The 2014 NFL

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the highlight of Texas’ NFL draft prospects. He might hear his name called in the first round Thursday night, and four other Longhorns could be taken.
Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

After seven rounds and 256 selections in the 2014 NFL draft, Texas had no names on the selection board.

But by the time Mr. Irrelevant — the name given to the last player drafted — was picked in the 2015 NFL draft, Texas had made its presence felt.

Five Longhorns, the most since 2010, were selected in this year’s draft, which was hosted in Chicago over the weekend. The Longhorns first got on the board Friday, when the New England Patriots drafted defensive end Malcom Brown No. 32 overall, and the team’s involvement ended when the Dallas Cowboys selecting tight end Geoff Swaim with the 29th pick of the seventh round.

“It was just a relief — the past four or five hours have been pretty intense,” said Swaim, who will be joining former Texas teammates Donald Hawkins and Chris Whaley, in a statement. “It’ll be cool to play with the guys that I’ve known and have a relationship with.”

Defensive backs Mykkele Thompson and Quandre Diggs were taken in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, of the NFL draft. The New York Giants selected Thompson with the eighth pick in the fifth round, while the Detroit Lions picked Diggs with the 24th pick of the sixth round.

“It’s great,” Diggs said of being drafted on the same day as Thompson, who is one of his closest friends. “Mykkele’s my brother; that’s my best friend. He’s one of the people who definitely pushed me.”

Another person who pushed Diggs was head coach Charlie Strong, whom Diggs developed a close relationship with in Strong’s inaugural season at Texas.

“He can cover and may not have top-end speed, but he makes up for it with his intelligence,” Strong said. “He plays within himself, studies receivers, studies splits [and] studies everything the offense does.”

The Philadelphia Eagles selected linebacker Jordan Hicks with the 20th pick in the third round.

“I’ve been talking to [Philadelphia] for a while, actually,” Hicks said in a statement. “I went on a pre-draft visit there and had a great time, felt really comfortable and enjoyed meeting with all the coaches and getting a feel for the place.”

Four other Longhorns found teams in the NFL after the draft ended. Once the draft is over, players have the chance to sign with teams as rookie free agents.

Wide receiver John Harris will be joining Hicks after signing a free agent deal with the Eagles, while long snapper Nate Boyer signed as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks. The St. Louis Rams picked up running back Malcolm Brown, and defensive end Cedric Reed signed with the Buffalo Bills. 

“It was great,” Boyer said. “[Seahawks] coach [Pete] Carroll called me, actually. He called and said, ‘I want to invite you out to training camp,’ and he actually said, ‘I hope you accept my invitation.’ Obviously, ‘yes’ was the answer to that.”

Before playing at Texas, Boyer was a member of the Green Berets. He joined the team in 2012 with no prior football experience.

“The thing about Nate is he’s such a hard worker,” Strong said. “Any time someone represents your country, when you talk about courage, you talk about honor, that’s what it’s all about. I love him so much.”

By the end of the weekend, the Longhorns had nine players headed to the NFL — a distinct turnaround from last year.

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the highlight of Texas’ NFL draft prospects. He might hear his name called in the first round Thursday night, and four other Longhorns could be taken.
Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

While no Longhorns were drafted in the 2014 NFL draft, the one-year drought is likely to end this weekend. 

Texas has five prospects who are projected to hear their names called at the draft, including defensive tackle Malcom Brown, linebacker Jordan Hicks,     cornerback Quandre Diggs, defensive end Cedric Reed and running back Malcolm Brown.

“It feels like just yesterday I was walking on this campus as a young, 220-pound freshman not knowing anything,” Hicks said. “After five years, just to be here and to be going through this process, it’s really rewarding for all of us.” 

Malcom Brown may be the first Longhorn picked after he shot up draft boards while racking up 72 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season. His 6-foot-2, 319-pound frame is ideal for the NFL, and he’s the No. 20-ranked prospect, according to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. 

“Malcom Brown to me is a first-round guy all day long,” Mayock said on NFL.com. “He’s a low-risk investment and a really good football player.” 

While Malcom Brown will find his new home early, Hicks is also a standout prospect. 

Hicks came to Texas as a five-star prospect but battled injuries, causing him to fly under the radar as a pro prospect. He impressed scouts, however, during his senior year and in pre-draft workouts, which was enough for him to earn a fourth-round grade, according to NFL.com. 

While Malcom Brown and Hicks are highly touted prospects, Diggs and Reed will likely find more modest roles in the NFL despite being perennial mainstays in Texas’ defense. 

Diggs is undersized at 5 feet 9 inches and will most likely make his living on special teams, and Reed lacks the athleticism that NFL scouts desire. Both are projected to be picked during the fifth round or later.

The Longhorns’ main offensive prospect is Malcolm Brown, who led Texas in total rushing yards last season but still feels he has a lot to prove at the next level. 

“I feel like I have a lot to show people that I haven’t been able to show these past couple of years due to injuries, and things didn’t go completely my way,” Malcolm Brown said. 

While NFL.com projects Malcolm Brown to be a late-round pick, several scouts think he has NFL-caliber skills. 

“[Malcolm Brown] possesses the size, toughness and ability to play on all three downs, and that will catch the eyes of teams looking for depth at running back,” NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein said on NFL.com. 

While these Longhorns were longtime contributors for the program, their chapters at Texas will come to a close as they find a new home and a new start this weekend. 

“It’s definitely a different feeling not being a student and not being a current athlete here,” Diggs said. “At the same time, it’s time for a new journey in life.”

Former Texas wide receiver Mike Davis contests a call in the Aug. 31, 2013 game against New Mexico. Davis was one of several Longhorns who went undrafted in this year's NFL Draft. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

The 2014 NFL Draft is in the books, and for the first time since 1937, no Longhorns heard their names called.  
 
Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat was expected to go in the middle of the draft after outperforming his position in four of the six events in the combine. Instead, he was passed over for other defensive ends perhaps as a result of his injury prone history. Jeffcoat signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent.
 
As of Sunday night, six other Longhorns have inked deals with NFL teams after being undrafted. Wide receiver Mike Davis is headed to the Oakland Raiders, while cornerback Carrington Byndom agreed with the Carolina Panthers.
 
Defensive tackle Chris Whaley will stay in state as a Dallas Cowboy, as he tries to battle back from his season-ending knee injury suffered against West Virginia in November.
 
Offensive lineman Trey Hopkins is going to Cincinnati Bengals, while offensive lineman Donald Hawkins will be a Philadelphia Eagle.
 
The 2014 NFL Draft class was primarily composed of players who graduated high school in 2009, 2010 and 2011. During this stretch, former head coach Mack Brown inked the third, second and fifth-ranked classes in the country respectively according to ESPN. 
 
New head coach Charlie Strong had four former players drafted from Louisville, including three in the first round. He did this despite only signing one recruiting class in the ESPN top 25 over the three-year stretch (No. 22 class in 2011).
 
Since the 2010 BCS Title game loss to Alabama, Texas fans have often complained about the lack of player development at Texas and changing that perception will fall on Strong and his staff.