Football is just around the corner, and after the 2018 NFL Draft, some new faces from the University of Oklahoma have a chance to become impact players on their respective rosters. It isn’t just the rookies looking for minutes, but a multitude of former Sooners ready to improve and take on new roles with their teams. From QB’s, to lineman and every other position, the NFL is full of players out of Oklahoma. In this, I will examine some players ready to burst on the scene, whether it’s for the first time or in a new uniform.
The Rookie Class
Obviously, the player to watch is Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, taken first overall by the Cleveland Browns. The issue for Cleveland is that Tyrod Taylor just arrived, and has proven himself to be a QB with a winning pedigree, and should help Baker mature both on and off the field during his rookie season. If the Browns start strong, Baker likely won’t see much of the field.
Other than Baker, players like Orlando Brown and Mark Andrews are the players most likely to see the field early and often. Orlando Brown knows what it takes to block for a QB frequently leaving the pocket, which should help his chances when Lamar Jackson takes over Joe Flacco’s spot at starting QB. Along with Brown is Mark Andrews, also on the Ravens, who will have to beat out the Ravens first round pick, Hayden Hurst, who wasn’t as explosive down field as Andrews was in college. If Lamar or Joe want a TE who can catch every ball thrown their way, then Mark Andrews, who caught 22 TD’s compared to Hurst’s three, looks to be the guy.
Second Year Players
When Joe Mixon left Norman early, many were shocked, and saddened by the hole he would leave in the Sooner’s backfield. In his rookie season, Mixon showed flashes of greatness for the Bengals, but it was mostly outside the tackles and through the air. If he wants to turn into the Bengals’ workhorse, he will have to find a way to run inside as well, and will have to stay healthy throughout this season. He tallied up nearly 1,000 total yards, but only four TD’s.
Another Sooner running back ready to battle for carries is Samaje Perine, the bulldozer for the Redskins. He broke 100 yards twice, and was a key part of the offense, especially because the other Redskins backs struggled all season, and were extremely injury prone. This season will be tough for Perine, because Chris Thompson, the speedy pass catcher is healthy, along with 2nd round pick, Derrius Guice out of LSU. Guice is expected to the be the day one starter, and it’s his job to lose.
Finally, Dede Westbrook hopes to see more playing time for arguably the most improved team on both sides of the ball in the NFL, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Allen Robinson is gone, but they added Donte Moncrief, and are expecting Marquise Lee to turn it on big time. Westbrook still shows exceptional speed, and could find his way in Bortles sights, or could help a team needing a down field target.
Sam Bradford, after another campaign spent injured on the sidelines heads to the Arizona Cardinals, and has a chance to team up with two extremely dynamic players, in David Johnson and future hall-of-famer Larry Fitzgerald. If he plays well, and stays healthy (a big IF), then he won’t lose his spot to rookie Josh Rosen, but the Cardinals clearly expect big things from both. Bradford is QB1 currently, but his health is a major concern, like it always seems to be. He also gets to hook up with an old pal in Jermaine Gresham, his favorite target during his tenure at OU.
One Sooner always in the mix is DL Gerald Mccoy, one of the premier interior d-linemen in the NFL. Over his career, McCoy has been a staple in the Pro Bowl, and has racked up nearly 50 career sacks, and nearly 270 total tackles. The Buccaneers will likely continue to struggle in 2018, but McCoy is one player they can always count on to play hard, and make an impact against the opponents offense.
OU has been an NFL pipeline for a long time, and the crop in the NFL currently has chances to really shine in 2018. Don’t be surprised to see many Sooners making huge plays each and every Sunday this season.