure there’s much else you could want from a linebacker. Wherever he ends up, he’ll be a great asset to his team.”

Taylor became the 20th draft pick of the Mike Gundy era Saturday, as the Miami Dolphins selected him with the 194th overall pick in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Taylor had  12 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss during his career, despite declaring for the NFL Draft after his junior season. And he had a school-record matching five career blocked kicks.

Carson was chosen by the Seattle Seahawks with the 249th overall pick in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Despite missing several games in the first half of last year, Carson was OSU’s second leading rusher with 559 yards on 82 carries (6.8 yards per attempt) and his nine rushing touchdowns led the team.

Carson averaged 92.8 rushing yards per game in his final four games of the season and added five rushing touchdowns during that span. He tallied a career-high 146 rushing yards in OSU’s win over TCU and rushed for at least 60 yards in four other games. He also added 13 catches for 128 yards last year.

Former TU players signed undrafted free agent contracts. Quarterback Dane Evans signed with the New York Jets and defensive tackle Hayden Carman with the Minnesota Vikings, while receiver Keevan Lucas has received a tryout with the New York Jets.

Dane Evans (6-1, 210) leaves Tulsa as the school’s career record-holder for passing yards (11,680), total offense (11,752), TD passes thrown (84), pass completions (904) and pass attempts (1,577). He had 24 career games with multiple TD passes, and 13 games with 3 or more TD passes.