Four Sooners were drafted last weekend. Dallas took running back DeMarco Murray in the third round, the Broncos also selected OU safety Quinton Carter in the fourth, and safety Jonathan Nelson (Rams) and end Jeremy Beal (Broncos) both went in the seventh.
Here’s how these four players fit with their respective new teams:
Dallas Morning News columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor wrote this week he thinks Murray will challenge Felix Jones for the starting running back position, and that “there’s no reason why he shouldn’t expect to win the job.”
I think that’s a bit of a stretch. While Jones had a disappointing season in 2010, he’s still the primary guy for now.
But the Cowboys have shown the propensity for giving carries to their No. 2 and 3 running backs in recent years. And with Marion Barber on his way out, Murray is almost assured of snagging one of the top three spots.
If he produces — and, he can stay healthy — Murray could get even more opportunities with the ball in his hands. Without a breakout year, it’s not, as Taylor writes, inconceivable Murray ultimately wins the starting job.
Carter was one of the top safeties in the draft. But anymore, unless it’s an Eric Berry, safeties don’t get picked in the first round, which is about quarterbacks, defensive lineman and offensive tackles.
Carter, taken by the Broncos in the fourth round, is walking into a franchise attempting to retool its secondary. Carter is part of the plan.
With CB Champ Bailey resigned, and SS Brian Dawkins still a feared hitter, Denver could have one of the league’s better secondaries, especially if its rookie safeties — Carter and second rounder Rahim Moore (UCLA) — show up.
Executive John Elway said that the Broncos had Moore and Carter rated as two of the three best safeties in the draft.
“We are adding competition at those spots,” said Broncos general manager Brian Xanders.
Because he’s more of a natural free safety, Moore has the better shot of starting this season. But considering Dawkins is 37 years old, Carter could emerge into the heir apparent to take over at strong safety in the next couple of years.
“I don’t like really defining the players before they get here,” said Denver coach John Fox. “If you were looking at it, generally speaking, you would probably say that Moore is probably more the free and Carter is more the strong. I hate to pigeonhole them at this point; they will kind of define what they can do. They have some veteran guys to learn from and that will speed the process. We needed some youth there and we think we picked two very good ones.”
Odds are usually against any seventh-round pick making a teams. But Nelson’s odds of making the Rams may be higher than usual.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Rams are in need of a solid cover free safety. As a former cornerback, that’s Nelson’s forte.
Nelson is also a hard-worker, a good kid and one of the smartest players on last year’s Sooner team. All of that should augment his chances.
“It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the dog,” Nelson said, “and I just feel like I have a whole bunch of fight.”
It’s hard to believe Beal won’t make an NFL squad. Then again, it was hard to believe Beal wouldn’t get drafted until the compensatory stage of the seventh round.
“We were definitely excited to see him there at the bottom of the seventh,” said Broncos GM Brian Xanders. “He was very productive in college, 57 tackles for loss and 29 sacks. He was really the highest remaining guy on our board in the seventh round.
“He’s a productive guy that makes a lot of plays, we’re surprised he fell down that far — that’s probably because of the Combine or Senior Bowl stuff — but we really evaluate off the football tape and we’re really excited to have him. He’s going to compete at the defensive end position and hopefully he comes in and contributes for us.”
At the moment, Beal is one of four defensive ends, along with Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers, Jason Hunter.
Remember this tidbit: Twenty-three players at this year’s Pro Bowl went undrafted. Beal, one of the most productive ends in OU history, has the potential to become a similar success story.