The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 12, 2013

Early draft entrants have mixed results

By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Item: Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson, wide receiver Kenny Stills and linebacker Tom Wort and Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle will forego their senior seasons to enter the NFL Draft.

Only time will tell if this was the right decision. Some players have different motivations than others. History gives us a mixed bag on Sooners foregoing their senior season to turn professional, especially when coming out after their true junior season.

Watching the Sooners’ 41-13 loss to Texas A&M, one might say Wort, Jefferson and Stills could use another year of seasoning where their draft stock may be higher. At least Randle went out on a high note at the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Of course, there’s the argument that it gives them a year’s head start on drawing paychecks.

Some felt Landry Jones, who was projected as a possible No. 1 choice if he came out in 2011, might have cost himself plenty of money by staying. Two of the reasons Jones came back were to win a national championship and contend for the Heisman Trophy. He did neither.

Ditto for OU’s Travis Lewis and Ryan Broyles the year before.

If the A&M debacle was an indicator of the future, the national championship could be beyond OU’s reach in 2013. That, of course, could change, too.

All three of those were fifth-year seniors. Lewis went in the seventh round, but he made the team. Broyles went in the second round, but he might have gone higher if not for a knee injury.

The foursome might have considered the threat of an injury that could affect their draft stock.

But remember Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham decided to return as fourth-year juniors instead of going in the draft in 2009. They both were injured, but Bradford still was the No. 1 overall choice, and Gresham went in the first round to Cincinnati, where he has been a productive player for back-to-back playoff teams.

Gerald McCoy came back as a redshirt junior to get his degree. He has his degree and was the third overall selection by the Tampa Bay Bucs.  Roy Williams was the eighth overall choice by the Dallas Cowboys in 2002. Like Bradford, McCoy and Gresham, he came out early, but after four years.

OU coach Bob Stoops has said in the past if a player isn’t going to be a top 10 pick in the first round, he is probably wise to come back to school.

Let’s check some who went early. De’Mond Parker, after three 1,000-yard seasons under John Blake, decided not to return for his fifth year under then new coach Stoops. He wasn’t drafted until the fifth round by the Green Bay Packers and basically wasn’t heard from again.

Jimmy Wilkerson, against Stoops’ advice, went into the draft early in 2003. He was picked in the sixth round by Kansas City. He had a good pro career, but could have gone higher had he waited.

All-American Tommie Harris decided to forego his senior year in 2004 and was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bears as the 14th selection. Not bad, but he no doubt would have gone higher had he stayed and would have gotten an opportunity to have played in a national championship game.

Brodney Pool went out early in 2005 and went in the second round to the Cleveland Browns.

Adrian Peterson probably made the wise choice in 2007 when he came out early. The All-American running back was the seventh overall choice by the Minnesota Vikings and the rest is history.

We thought Curtis Lofton made a mistake by coming out early in 2008. Wrong. He went in the second round to the Atlanta Falcons, where he became an instant starter at middle linebacker. He signed as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints last season.

Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.