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How Former Oklahoma State Players Have Performed in the NFL

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There’s been a lot of buzz regarding the NFL-caliber talent, or lack thereof, in the Big 12 over the past few years. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock became the latest personality to knock the Big 12, saying NFL scouts have a difficult time evaluating players from the conference because of the style of play.

The offensive values are so inflated, it’s tough to tell how skilled a particular player on defense is. Or are the defenses so bad that it simply makes the offensive players look better than they really are?

“It’s hard to evaluate those guys,” Mayock said in a teleconference April 20. “And in turn, when it’s hard to evaluate them, then sometimes they get knocked down further than they should.”

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was asked about this during a teleconference last week, and as you would expect, he defended the Big 12, saying offenses from the league are becoming more prominent around the nation and in the NFL.

“They’re having a hard time admitting it, but NFL offensive coordinators are flooding these college teams, just like they are at Oklahoma State, to get information on how to move the ball with fast-paced offenses and (run-pass option) systems,” Gundy said. “It’s growing more and more.”

Gundy continued, saying he saw an example of this in Alabama’s spring game. A few years ago, Alabama was trying to put a rule in place that would restrict or eliminate fast-paced offenses and no-huddles, Gundy said. But their spring game showed that’s no longer the case.

“The majority of their spring (game) was a no-huddle, spread style offense,” Gundy said. “People across the country are moving more towards Big 12 offenses, period.”

Gundy is correct in that assertion, but this year’s NFL Draft more or less confirmed what Mayock had to say. Of the Power Five conferences, the Big 12 had the fewest draft selections with 20. The next-closest was the Pac 12 with 30.

This whole topic could lead me down a rabbit hole of stats, analysis and reading, but I want to focus on how former Oklahoma State players have performed in the NFL under Mike Gundy (because we don’t know how Mason Rudolph, James Washington, Tre Flowers and Marcell Ateman will perform, we’ll limit this list to 21 instead of 25).

Billy Bajema | Seventh Round, No. 249 Overall | 2005 Draft | Tight end

Bajema was a journeyman tight end who never finished with more than 15 catches in a season. His best season was in 2010 when he caught 14 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns for the Rams. He had a nine-year career that included a Super Bowl victory with the Ravens in 2013.

The Verdict: It wasn’t a flashy career, but he was serviceable enough to stay in the league for almost a decade, despite being one of the last picks in the draft.

Darrent Williams | Second Round, No. 56 Overall | 2005 Draft | Cornerback

Williams’ story is tragic, as he was shot and killed a day after completing his second season in Denver. He led the Broncos in punt and kick returns and established himself as a starting cornerback early in his career. He had a knack for making big plays, as he had a pick-six in each of his two years in the league. He was a Pro Bowl-caliber talent who had four interceptions and 75 tackles in his sophomore season.

The Verdict: If we were assigning a grade to Williams’ career, it would have to be “incomplete.” His story is much bigger than football.

Vernand Morency | Third Round, No. 73 Overall | 2005 Draft | Running back

Morency, a running back, played 39 games over the course of his NFL career. He was drafted by the Texans, but his best season came as a Green Bay Packer in 2006. He carried the ball 96 times for a pair of touchdowns and added more than 100 yards receiving.

The Verdict: Morency was a decent NFL running back who served a complementary role for a couple of seasons. Considering where he was drafted, however, his career was a mild disappointment.

Charlie Johnson | Sixth Round, No. 199 Overall | 2006 Draft | Offensive lineman

Johnson started 115 games over the course of his nine-year career for the Colts and Vikings. He won the Super Bowl with the Colts in 2007.

The Verdict: There aren’t many stats to judge the performance of offensive linemen, but the length of his career and the amount of starts he had speaks volumes. The Colts and Vikings definitely got good value from the former sixth-rounder.

Corey Hilliard | Sixth Round, No. 209 Overall | 2007 Draft | Offensive lineman

Hillard’s pro career wasn’t as productive as Johnson’s. He was drafted by the New England Patriots but never played a game for them. Instead, he spent his seven-year career playing for Indianapolis and Detroit. He started 12 games during his career.

The Verdict: Hillard had a uninspiring NFL career. There’s not much else to say about a lineman who started 12 games in seven years. That being said, not much was expected from him.

Ryan McBean | Fourth Round, No. 132 Overall | 2007 Draft | Defensive end

McBean was drafted by the Steelers but only made one appearance in the regular season before being cut. He didn’t play in 2008 but started 14 games for the Broncos in 2009, recording 18 tackles. He also was signed by the Cardinals and Ravens at one point, but he didn’t play for either team.

The Verdict: McBean’s career can be considered a decent success, considering he started 21 games.

Brandon Pettigrew | First Round, No. 20 Overall | 2009 Draft | Tight end

Pettigrew is a free agent, but he’s undoubtedly one of the most accomplished players Gundy has coached. Pettigrew spent the entirety of his seven-year career on the Detroit Lions, amassing 301 receptions for 2,965 yards and 17 touchdowns. His best season came in 2011, when he totaled 83 catches for 777 yards and five touchdowns.

The Verdict: Pettigrew was a successful tight end at the professional level. He was the starter for a good chunk of his career and is a success story Gundy points to often.

Zac Robinson | Seventh Round, No. 250 Overall | 2010 Draft | Quarterback

Robinson never played in an NFL game, as he spent the majority of his career on the practice squad for a couple of NFL teams.

