Check out Kyler Murray’s first press conference after the Oklahoma quarterback was select No. 1 overall at the NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
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Putting a former player into the first round of the NFL draft is a win for programs and head coaches, who can then tout their past successes in player development to recruits and parents in living rooms across America.
The first round of Thursday’s draft had its share of big winners, led by the coronation of Oklahoma as the destination of choice for quarterbacks who hope to A) win a Heisman Trophy, and B) eventually be selected with the top pick. (Transferring is optional but preferred.)
On the other hand, the draft was notable for the success of four of the Power Five — everyone but the Pac-12, which was largely absent. Here are some of college football’s winners and losers from the first round:
This will make a neat recruiting graphic for Lincoln Riley’s purposes: For the second year in a row, an Oklahoma quarterback fresh off the Heisman Trophy went first overall. Kyler Murray follows in Baker Mayfield’s footsteps as the Cardinals unite Murray’s athleticism with one of the sport’s most inventive offensive minds in first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Less than four months ago, Kingsbury was the offensive coordinator at Southern California and Murray was set to leave football behind and join the Oakland Athletics.
Murray was the fifth Oklahoma player to go first overall, tying the Sooners with Southern California for the most by any school in draft history. Murray and Mayfield are joined by quarterback Sam Bradford (2010), running back Billy Sims (1980) and defensive lineman Lee Roy Selmon (1976). There’s another graphic.
The annual tradition of SEC dominance at the NFL draft continued as expected, with three former SEC standouts going among the first seven picks and nine overall going in the first round. The first was Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who went third to the New York Jets, followed by LSU linebacker Devin White to Tampa Bay at No. 5 and Josh Allen of Kentucky to the Jaguars at No. 7. Three starters from Mississippi State’s top-ranked defense were taken, led by tackle Jeffrey Simmons to the Titans at pick No. 19.
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The Tigers’ winning streak continues into April. Three former defensive linemen went in the first round: Clelin Ferrell to the Raiders at No. 4, Christian Wilkins to the Dolphins at No. 13 and Dexter Lawrence to the Giants at No. 17. This was the second time in draft history (N.C. State in 2006) three defensive linemen from the same team were taken in the first round. Another seven or more Clemson players could go in the next six rounds, including cornerback Trayvon Mullen, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt.
Cutcliffe’s latest quarterback pupil, Daniel Jones, was taken sixth overall by the New York Giants, a surprisingly high slot given Jones’ lack of preseason and in-season attention. But it’s another feather in the cap for the Duke head coach, who famously tutored both Manning brothers — Peyton as the offensive coordinator at Tennessee, Eli as the head coach at Ole Miss — into No. 1 overall picks.
Long a place known for the development of offensive linemen, Iowa is making a very strong case for being the go-to destination for tight ends eyeing the NFL. Not one but two ex-Hawkeyes went in the first round, with T.J. Hockenson going eighth to the Lions and Noah Fant to the Broncos at No. 20. Two players, one position, one school, both in the first round.
Four of the Power Five leagues were represented in the top four picks: Big 12 at No. 1, Big Ten at No. 2, SEC at No. 3 and ACC at No. 4. Three of those leagues — the Big Ten, SEC and ACC — accounted for 14 of the first 16 selections. And that leaves the outlier, the Pac-12, which saw its first player come off the board at No. 22: Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard to the Eagles.
One year after quarterback Sam Darnold went third overall to the Jets, the flagship program of the Pac-12 was shut out of the first round for the fourth time in the past seven drafts. This has put a major record at risk: USC went into the night holding the all-time record for picks in the first round at 81, two ahead of Ohio State. The Buckeyes tied that mark with second-overall pick Nick Bosa and quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who went 15th overall. Look for Ohio State to take the lead in 2020.
The Group of Five
Five players from the Group of Five leagues were taken in the first round a year ago, led by the seventh overall pick in former Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. This year? Just one — even if he’s a good one: Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver slipped a bit but was gobbled up by the Bills at No. 9. Another player from outside the Power Five, Alabama State offensive tackle Tytus Howard, went 23rd overall to the Texans.