In the midst of reading College Football News' insightful running NFL draft diary, the author writes (as Oakland picks Michael Huff): "There's just something a bit worrisome about Texas players. Roy Williams is fine, Vince Young will be a superstar, but Texas players have been, well, average from the Mack Brown era." I was immediately reminded, of course, of this gem published in February of this year by SI.com's Don Banks (whoever he is).
Whether we like it or not, there's a perception about the Longhorns that they're not tough enough to succeed in the NFL. The knock on Mack's program has been that it's been a "country club" atmosphere. Since Mack arrived in 1998, we can't even begin to get a feel for how Longhorns he's coached have fared in the NFl until about 2001, so we'll take this study from there. The question: is this a myth or have Longhorns underperformed relative to expectations in the NFL? We'll take it year by year. First up, 2001
2001 - 3 Longhorns Selected
Leonard Davis, 1st Round, 2nd Overall, Arizona Cardinals It's kind of strange, but many perceive Davis as a bit of a bust. Considering he was the #2 overall selection in the draft, the standard is obviously high. But the industry leading Pro Football Prospectus explained that the problems in Arizona weren't so much the players as the culture surrounding the entire program. In their introduction to their 2006 annual, PFP writes:
To understand the complacency culture in Arizona, a good place to start is the offensive line... SCouting reports always pointed out that the Cardinals linemen could be great - when they felt like it.
How do we grade out Davis, then? Suffice to say, we don't know yet. We'll know in the next two years, though. It may just be that pre-Dennis Green Cardinals get a pass. At the very least, you can't pin it on Mack Brown.
Casey Hampton, 1st Round, 19th Overall, Pittsburgh Steelers He's already made two Pro Bowls and played the best of any Steeler in the Super Bowl, which, you may remember, they just won. He's an absolute monster in the middle of the Steelers' 3-4 defense. If you don't follow football closely, you won't know Hampton well, but those in the league know he's the best in the business at what he does: eating up blockers. Hampton routinely requires the attention of two linemen; if you try to get by with one, he muscles his way into the backfield and disrupts the play.
Also, recall that Hampton was the fifth defensive lineman selected in that draft. Gerard Warren, Florida (3rd pick), Richard Seymour, Georgia (6th), Damione Lewis, Miami (12th), and Marcus Stroud, Georgia (13th) were all taken before Hampton in the first round of the 2001 draft. Hampton was a steal at 19, obviously.
Shaun Rogers, 2nd Round, 61st Overall Between Hampton and Rogers, three more defensive tackles were selected, making it an awfully deep class of defensive tackles. Rogers might have been taken higher in other years. Consider also that Rogers was drafted into a terrible situation, too. Since 2001, the Lions have had a revolving door of coaches and coordinators on their way to the worst record in the league. Listening to the Lions on the radio on a drive back from Michigan last winter, the announcers kept talking about how Rogers, like many Lion defenders, had trouble with consistency. He'd make a lot of great plays, but some really bad ones, too.
Sounds a little like the situation Leonard Davis was in, don't you think? Would Casey Hampton have had similar problems if he'd been drafted by, say, Detroit, rather than Pittsburgh? We don't really know, but it's worth asking. And important to remember when we hear people blame Mack Brown, as if he's still with them in the NFL. Both Davis and Rogers are on the fringe and can go either way. Perhaps we'll learn more in the next couple of years. For now, we'll take a pass.
Up next: 2002 (Mike Williams and Quentin Jammer, oops)