The Verdict: Robinson is one of the most memorable quarterbacks in OSU history, but he didn’t do anything in the NFL.

Perrish Cox | Fifth Round, No. 137 Overall | 2010 Draft | Cornerback

Cox was considered one of the best corners in the 2010 NFL Draft until a slow 40 time caused him to slip to the fifth round. He participated in the Super Bowl against the Ravens for the 49ers and finished his career with 10 interceptions.

The Verdict: Cox was never a stellar talent at cornerback, but he was a starting cornerback for a team that made the Super Bowl and had 45 starts in his career.

Dez Bryant | First Round, No. 24 Overall | 2010 Draft | Wide receiver

Bryant’s next team is unknown, but he’s one of the most accomplished NFL receivers of the past decade. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler and was First-Team All-Pro once. He has 73 receiving touchdowns, all for the Cowboys, and has three seasons with at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Verdict: Bryant was, at one point, a bona fide star at receiver in the NFL, and he still has a chance to be one in the right situation. He has been one of the most feared receivers in the NFL for the last 10 years.

Russell Okung | First Round, No. 6 Overall | 2010 Draft | Offensive tackle

Okung was drafted by the Seahawks, but injuries kept him off the field in Seattle (he missed 17 games in his first four seasons). His health has been better in recent years; He has started at least 13 games in each of the past four seasons. The Broncos and Chargers have used his services, and he was named to the Pro Bowl last year for the second time. He was also a member of the Seahawks’ Super Bowl team.

The Verdict: Okung has overcome a series of injuries and has developed into the player that made him worthy of a top-10 pick. Okung definitely has a few years of production left.

Kendall Hunter | Fourth Round, No. 115 Overall | 2011 Draft | Running back

Hunter backed up Frank Gore early in his career, but he still accumulated more than 400 yards on the ground in his first year in San Fransisco. He played in all 16 games. Unfortunately, that was the best season of Hunter’s career. He produced similar but worse numbers in the following pair of seasons before he tore his achilles and then his ACL.

The Verdict: Hunter was an absolute stud in Stillwater, but that never came into the fruition in the NFL because he was never given the opportunity to become a featured running back and incurred a number of injuries. It stinks to think about what could have been had he not been injured.

Markelle Martin | Sixth Round, No. 190 Overall | 2012 Draft | Safety

Martin played only one season in the NFL, starting one game for the Titans in 2012.

The Verdict: Injuries ultimately derailed Martin’s career.

Brandon Weeden | First Round, No. 22 Overall | 2012 Draft | Quarterback

At 28, Weeden was the oldest player ever taken in the first round. The Browns drafted him, and like most Browns draft picks, it didn’t work out. Weeden threw 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions during his rookie season and was never a successful quarterback. He’s currently a backup for the Houston Texans.

The Verdict: Weeden is a memorable quarterback who broke records in Stillwater and has been a decent backup for a variety of teams following the Browns.

Justin Blackmon | First Round, No. 5 Overall | 2012 Draft | Wide receiver

Blackmon is regarded as one of the bigger busts in the past decade. He showed promise in his rookie season, starting 14 games and catching 64 passes for more than 800 yards. He played only four games after his debut season, though.

The Verdict: A former two-time All-American, Blackmon struggled with substance abuse and was suspended from the NFL multiple times, leading to the conclusion of his career.

Joseph Randle | Fifth Round, No. 151 Overall | 2013 Draft | Running back

Before getting in trouble for stealing underwear and cologne, Randle was a serviceable backup running back for the Cowboys. His best season came in 2014 when he ran for 343 yards and three touchdowns.

The Verdict: Randle showed promise, and he had a chance to capitalize on it had he not gotten into legal trouble.

Justin Gilbert | First Round, No. 8 overall | 2014 Draft | Cornerback

Gilbert is the sixth-highest Cowboy ever taken, but his career has not panned out. He’s had just one interception in three starts over three years in stints with Cleveland and Pittsburgh. He was suspended for a year last summer for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

The Verdict: Gilbert has been an enigma. He’s clearly a massive talent, but it’s gone by the wayside seemingly because of a lack of discipline and desire.

Josh Furman | Seventh Round, No. 252 Overall | 2015 Draft | Safety

Furman never played a snap in the NFL

The Verdict: N/A

Emmanuel Ogbah | Second Round, No. 32 Overall | 2016 Draft | Defensive end

Ogbah is a promising young edge rusher for the Cleveland Browns. He has played only two years in the NFL, starting in all 26 games he’s played. He has 46 tackles in his two seasons.

The Verdict: While his career is far from over, Ogbah is undoubtedly part of the Browns’ future plans.

Chris Carson | Seventh Round, No. 249 Overall | 2017 Draft | Running back

After an impressive preseason, Carson earned Pete Carroll’s approval and trust to be the Seahawks’ starting running back. He averaged more than 4 yards per carry through four games before he suffered a season-ending injury.

The Verdict: Carson is only one year into his career, but this year will be big for him. The Seahawks spent a first-round pick on a running back, so it seems Carson has his work cut out for him if he wants to retain his spot as the starter, which doesn’t seem likely at the moment.

Vincent Taylor | Sixth Round, No. 194 Overall | 2017 Draft | Defensive tackle

Taylor played in 13 games during his first season before a knee injury sidelined him. He finished with 11 tackles during his first season in Miami.

The Verdict: Taylor was one of the Cowboys’ most impactful players a couple of seasons ago and should get more playing time when he becomes healthy after the departure of Ndamukong Suh.

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