NORMAN — It took until the third day of the NFL Draft for any former Oklahoma players to hear their names called, but like their 2013 season and 2014 signing class, the Sooners finished strong.
Four OU players were drafted by the time it was all said and done, with two players — receiver Jalen Saunders (New York Jets) and cornerback Aaron Colvin (Jacksonville Jaguars) — going in the fourth round, and linebacker Corey Nelson (Denver Broncos) and fullback Trey Millard (San Francisco 49ers) being picked up in the seventh and final round.
The four selections were the second-most of any Big 12 school behind 2013 conference champion Baylor, which had five players picked.
Still, the Big 12 Conference as a whole didn't have a good weekend. Texas had no players drafted — the first time that’s happened since 1937 — and the league only had 17 picks total. The Southeastern Conference, by comparison, had 49 players drafted from its 14 teams.
For Oklahoma, this season represented the first time in the Bob Stoops era that it didn't have a player drafted in the first three rounds. The last time the Sooners failed to see a player picked before the fourth round was 1997.
Of course, injuries could have a lot to do with that. Colvin was projected as a second-round pick at the very least before he tore his ACL in late January during Senior Bowl preparations.
Millard and Nelson each had their OU careers cut short with season-ending injuries last October.
Saunders was the first Sooner off the board. The Jets used the fourth pick of the fourth round (the 104th pick overall) to grab the shifty, speedy wideout.
In two years as a Sooner after transferring from Fresno State, Saunders caught 123 passes for 1,558 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also returned three punts for scores.
Colvin said Saturday that Jaguars coach Gus Bradley approached him at the Senior Bowl after his injury and told him, “We still love you. I’m going to come get you.”
Colvin said he hadn't really talked to Jacksonville since the NFL Scouting Combine in February. He hopes to be ready to participate at least some in training camp, although he doubts he’ll be cleared for contact by then.
Nelson was a surprise pick by the Broncos, who used the 27th pick of the seventh round (242nd overall) on the linebacker from Dallas.
Nelson was having the best season of his collegiate career before a torn pectoral muscle Oct. 5 against TCU. He had recorded 27 tackles and a sack, and returned an interception for a touchdown in the Sooners’ historic victory at Notre Dame.
“I think he’s a guy that can come in here and compete for a job,” said Broncos general manager John Elway. “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.”
The 49ers grabbed Millard only three picks later. The Columbia, Mo., native was one of the most versatile, valuable players on Oklahoma’s team throughout his four-year college career.
He was a bruising blocker for the Sooners, but also displayed impressive ability with the ball in his hands. He finished his OU career with 98 rushes for 538 yards and six touchdowns, and 70 catches for 677 yards and seven scores.
He tore an ACL while on kickoff coverage in the fourth quarter of Oklahoma’s late October home win over Texas Tech.
One notable Sooner who went undrafted was center Gabe Ikard, a first-team All-American last season who started 50 career games.
The Bishop McGuinness product signed a free-agent contract with the Tennessee Titans after the draft.
Other former Sooners who inked free-agent deals were receiver Lacoltan Bester (Texans), running back Brennan Clay (Broncos), running back Roy Finch (Patriots), offensive lineman Bronson Irwin (Seahawks), safety Gabe Lynn (Lions), receiver Jaz Reynolds (Titans) and running back Damien Williams (Dolphins).