The University of Oklahoma had four players tabbed in this year’s NFL Draft with numerous others expected to sign free agent contracts. Dating back to the initial NFL Draft in 1936, 367 Sooners have been selected. No current member of the Big 12 Conference owns more all-time picks with only three teams in the nation owning more selections. Oklahoma has gone 12 straight years under head coach Bob Stoops with three or more Sooners being drafted.
WR JALEN SAUNDERS
NEW YORK JETS
4TH ROUND (104TH OVERALL) // OU Career Highlights
For the third consecutive year, the Sooners had a wide receiver selected in the NFL Draft. Jalen Saunders was the first Oklahoma player off the board, heading off to play for head coach Rex Ryan and the New York Jets. When asked by the media in the Big Apple to describe his style, Saunders wasn’t bashful.
“I would describe my playing style like a gorilla,” Saunders said via conference call. “I’m a savage on that field. I would say between a gorilla and a terrier, a pet dog or a terrier. They’re real small and people don’t expect too much from them. They always like to fight and always like to play around. That’s just the type of player I am. I’m real feisty.”
Feisty is a good way to describe Saunders, who returned three punts for touchdowns during his Oklahoma career. The return game may be a spot where Saunders, who began his collegiate career at Fresno State, can make an impact in the NFL. The last Jets’ player to return a punt for a score was Jeremy Kerley, who had a 68-yard TD on Opening Day vs. Buffalo (9/9/12).
But Sooners’ co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jay Norvell also sees Saunders as being capable of playing wideout at the NFL level.
“I think he’s really shown he can do a lot of things as a route runner,” Norvell said. “I think (NFL teams) like his toughness. He’s shown that he’ll mix it up. We used him in a lot of situations where you’d use a bigger receiver and he goes in there and throws his body around so I’m probably most proud about that of him and just how he’s played the physical part of the game.”
“I’m going to get the ball and if you tell me to go block the defender,” Saunders added. “I’m going to go block them and try to ear-hole them. I’m just going to do my best. I love to compete. That’s just the way I am. I’ve always been that way.”
With mobile quarterbacks like Michael Vick, Geno Smith and 2014 draftee Tajh Boyd on the Jets’ roster, Saunders could be a great target when plays break down and passers are forced to improvise. In terms of size and speed, the player on New York’s squad that most closely resembles Saunders is Jacoby Ford (5-9, 190). The Jets already have a pair of big targets in Eric Decker (6-3, 214) and David Nelson (6-5, 215).
Saunders is the initial wide receiver from Oklahoma taken by the Jets. He’s the 11th OU player picked in Jets’ history and the first since CB Derrick Strait (D3-2004).
CB AARON COLVIN
4TH ROUND (114TH OVERALL) // OU Career Highlights
It should come as no surprise that Aaron Colvin landed with an NFL franchise whose head coach has a defensive background. Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley enters his second campaign with the Jaguars after previously serving as the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks.
“Coach Gus brings so much passion, he brings so much energy and that’s just something I love,” Colvin said on his introductory call with the Jaguars. “You never want to be in a dull environment. You can tell that they truly care about their players, they care about whoever they are working with and they try to get the best out of you. When I get up there, I’m just ready to work.”
Even though Colvin suffered a torn ACL during Senior Bowl practice, it was at that all-star game in Mobile, Ala., where the former Sooners’ star felt like he made a connection with Bradley. Bradley later told the Owassa, Okla., native at the NFL Scouting Combine that, “I coming to get you, you can bank on that.”
When asked by the North Florida media what kind of player the Jaguars were getting, Colvin didn’t underestimate how his skills might translate to the next level.
“You’re going to get a lockdown corner,” he said. “I can play nickel, I can play corner, I can play safety, but I feel like when you have me on the outside as a corner, I’m gonna lock down whoever you give me. That’s just my mindset. I’m a true competitor and I’m going to bring that fire to the secondary.”
While still rehabbing from his knee injury, Colvin will likely begin training camp on Jacksonville’s physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list according to Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell.
Colvin is the second Sooner selected by Jacksonville in their 20-year history, joining LB Clint Ingram (D3-2006). His position coach in Jacksonville will be DeWayne Walker, who has worked with three different head coaches who have won Super Bowls – Joe Gibbs, Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll.
“He is a physical player and he is a good tackler and an efficient tackler which is important at the corner position,” said Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell of Colvin. “He also fits our mold in terms of his length, ability to press, and stay on top of receivers.”
