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.