Oklahoma’s impressive six-year streak of delivering at least one first-round pick in the NFL Draft came to an end last year. Two months ago, it seemed the Sooners had little chance of putting anyone in the first round of this year’s draft, either. But thanks to offensive tackle Phil Loadholt, whom NFL Network lead analyst Mike Mayock calls "one of the fastest risers” in the draft, OU might have a first-round selection after all. "He’ll probably go in the second round, maybe late in the first,” Mayock told The Oklahoman during a national conference call last week. "He’s long, he competes and he’s a pretty tough kid.” Questions about his foot speed and polish as a left tackle coming out of the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine dropped Loadholt from the elite draft group at that position, which includes Baylor’s Jason Smith, Virginia’s Eugene Monroe, Alabama’s Andre Smith, Arizona’s Eben Britton and Ole Miss’ Michael Oher — all locks to go in the first round. But now widely viewed as a potentially dominant and physical run blocker at right tackle — or a project at left tackle with his 6-foot-8, 332-pound frame and raw ability — Loadholt is surging up the draft boards. "I only played two years of top-notch football. I wish I had played four,” Loadholt, a former junior-college transfer, told The Oklahoman in a phone interview last week. "I progressed a lot from that first to second year at OU. But I still have a lot of room to improve as far as technique. "I’m only going to get better.” Among the teams that appear to share that thinking include Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Minnesota, Oakland, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, which have all flown him in for a private meeting. With needs at tackle, local reports suggest Buffalo, Chicago and Dallas could also have Loadholt high on their draft boards. "I pretty much have no idea who is going to take me,” Loadholt said. "I’m just excited to see what happens.”
First-round picks in the Stoops era:
Jake Trotter caught up with former Oklahoma standouts Allen Patrick and Reggie Smith, who were both in town this weekend for Tommie Harris’ annual charity golf tournament. To read what they had to say, visit the OU blog at blog.newsok.com/ou.