Former Longhorns await this week's NFL draft

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Former Longhorns defensive end Alex Okafor tries to make a tackle against the TCU Horned Frogs on Thanksgiving Day last season. Okafor, who is expected to be drafted in the early rounds of the NFL draft, had eight tackles and 4.5 sacks in the 2012 Valero Alamo Bowl last December. 

Photo Credit: Andrew Torrey | Daily Texan Staff

At the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia in 1936, professional football teams selected their chosen players for the first-ever NFL draft.

Seventy-seven years later, teams are still doing it, with a few more rounds and slightly more advanced technology. The 2013 NFL draft will commence Thursday evening at New York City’s Radio Music Hall, bringing with it a cluster of Longhorns ready to sport the caps of their new teams.

Former Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro has earned buzz from scouts and coaches for his speed, strength and hard-hitting abilities. Vaccaro is considered by analysts to be one of the top safety prospects in the draft and will most likely go in the first round. Vaccaro was included in a small group of players invited to New York City for the draft.

“It is an experience he should enjoy,” head coach Mack Brown said of Vaccaro’s invitation. “It is a great compliment to not only Kenny and not only [assistant head coach/defensive backs coach] Duane Akina, but to our entire program.”

Rumors of teams thinking about drafting Vaccaro have included the Rams, Saints, Cowboys and Titans after had private workouts with the latter two. But Vaccaro is keeping an open mind in terms of rosters.

“I’m fired up to go anywhere,” Vaccaro said. “This has been a dream my whole life. Wherever I go, I’ll excel at that team.”

Defensive end Alex Okafor is also projected to be drafted in the early rounds, thanks to his power, fundamentally-sound hand usage and production as a pass rusher. Sporting his Texas jersey for the final time against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl, Okafor tallied eight tackles and an Alamo Bowl record of 4.5 sacks. 

“Alex Okafor is a guy I like,” NFL analyst Mike Mayock said. “I love the way he sacked Geno Smith in the end zone [during the West Virginia game.] He has some burst off the edge. He does everything really well. He’s got good hustle.”   

Speedy wide receiver Marquise Goodwin wowed scouts and fans alike with a 4.27 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, the fastest in history by a wide receiver. Goodwin, who is an Olympic long jumper, is projected by some to go sometime during the fourth round. Despite the praise he’s earned for his quickness on the field, Goodwin said his speed often overshadows the other abilities he has to offer an NFL team.

“I definitely have a lot more to me than just my speed,” he said. “I’m physical, I block and I can catch, I can run routes, I can get open.”

Goodwin’s impressive performance at the senior bowl also grabbed the attention of scouts and analysts.

“I came out of the Senior Bowl going, ‘This kid’s a legitimate football player,’” Mayock said. “[He has] potential return skills [and] runs as fast as anybody in the NFL runs.”

Defensive tackle Brandon Moore surprised some with his announcement to enter the draft after just one season at Texas. Moore contributed including 18 tackles and two sacks this past season, alternating between inside and outside.

Moore’s size makes him a notable candidate, but lack of tapes could mean Moore will go in the mid-to-later rounds of the draft, CBSSports.com analyst Rob Rang noted. 

Wide receiver D.J. Monroe could earn a spot on a team as a late draft pick. Monroe spent five years with the Longhorns but only started twice last season.

“I’m just ready to see who is interested and who is not,” Monroe said. “I’m ready for another step, another chapter to open. This is my last goal in life. I feel like I accomplished the rest, and now I’m about to show them I can play in the NFL.”

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Christian Corona and Trey Scott muse their mock drafts. Corona has Vaccaro to the Rams at No. 16, while Scott has him going a pick earlier, to the Saints at No. 15.