The anxiety and wait is over for 32 of college football’s best following the opening-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Three Big 12 players were selected in the first round and two of the three went in the top eight selections.
Lane Johnson, an offensive tackle from Oklahoma, was the first Big 12 player chosen, selected fourth overall as the No. 1 pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. Most draft experts had Johnson projected to be taken either fourth by the Eagles of fifth by the Detroit Lions. Blazing quick wide-receiver Tavon Austin of West Virginia was the eighth player taken in the first round, selected by the St. Louis Rams. Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro was the first-round selection of the New Orleans Saints, the 15th player taken overall.
The three first-round selections from the Big 12 were the fewest from the conference since the 2008 draft, when Aqib Talib of Kansas was the only Big 12 player taken (20th by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). The Big 12 also had just one first-round player selected in 1999 (Ricky Williams of Texas).
Johnson played three seasons at Oklahoma after playing his freshman year at Kilgore junior college. The 6-7, 303-pound offensive lineman played quarterback at Kilgore. When he came to Oklahoma, the Sooner coaches converted him, first, to tight end and then was shifted to defensive end before finding a home at offensive tackle.
“It took a while to find the right position for him (Johnson) to maximize his athletic potential,” said Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. “It doesn’t surprise anyone on our staff that Lane was a high first-round selection. (He) worked relentlessly from the moment he stepped on campus and took advantage of every avenue to improve during his time wuth us.”
Johnson was one of three offensive tackles selected in the first four picks in this year’s draft, and he is the fifth offensive lineman from OU to be taken in the first round since Stoops became head coach of the Sooners in 1999. Johnson will play for new head coach Chup Kelly in Philadelphia. Kelly is the former head coach of the Oregon Ducks and is known for running an up-tempo offense, something Johnson had great familiarity with at Oklahoma.
The St. Louis Rams traded up in the draft with Bufallo to be in position to select West Virginia’s Austin with the eighth overall pick. In St. Louis, Austin will join up with former Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winner and No, 1 pick in 2010 San Bradford. Austin, the Co-Special Teams Player of the Year in the Big 12, was the 10th West Virginia player to be selected in the opening round of the NFL Draft.
Texas head coach Mack Brown called Vacarro the best football player he has ever had at Texas. “He practiced like he was in a game every day,” Brown said. “He is tough, he’s smart and he’s a playmaker.” Texas has produced a long list of defensive backs who have gone on to careers in the NFL. During Brown’s 15 seasons as the Longhorns’ head coach, six Texas defensive backs have been drafted in the first round.
Since 2006, the Big 12 has had 32 players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. The most first-round selections from the Big 12 was nine in 2010, the year Bradford was taken No. 1 and and five of the first six selections overall were from the Big 12.