Lane Johnson

West Virginia WR Tavon Austin is the head of a class of Big 12 players with bright NFL futures

Of the 22 Big 12 players selected last week in the NFL draft, several are expected to make immediate impacts. Here are some safe bets.

Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (St. Louis Rams)

I believe that Austin will be the top NFL player from the 2013 draft class. He is only 5-foot-8 but runs a 4.34-second 40-yard dash, which seems to translate in game situations. He racked up 574 all-purpose yards in a loss to Oklahoma (2nd-most in FBS history), and in the process showed his versatility as a receiver, running back and return man. I really like what I saw from him in college, and think he has a chance to excel in a Percy Harvin-like utility role in the NFL. He will do it all for the Rams, and will have a stellar career if he proves to be durable.

Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State (Baltimore Ravens)

When the Ravens lost Ray Lewis to retirement this offseason, inside linebacker became a question mark, as did who would be his replacement. The Ravens took Brown in the second round, and should be fine at the position. Brown racked up at least 100 tackles in each of his two seasons in Manhattan.

Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma (Philadelphia Eagles)

Johnson is a very versatile player who should fit perfectly in Chip Kelly's offensive system. Johnson was a quarterback as well as a track star in high school and played some tight end as well as defensive end before moving to the line at OU. He runs a 4.72-second 40-yard dash, and was one of the most athletic linemen in the class of 2013.  He should be a staple of the Eagles offensive line for years to come, and give Michael Vick some much needed protection on either side of the line.

Alex Okafor, DE, Texas (Arizona Cardinals)

Maybe its just the Texas homer in me, but I was shocked to see Okafor drop into the fourth round like he did. He was one of four players in the FBS to record 12-plus sacks and force four or more fumbles in 2012, and ended his career with one of the greatest defensive performances I have ever seen live (behind only Ndamukong Suh in the 2009 Big 12 Championship). In the 2012 Valero Alamo Bowl, Okafor was credited with a game record 4.5 sacks and even made his assigned blocker cry by the end of the game, although he was probably just as sad that his Oregon State career was coming to an end as he was with his performance. Okafor could be one of the biggest steals in the draft, and should help anchor the Cardinals defense for years to come.

Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas (New Orleans Saints)

Vaccaro is a testament to the fact that hard work in college trumps a high star rating out of high school. He was ranked the 18th-best safety out of high school, according to rivals.com, but was chosen at No. 15 overall, the first safety chosen in a very stron class. Vaccaro is a hard hitter who can cover the field and shut down receivers as the nickleback. If Texas didn’t struggle against the run upfront like they did in 2012, Vaccaro could’ve played more in-position and had a better senior season. But he is exactly what the Saints need to help improve a last place Saints defense from 2012. 

NFL Draft Round One Live Blog

50 Cent and English rock band The Heavy welcomed viewers to ESPN's coverage of the first round of the NFL Draft with a take on The Heavy's "How You Like Me Now?," while some of the draft's top prospects interacted with props and screamed into microphones that may or may not have been plugged in. It was no Hank Williams Jr. introducing a Monday Night Football game, but it created a sense of excitement nonetheless. At least it did for me, I've missed 50 Cent since his random energy supplement drink commercials. Street King? Good to have you back, Curtis.

Moving on and down the draft order, it is also apparent that the type of person who attends the NFL Draft as a fan is the type of person who will boo at anything. As Roger Goodell began the countdown for Kansas City's No. 1 overall pick, fans were booing before a selection had even been made. That can only mean there will be at least a few times during the first 32 picks that Goodell, or whomever is at the podium at the time, is going to get booed aggressively when announcing a team's draft selection. So goes the atmoshpere inside Radio City Music Hall where the new NFL season unofficially starts for a number of passionate fans.

The Chiefs selected tackle Eric Fisher from Central Michigan with the No. 1 overall pick and it is expected Fisher will compete for immediate playing time on the Chiefs' line. Kansas City needs a lot of help and this is a great place to start. Even with little help last season Jamaal Charles ran for over 1,500 yards, and if Fisher can protect Alex Smith in the pocket the Chiefs will have an easier time moving the ball.

