Texas Longhorns fans may need to prepare for another frustrating NFL Draft in 2016, as a personnel person from an NFC front office told Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead that the Horns may get shut out of the draft for the second time in three years.
It's not for a complete lack of candidates, either -- the CBSSports.com database currently lists 11 Horns, but senior offensive guard Sedrick Flowers is the only one ranked among the top-20 prospects at his position (No. 18). He still has a lot of prove in his final season since he's currently considered a guy likely to go in the seventh round or become an undrafted free agent and hasn't played a consistently high level at any point yet in his career.
The only other player with the same draft grade is senior cornerback Duke Thomas, who is ranked as the No. 35 player at his position and will have to overcome a history of big mistakes and marginal height for the NFL at 5'10.
What about senior running back Johnathan Gray? He's another player with plenty to prove after he spent the early part of the 2014 season recovering from his Achilles injury. Currently considered the No. 28 running back, Gray isn't far out of that 7-FA range, as CBSSports.com believes that the top 27 backs have a chance to get drafted. With a strong senior season, it's quite possible that Gray could jump up draft boards, especially if he tests well.
And there's one notable omission from the CBSSports.com list -- junior defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, who could conceivably follow 2015 first-round pick Malcom Brown in giving up a season of eligibility to jump to the NFL. The only returning Texas defender with double-digit tackles for loss, Ridgeway is an extremely disruptive player when he can stay low and use his incredibly powerful lower body to explode off the ball. However, he still has to work on using his hands better in addition to playing with a higher motor and greater intensity.
Based purely on his physical tools, he could probably convince an NFL team to draft him in 2016 if can merely match his production from 2014. And ultimately it doesn't matter too much that Ridgeway isn't seriously on the radar of NFL draftniks at the moment -- the film doesn't lie about his 2014 production and 2015 potential.
But the outlook for the Longhorns overall in the 2016 NFL Draft isn't especially positive right now, casting some unfavorable light on the current talent situation in Austin among the upperclassmen and showcasing just how much work the draft-eligible players have to do this season to prove themselves worthy of playing at the next level.