One of the oft-cited statistics for the recent fall-off in the Texas program has been the Longhorns' lack of first-round talent. Texas hasn't had a first-rounder since the 2010 NFL Draft, when Earl Thomas was taken with the 14th pick by the Seattle Seahawks.
But while the Longhorns are coming off a bit of a first-round slump, Texas could see multiple players go in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, set to kick off Thursday night.
Kenny Vaccaro is certainly a safe bet. Graded as the top safety in the draft, teams have lauded Vaccaro as the do-it-all safety who can deliver pop in run support, or go out and cover a tight end or slot receiver, as is so important in today's NFL. Certainly, Vaccaro is battle-tested. In the pass-happy Big 12, Vaccaro has found himself matched up against Ryan Broyles, who would likely have been a first-round pick, actual first-round pick in Kendall Wright and this season, projected first-rounder Tavon Austin, among others.
Vaccaro led the Longhorns in tackles with 107 a year ago, and played everywhere from a deep cover safety to the nickel back and even almost up as a linebacker at times to try and cover for an inexperienced group. He also made four tackles for loss, picked off two passes and forced two fumbles.
Alex Okafor is a more interesting case, somebody with a projected grade between the latter part of the first round and the start of the second round. His on-field production isn't in question, and he is coming off an outstanding bowl performance against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl. He finished his senior year with 68 tackles, including 18 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks while forcing four fumbles. He also led the Longhorns with 20 quarterback hurries, further showing his ability to get after the quarterback.
But Okafor tested worse than expected, leaving a clear division between those who would take him because "he's a football player," and those who question whether he'll have the athleticism to impact games at the next level the way he did in college. In that respect, he's in an awfully similar position to Texas A&M standout Damontre Moore, who carries a nearly identical grade.
Only the first round will take place on Thursday, meaning Okafor could be taken late tonight, or early in tomorrow's broadcast. But either way, Texas could have two players taken by the 34th pick, the highest Longhorn taken in the last two years in Aaron Williams.