Jacksonville picked up Texas A&M's tackle Luke Joeckel with the No. 2 pick, bolstering their offensive line as well. One commonality of nearly every unsuccesful NFL team is an inept offensive line. If an offense isn't getting consistent protection and running lanes from its line, there are going to be issues scoring points and keeping opposing offenses off the field. Joeckel could have easily gone a pick higher at No. 1, but he gives the Jaguars a capable run blocker that can move his feet to keep the backfield clear. The Jaguars also have a long year ahead of them, but Joeckel will get a lot of snaps and continue to grow as a player as the team rebuilds.

The draft's first trade comes by way of Oakland and falls in the lap of the Dolphins. The 'Fins have a newly-minted logo and uniform and now they have a defensive end from Oregon in Dion Jordan. Jordan projects as an outside linebacker at the professional level, and although the Dolphins could have used an offensive lineman after Jake Long left through free agency for St. Louis, Jordan gives Miami a solid pass rusher. 

Lane Johnson, another big tackle out of Oklahoma, didn't fall past No. 4 as the Eagles scooped him up with their first pick. Johnson had his way with defensive lineman at Kilgore College before mauling defenders in Oklahoma's no-huddle offense. New Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made a living out of running his versatile offensive schemes behind guys like Johnson while coaching at Oregon, and Johnson projects to makes an immediate impact.

Biggest surprise so far? Barry Sanders! I know him! The newest man to grace the Madden videogame cover presented the No. 5 pick for the Detriot Lions. The Lions picked defensive end Ezekiel Ansah from BYU, another big and fast pass rusher with a lot of tools to help the Lions. Ansah has a lot to learn as he has only been playing football competitively for five years, but he will be among some of the league's nastiest defenders in Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh.

Another defensive end comes off the board as Cleveland takes LSU's Barkevious Mingo with the No. 6 pick. What a great name, I hope we are able to hear it every Sunday for years to come. Good luck in Cleveland, Bark. The winter up there is colder than Kanye West's latest diss.

North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper goes No. 7 to Arizona. Again, it's tough to be competitive without a solid offensive line, so this is a good choice. It's generally pretty tough to bungle a Top-10 pick in the draft, but just see exhibit A-Z, the Oakland Raiders in years past.

Buffalo traded the No. 8 pick to St. Louis and the Rams chose the electrice Tavon Austin from West Virginia. Austin brings speed, speed and did I mention this guy is fast? Oh, and he once rushed for over 300 yards in a game at West Virginia. Yeah, I think Jeff Fisher can find somewhere to utilizee Austin's shiftiness on the field.

The No. 9 pick belonged to the New York Jets, who went with Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner. Milliner isn't the biggest or fastest corner, but he covers extremely well, something the Jets will miss about the newly departed Darrelle Revis.

The Titans rounded out the Top-10 by selecting Alabama guard Chance Warmack. Jake Locker was in need of some protection and Warmack fills that need. Lots of lineman off the board early as Warmack became the fifth lineman taken in this year's first 10 picks. 

Pass rush and pass protection have been two prominent themes so far in the first round. Teams have to get better immediately by shoring up their schemes down in the trenches. That's where games are won, and winning in the draft means realizing this and capitalizing on the the available talent.

Dallas swapped picks with San Francisco at No. 18 and the 49ers promptly selected safety Eric Reid out of LSU. Another solid piece added to the already potent Niners defense.

The Texans took wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins at No. 27, giving Andre Johnson a potential partner in crime at wideout in Houston. Hopkins draws comparisons to Anquan Boldin due to his sticky hands and ability to grab the ball at its highest point. If Hopkins is to be effective in the Houston offense, he will need to draw attention away from Johnson occasionally and make some big plays. Not every rookie can do that, but Hopkins certainly has a chance to be that guy in Houston. The Texans' next pick comes in the second round at No. 57.

At No. 29, Minnesota traded multiple picks in later rounds to New England in order to draft Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. The Vikings cleaned up in the first round after selecting Florida defensive tackle Shariff Floyd at No. 23 and Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes at No. 25.

Dallas took Wisconsin center Travis Frederick with its No. 31 pick. The Cowboys' next pick is No. 47 in the second round.

