Oklahoma State consensus All-American cornerback Justin Gilbert was the eighth player selected overall in this year’s NFL Draft and the top pick of the Cleveland Browns.
Toward the end of the opening night’s first round nationally televised hoopla at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the name of Jason Verrett of TCU as the 25th selection in the opening round and the property of the San Diego Chargers.
In addition to being an All-American defensive player, Gilbert talents also include being an outstanding kick-return specialist. He averaged 28 yards per return in his career at Oklahoma State and returned six kickoffs for touchdowns. With Gilbert’s selection among the top 10 picks in this year’s draft, the Big 12 has now had a top-10 selection in the first round for six consecutive years.
“I knew I made the right decision coming back, because I didn’t have the year I wanted to have my junior year,” Gilbert said in interviews following his selection. “Coming back for another year, it couldn’t hurt me, it could only do me right.”
Gilbert is Oklahoma State’s 19th first-round selection in school history and the third Cowboy in the past five years to be a first-round pick.
Cleveland’s selection of Gilbert, the first cornerback to be taken in this year’s draft, came by a circuitous route. The Browns started off by trading down to No. 9 with the fourth overall pick, and then traded back up to No. 8 in order to take Gilbert.
Verrett’s main limitation coming into the 2014 NFL Draft was his size. At 5-9 1/2 and 185 pounds, the TCU defensive back is considered undersized for a cornerback in the NFL. This has never bothered Verrett, though, who has always played the game aggressively and bigger than his size. He had nine interceptions in his college career at TCU and last season recorded 14 pass breakups.
ESPN’s NFL analyst Jon Gruden said, on Thursday night’s TV coverage of the draft, that Verrett did a great job of covering “some of the great receivers in college football.”
Verrett is the first TCU defensive back to be selected in the first round since Jim Shofner by Cleveland way back in 1958. Ironically, Verrett was selected by the same team that chose former TCU star and Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
The two Big 12 first-round Big 12 picks is the second fewest in the opening round in the Big 12 era. In 1999, the Big 12′s third year participating in the NFL Draft, Ricky Williams of Texas (the No. 5 player selected) was the lone player from the conference taken in that year’s draft. The Big 12 also had just one first-round pick the following season, when Stockar McDougle, an offensive tackle from Oklahoma, was taken with the 30th overall selection.
Since 2009, the Big 12 has had 14 players selected among the top 10 picks in the NFL Draft.
In 2010 alone, five players from the Big 12 were among the top six selections in that year’s draft, including the No. 1 overall pick, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. Defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska and Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma were Nos. 2 and 3 and offensive tackle Trent Smith of Oklahoma was the No. 4 pick in the 2010 draft. Russell Okung, an offensive tackle from Oklahoma State was selected with the No. 6 overall pick.
The two players from the Big 12 selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft are one less than the first round picks from the conference a year ago. Oklahoma offensive lineman Lane Johnson (4th overall), wide receiver Tavon Austin of West Virginia (No. 8 overall) and defensive back Kenny Vaccaro of Texas (No. 15 0verall) were first-round picks in 2013.
Rounds two through seven in the 2014 NFL Draft will continue on Friday night and Saturday.