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Way-too-early 2021 NFL mock drafts have Texas breaking first-round drought

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Bleacher Report and Fox Sports even have two Longhorns coming off the board on the first day of next year’s draft.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 29 Texas Tech at Texas Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While numerous players from Texas and a host of prospects from the SEC, including Texans who played in the SEC, came off the board in the early rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday, the first-round drought for the Texas Longhorns continued.

Since defensive tackle Malcom Brown was the final selection in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, the Longhorns have now gone five years without a first-round pick. That’s the most significant drought for the program in the modern era, which began in 1970 when the AFL and the NFL merged. It’s also the longest drought since a seven-year stretch that ended in 1964.

The question is when the drought is going to end. Fortunately, there may be relief in sight — multiple 2021 mock drafts have at least one Texas player selected in the first round.

At SB Nation, Dan Kadar has junior left tackle Sam Cosmi selected with the No. 16 pick, while Bleacher Report has Cosmi matching Brown by becoming the final selection of the first round. CBSSports.com agrees with Kadar, also projecting Cosmi as the No. 16 selection. Fox Sports thinks a little more highly of Cosmi, slotting him at No. 14.

If any of those projections come true, Cosmi would become the highest-drafted Texas offensive lineman since Mike Williams was the fourth pick in 2002.

Cosmi is certainly one of the best offensive line prospects to come out of Austin since Williams — he has a chance to surpass Connor Williams, who was a second-round pick in 2018 — but he also asked for an evaluation from the NFL Draft Advisory Committee and ultimately returned to school. If he did receive a return-to-school grade, then it’s clear that Cosmi still has some key areas where he needs to improve in order to play his way into the first round, even if numerous outlets consider that the likely outcome.

The Bleacher Report mock draft has junior safety Caden Sterns as the No. 16 selection, but that seems like a projection that includes a lot of improvement from Sterns, who struggled a sophomore thanks to injuries and would need to answer questions about his top-end speed in order to be drafted that highly. Still, Fox Sports is high enough on Sterns to slot him as the No. 17 selection.

So the anticipation is that the 2021 NFL Draft will bring some much-needed good news for the Longhorns thanks to at least one of head coach Tom Herman’s recruits, but Sterns in particular, and Cosmi to a lesser extent, still have a lot of work to do to make that a reality amidst a coronavirus pandemic that is forcing them to work out on their own indefinitely.