No running backs and only one quarterback, Florida State's E.J. Manuel at No. 16 to Buffalo were taken in the first round.

Former Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro became a mainstay in the Longhorns secondary. Sports Editor Christian Corona projects the hard-hitting safety to be selected by the St. Louis Rams with the No. 16 overall pick. The NFL Draft begins Thursday night.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

1. Kansas City - Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

Before signing Alex Smith, the Chiefs were in desperate need of a quarterback. Now that they’ve got one, they’re going to need someone to protect his blind side. He helped Ryan Tannehill become last year’s No. 8 pick and helped Johnny Manziel become the first freshman Heisman winner. Joeckel is a no-brainer here at No. 1.

2. Jacksonville - Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

The Jaguars need help at a lot of spots and linebacker is certainly one of them. Workout warrior Dion Jordan can make an immediate impact.

3. Oakland - Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

The Raiders lost both of their starting defensive tackles from last year, Tommy Kelly to the Patriots and Desmond Bryant to the Browns. Floyd would be a great candidate to fill one of those spots.

4. Philadelphia - Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

After two disappointing seasons in Philadelphia, Nnamadi Asomgha left the Eagles for the defending NFC champion 49ers. Milliner is clearly the top cornerback prospect in this year's draft and would be a good fit here.

5. Detroit - Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

The Lions, who badly need an offensive tackle to protect Matthew Stafford, who has thrown for more than 10,000 yards over the last two years, can either take Fisher or Joeckel here, depending on who Kansas City picks at No. 1 (assuming Jacksonville, Oakland and Philadelphia don't select an offensive tackle).

6. Cleveland - Ezekiel Ansah, DT, BYU

Ansah's draft has risen more than anyone's over the last year as the Ghana native who came to BYU to be on the track team hadn't made a single start before last season. But after making 62 tackles, 13 for loss, and breaking up nine passes in 2012, Ansah is a legitimate Top 10 pick.

7. Arizona - Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

He's only the third-best offensive tackle draft prospect but look for Johnson to be the first Big 12 player off the board. Like many teams making early selections, the Cardinals need help in the trenches.

8. Buffalo - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

Bills head coach Doug Marrone coached Syracuse's Ryan Nassib last year but the Bills would be silly not to pick Smith if they indeed decide to use this pick on a quarterback. Not too many other QBs out there that threw for 656 yards and eight TDs in a game last year.

9. NY Jets - Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

The Jets could go a lot of different ways with this pick but if they decide to use it on an offensive guard, they can't go wrong with Cooper or Alabama's Chance Warmack.

10. Tennessee - Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

Speaking of Warmack, the Titans could use an offensive guard that can start right away and shore up their O-line. This makes a whopping seven linemen taken with the first 10 picks of this mock draft.

11. San Diego - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

Lotulelei has, by far, one of the best first names in the draft and has one of the best games, too. The 6-foot-2, 311-pounder made 42 tackles, 10 for loss, including five sacks last year while preaking up four pass, recovering four fumbles and forcing three others -- massive numbers for a defensive tackle that will fit in great in San Diego’s 3-4 scheme.

12. Miami - Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

Milliner is far and away the best cornerback available in this draft but Rhodes is still mid first-round material. The Dolphins had the second-worst pass defense in the AFC and could use someone like Rhodes in their secondary.

13. NY Jets - Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU

38 tackles and 4.5 sacks don't exactly scream first-round material but at 6-foot-4 and 241 pounds, Mingo was clocked at 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, where he vertical jumped 37 inches and broad jumped more than 10 feet. The Jets would be hoping that he can continue to develop after his college days the way the Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul did after his South Florida days.

14. Carolina - Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

Richardson made 75 tackles, 10.5 for loss, including four sacks last season for the Tigers, outstanding numbers for a defensive tackle. The Panthers would hope he could continue that kind of production at the next level.

15. New Orleans - D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

The fact that someone like Fluker would be the fourth offensive tackle selected goes to show just how deep this OT class is this year. Drew Brees would be able to rest easy knowing he had Fluker protecting him.

16. St. Louis - Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

With the Rams losing both of their starting safeties from last year after Craig Dahl signed with the 49ers and Quintin Mikell was released last month, the hard-hitting and versatile Vaccaro is a perfect fit for the Rams, who have two first-round picks this year. 

