Despite his baggage, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon may be the first area player taken in the NFL draft on April 28.
Mixon was the No. 1 running back recruit in the nation when he arrived in Norman three years ago. But in July 2014, he had a confrontation with a female student. She shoved him and slapped his face and then he punched her in the face, breaking several bones.
OU coach Bob Stoops suspended Mixon for a year, during which he was allowed to go to school but not take part in any football activities. Mixon was not convicted of any crime but he did commit to public service. Last season, Mixon was an All Big 12 selection. He rushed for 1,274 yards and was in the top five nationally for all-purpose yards.
Mixon met with the woman he hit last week and apologized. They have settled the lawsuit she filed (details are sealed).
NFL scouts say Mixon is a “first-round talent” who will probably be picked in the second or third round because of the incident in Norman. He has compared to All-Pro back Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers (who also has had issues off the field).
Sooner receiver Dede Westbrook was the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year in 2016 with 46 receptions for 743 yards. In 2016, he started slow due to an injury and caught on fire, with 80 catches for 1,524 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was a unanimous first-team All American and won the Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in the nation.
Two things dampen his draft status. His size, under 6 feet and 178 pounds, may force him to move inside to the slot in the NFL. Secondly, two incidents in which he was accused of domestic violence against the mother of his children are a problem even though he was never charged in either incident.
Westbrook may not go in the first or second round but he has the skills that are “translatable” to the NFL. He has been compared to Travis Benjamin.
OU running back Samaje Perine, linebacker Jordan Evans and defensive tackle Charles Walker have almost identical rankings.
Perine holds the NCAA single-game rushing record (427 yards against Kansas in 2014). He has been compared to Michael Turner.
“I love Perine,” said one AFC scout. “Great kid, hard worker, reliable. He’s a team-first player who will fit into a committee approach or can handle all the work. He will be a solid pro back.”
Evans was a three-year starter at OU and is projected to be a solid backup if not a productive starter in the NFL.
Walker played in the first four games at OU in 2016 but sat after suffering his third concussion. A month later, he quit the team, saying he was training for an NFL career. His athletic potential is so good that he will probably be drafted despite his lack of college statistics.
Oklahoma State defensive tackle Vincent Taylor has the highest rating of any of the Cowboys. Last year, he was a first-team All-Big 12 pick with 13 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He tied for the top spot in the nation for blocked kicks with four.
A regional scout for an AFC team predicts he will be an “end of the roster” type player or on a practice squad.
OSU running back Chris Carson is a good prospect in a year with a lot of great running back prospects. His senior year started off slow and then he missed four games with a thumb injury. He came on near the end of the year, finishing with 559 yards and nine touchdowns on just 82 carries, earning honorable mention All-Big 12 notice. Carson also caught 13 passes for 128 yards and a TD in the nine games he played.
They predict he will be taken on the third day of the draft.
Tight end Jarwin Blake of OSU is rated right behind Taylor and Carson. But this is a draft loaded with tight end prospects. He probably needs to gain some weight and develop his blocking skills but he is judged to be an eventual starter in the NFL.
OSU cornerback Ashton Lampkin has the same rating as Blake. Battling injuries in his career, he finished strong, starting 13 games as a senior with 34 tackles and one interception (in the Sugar Bowl).
Three other Cowboys – wide receiver Jhajuan Seales, strong safety Jordan Sterns and offensive tackle Victor Salako – could be drafted or signed as free agents.
Tulsa receiver Keevan Lucas is the only TU player listed on www.nfl.com. Lucas had a breakout year as a sophomore, receiving second-team All-American Athletic Conference honors by finishing near the top of the FBS rankings with 101 receptions and 1,219 receiving yards, while leading the AAC with 11 touchdowns.
As a junior, he started four games (26-409, five TD) before tearing a patella tendon against Houston. In 2016; he got first-team All-AAC honors in his senior year with 81 catches for 1,180 yards and a career-high 15 scores. He’s projected to be a slot receiver, probably taken in the later rounds.
6.0 RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma
5.8 WR Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma
5.6 RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
5.5 DT Charles Walker, Oklahoma
5.4 LB Jordan Evans, Oklahoma
5.3 DT Vincent Taylor, OSU
5.2 RB Christopher Carson, OSU
5.1 TE Jarwin Blake, OSU
5.1 CB Aston Lampkin, OSU
4.9 WR Keevan Lucas, Tulsa
4.9 S Ahmad Thomas, Oklahoma
4.9 WR Jhahuan Seales, OSU
4.9 S Jordan Sterns, OSU
4.8 OT Victor Salako, OSU