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Looking at the history of OU's first round NFL selections over the last 20 years
When Roy Williams was a junior at James Logan High School in Union City, Calif., one page in the yearbook, the "Summer Wall," asked where students saw themselves five years into the future.
Williams wrote, simply, "Playing for the Dallas Cowboys."
"I basically spoke it into existence at an early age," said Williams. "There was no doubt in my mind where I was going. It was already written down."
Williams had to wait for his future to unfurl, of course — his senior year at Logan, plus three years at the University of Oklahoma. But five years later, less than an hour into the 2002 NFL Draft, Williams was indeed a Dallas Cowboy.
Even if he did have to wait just a tiny bit longer.
"I was thinking I was gonna go to Dallas with the No. 6 pick," said Williams, "but they traded back two spots and I went eighth. That was a little unsettling. But I ended up going where I was supposed to be."
Now, almost two decades later, Williams looks back on his NFL Draft experience and offers a suggestion for OU quarterback Baker Mayfield: don't worry about it.
"I don't think he's gonna have to wait long," said Williams. "I think he's gonna go in the top five or six. There's really not much he has to worry about. He knows going in that he's gonna be a top 10 pick."
Mayfield is the only Sooner who gets consensus consideration as Oklahoma's first-round possibilities this year, but Williams and 2005 first-round pick Mark Clayton are among those who think there could be several OU players selected on April 26 — tight end Mark Andrews, offensive tackle Orlando Brown and linebacker/defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo have appeared in the first round of various mock drafts.
“Looking at Mark, I’ve always thought of Jason Witten when I saw him,” said Clayton. “Obo, seems like he’ll be one of those guys that’s steady and plays for a really long time — and when it’s third down, it’s gonna be a problem (for the other team). I know in the NFL that pressure is a whole other ballgame, but I think (Baker) does have the IQ and obviously the ability to do it, and do it really well.
“We’ve got a good bunch. Time will tell, but I think they have the makings and the assets to be really good professional players. I’m definitely excited to watch them and see how they progress in their careers.”
Said Williams, “I think you’re gonna be surprised. I think there may be more than one OU guy going in the first round.”
In the 18 drafts since Williams began to blossom during Bob Stoops’ rookie season in 1999, the Sooners have had 13 first-round picks: Stockar McDougle (2000), Williams (2002), Andre Woolfolk (2003), Tommie Harris (2004), Clayton and Jammal Brown (2005), Davin Joseph (2006), Adrian Peterson (2007), Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams and Jermaine Gresham (2010) and Lane Johnson (2013).
Mayfield is certain to be No. 14 on that list. He’s been discussed as someone who could go anywhere from No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns, to the latter part of the first round.
Andrews, Brown and Okoronkwo probably have first-round talent, but each also has obstacles in his path that could mean a second- or third-day pick.
The NFL success rate of OU’s first-round picks during the last two decades has been remarkable:
>McDougle, the 20th overall pick, played eight seasons (mostly with Detroit) and started 56 games on the offensive line.
>Roy Williams was a five-time Pro Bowler who played nine seasons, started 110 games and had 20 interceptions for the Cowboys.
>Woolfolk, picked 28th by Tennessee, played 39 games (12 starts) in four seasons as a defensive back with the Titans with 131 tackles and three interceptions.
>Harris went 14th overall to Chicago as a defensive tackle, was named to the Pro Bowl three times in eight seasons and made 226 tackles and 31.5 quarterback sacks.
>After the Saints picked Brown No. 15 overall, he became a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle in seven seasons with the Saints and Redskins.
>Clayton played five seasons with Baltimore and two more with the St. Louis Rams, catching 260 passes for 3,448 yards and scoring 16 touchdowns.
>Joseph started 112 of 116 NFL games after going 23rd to Tampa Bay, where he was a two-time Pro Bowl pick, and played seven of his eight seasons as an offensive guard.
>Peterson became one of the most decorated players in NFL history after Minnesota drafted him seventh overall, rushing for an NFL record 296 yards in a game, making seven Pro Bowls, earning five All-Pro designations, returning from a torn ACL to rush for 2,097 yards in 2012 and compiling 12,276 career rushing yards (currently 12th all-time) with 87 touchdowns.
>Bradford went first overall to the Rams, signed the biggest rookie contract in NFL history ($86 million, including $50 million guaranteed) was named 2010 NFL offensive rookie of the year, and has played for the Rams, Eagles and Vikings during his injury-plagued seven seasons (he’s currently with the Arizona Cardinals), throwing for 19,049 yards with 101 touchdowns and 57 interceptions.
>McCoy went No. 3 to Tampa Bay, where he’s been a six-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro pick as he’s made 269 tackles and recorded 48.5 sacks.
>Trent Williams went fourth overall to Washington, where he’s started 106 of 107 games, made six Pro Bowls and three All-Pros and in 2015, became the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league with a $66 million contract with more than $43 million guaranteed.
>Gresham went 21st overall to Cincinnati, where he was a two-time Pro Bowl tight end and played five of his eight seasons (he’s played the last three in Arizona) with 368 receptions for 3,658 yards and 29 touchdowns.
>The Eagles took Johnson fourth overall in 2013, and he was voted to the 2017-18 Pro Bowl, replaced Williams as the league’s highest-paid offensive linemen ($63 million with $35.5 million guaranteed) and won Super Bowl 52.
Although Roy Williams didn’t have to wait long and went exactly where he predicted, he recalls his draft day experience as part stressful and all fulfilling.
“I got that call after I saw — who was it? I want to say the Chiefs. I think it was the Chiefs — they went up on stage and made their pick (North Carolina defensive tackle Ryan Sims), and then Bryant McKinnie (an offensive tackle from Miami) went seventh to the Vikings, and then I got a call from Jerry (Jones) saying, ‘Hey, sit tight. We made a deal; we’re gonna take you at 8.’ So that was awesome.
“So they had my plane at like, Wiley Post (Airport in Oklahoma City). He had his jet waiting there for us to fly to Dallas. It would have been nice if he would have had the same jet that flew us out there fly us back. But that wasn’t the case. He put us on a propeller plane back. Man, it was like the bumpiest ride ever in my life,” Williams said with a laugh.
This year when Jones flies his picks to Cowboys HQ, he’ll also be flying them to the home of the draft, as the 2018 event takes place at AT&T Stadium and The Star in Arlington, Texas.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Clayton, who grew up in Arlington (he went to Sam Houston High School) and still lives in DFW. “The draft being what it is, being in Texas is of course awesome, because Texas is king when it comes to football.
Should have been here all along.”'
Clayton’s draft day “started at IHOP, really,” he said. “Just kind of hung around. We had a big get-together at my house (in Arlington). A lot of friends and family came. It was a really good time.”
Having so many friends and family who “were definitely into” the pick-by-pick television coverage may have added to the anxiety Clayton felt back then. But when the Baltimore Ravens called his name with the 22nd overall pick, the stress melted away.
Williams watched the ESPN broadcast with teammates, coaches and even media inside the Switzer Center.
“I didn’t get invited,” said Williams. “I think like only two or three people got invited to New York my year, which was crazy. Because, I mean, I really wish I would have had that experience, walking out (on the stage after hearing his name called). Man, I feel sometimes my class got robbed of the whole experience.
“But it was fun, man. It was awesome.”
(John E. Hoover is an afternoon co-host at KRXO The Franchise and writes columns for TheFranchiseOK.com and Sporting News)