17. Pittsburgh - Alec Ogletree, MLB, Georgia

He came to Georgia as a defensive back three years and will leave as a superb linebacker. Ogletree, who led the Bulldogs with 111 tackles last year, could be the next great linebacker for the Steelers, who lost James Harrison over the offseason.

18. Dallas - Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

The Cowboys were in the bottom third in the league in rush defense last year and Williams, who made 42 tackles, 13.5 for loss, could help change that. 

19. NY Giants - Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

Jones led the country with 24.5 tackles for loss last season while making 13 sacks and forcing seven fumbles. Those gaudy numbers are indicative of the fact that he's an outstanding linebacker that would fit in well with the Giants.

20. Chicago - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

The Bears have not had a tight end catch 20 passes in a season since Greg Olsen, who caught 194 passes for 1,981 yards and 20 touchdowns in four years with Chicago, left for Carolina two years ago. If Eifert is available here, the Bears have to take him.

21. Cincinnati - Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

The Bengals would be foolish not to pick Austin here if he's still available. Even if he's not, there's still plenty of solid wideout prospects as Austin is just one of four projected here to be selected in the first round.

22. St. Louis - Keenan Allen, WR, Cal

The Rams need a wide receiver about as badly as they need a safety but with Vaccaro being the only safety worthy of a first-round pick, they need to take him at No. 16 if he's there. Allen is one of about six receivers that would be worthy of a first-round selection.

23. Minnesota - Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

Werner had 18 tackles for loss and an ACC-best 13 sacks. He would join a group of pass rushers that includes four-time All-Pro member Jared Allen and former Longhorn Brian Robison if the Vikings used one of their first-round picks on him.

24. Indianapolis - Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

The younger brother of NFL veteran Marcus Trufant, Desmond could help a decent Colts secondary become good and, eventually, great. 

25. Minnesota - Manti Te’o, MLB, Notre Dame

Imaginary girlfriend shenanigans aside, Te'o is simply one of the best linebackers in this draft. His performance in the national title game against Alabama is concerning but he could help an already solid Vikings defense.

26. Green Bay - Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State

Franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers likes to run around and Watson knows what it's like to block for a dual-threat quarterback from his days blocking for Seminoles signal-caller and fellow NFL Draft prospect E.J. Manuel. He'd be a good fit here.

27. Houston - DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson - Andre Johnson asked the Texans to draft a wide receiver and, with Austin and Allen off the board, Hopkins would be a good way to fulfill Johnson’s request. Clocked at 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Clemson’s Pro Day, Hopkins scored in all but one of the Tigers’ games last season, ending his Clemson career with a 13-catch, 191-yard, two-touchdown performance in a Chick-fil-a Bowl win over LSU.

28. Denver - Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

After a contract snafu kept the Broncos from re-signing Elvis Dumervil, Denver, who led the NFL with 52 sacks last year, could use someone like Jones at its disposal. Already with a quarterback that can take them to the Super Bowl, the Broncos now need to make sure they still have the personnel to effectively rush the passer. 

29. New England - Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State

The Patriots had one of the worst pass defenses in the league last year and would do well to shore up their secondary. Taylor, who's used to winning because of his days playing for Chris Peterson at Boise State, would be someone Bill Belichick could work well with. 

30. Atlanta - D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston

Dunta Robinson is now in Kansas City and the guy he started opposite of last season, Asante Samuel is a solid cornerback but he's 32. The Falcons could use someone like Hayden to learn from Samuel and eventually become a focal point of their secondary.

31. San Francisco - Matt Elam, S, Florida

Elam should he could do it all at Florida, making 11 tackles four loss while picking off four passes and breaking up four others. Could he be the piece that pushes the 49ers, who fell to the Ravens in last season's Super Bowl, be the missing piece to their championship puzzle?

32. Baltimore - Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

The Ravens could end the first round by picking a safety like San Francisco but, with Anquan Boldin now playing for the 49ers, they could use someone like Patterson to have at Joe Flacco's disposal.

See Daily Texan Managing Editor Trey Scott's mock draft here.