LB COREY NELSON
7TH ROUND (242nd OVERALL) // OU Pro Day Highlights
There are a number of “feel-good” stories in this year’s draft for the Sooners with three seniors who suffered season-ending injuries getting selected by NFL clubs. While Aaron Colvin and Trey Millard knew all along that they had taken their final snaps at OU, Corey Nelson had hoped he might be granted an extra year of eligibility to return to Oklahoma. Unfortunately for the Sooners, Nelson’s appeal didn’t pan out. So when John Elway and the Broncos came calling in the seventh round, you had to be happy for Nelson.
“I think he’s a guy that can come in here and compete for a job,” the Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-executive said of Nelson. “He’s got great speed and a nose for the football so he’ll provide some competition and has a chance to make our team.”
Nelson goes to a talented Broncos squad that won the AFC Championship last year and advanced to the Super Bowl last season. Fully recovered from a torn pectoral muscle last season, the Dallas native now goes to Denver to hopefully earn a spot on the Broncos’ roster. Nelson will benefit from having a head coach in John Fox who has taken two different teams (Denver, Carolina) to the Super Bowl after serving as a longtime NFL defensive coordinator and defensive coach.
“I feel like my style of play, I have a knack for finding the ball,” Nelson told the Denver media on Saturday. “Explosive, fast, can run sideline to sideline, pretty strong. And I would say covering and playing inside the box, I can do both of those well since I played in two separate defenses at Oklahoma. I can do both of those pretty well, I can play in both of those, depending on wherever the coach wants to put me.”
Nelson becomes the fourth player in the Stoops era to be drafted by the Broncos, joining S Quinton Carter (D4-2011), DE Jeremy Beal (D7-2011) and RB Quentin Griffin (D4-2003).
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
7TH ROUND (245TH OVERALL) // OU Career Highlights
If there’s ever a metropolitan area that will embrace “Fat Daddy” and his dreads, it’s San Francisco. After all, the craziness of Berkeley and People’s Park is all part of the greater San Francisco scene. Although Millard may boast a new-school coiffure, his versatile style of play will likely get the seal of approval from former 49ers greats like Tom Rathman and Roger Craig, who also displayed a variety of talents.
Like Nelson, Millard gets the benefit of going to a Super Bowl contender in the 49ers. San Francisco has advanced to three straight NFC Championship Games under head coach Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers are just two seasons removed from a berth in the Super Bowl and are a prohibitive favorite to challenge Seattle for NFC supremacy.
Harbaugh and his talented offensive staff should no doubt find creative ways to utilize the versatile Millard in an offensive triggered by QB Colin Kaepernick. An accomplished pass catcher and blocker, Millard also owns the ability to line up as a single back to carry the ball. Whether you label him an H-Back, fullback or tight end, there’s also little doubt about his value as a special teams performer with a strong football IQ. Clearly, he’ll look great in a 49ers uniform as the franchise moves into state-of-the-art Levi’s Stadium in 2014.
GABE IKARD GOES UNDRAFTED?
If you think Gabe Ikard is keeping track of all the centers selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, you’re probably right. It’s hard to believe that eight NFL teams drafted centers in lieu of Oklahoma’s All-American selection. While some of these eight players may have more size than Ikard, it’s hard to measure the intangibles that Ikard brings to the table for the Tennessee Titans, where he’s expected to sign as a rookie free agent. And be assured, he’ll likely carry a sizable chip on his shoulder after being passed over by 31 other clubs.
Last season, the Sooner shocker in the draft was Tony Jefferson, who went undrafted. It didn’t deter Jefferson who went on to play in all 16 games for the Arizona Cardinals. Don’t be surprised to see Ikard follow a similar tract.
Rookie Free Agent Prospects
One of the most intriguing exercises that goes on in NFL personnel offices beginning in the seventh round is the jockeying for position and “recruiting” of players who will potentially go undrafted. While this mating ritual goes unnoticed by most fans, for undrafted players, it affords some of the most coveted individuals an opportunity to choose the situation that may give them the best chance to make an Opening Day roster.
While official announcements on undrafted free agents may not come in until Sunday or throughout next week, don’t be surprised to see any or all of these players show up on a roster or at least get a tryout. Although contracts may not yet be signed, here are potential landing spots for some Sooners that were Tweeted as of 7 p.m. on Saturday.
More Potential Oklahoma Rookie Free Agent Signees
RB Brennan Clay, Denver
RB Roy Finch, New England
C Gabe Ikard, Tennessee
G Bronson Irwin, Seattle
S Gabe Lynn, Detroit
WR Jaz Reynolds, Tennessee
More Potential Oklahoma Rookie Free Agent Signees
WR Lacoltan Bester
RB Damien Williams
LS Austin Woods