Benson, Johnson Taken In NFL First Round

Former Texas RB Cedric Benson and WLB Derrick Johnson were, as expected, first round picks Saturday during the annual NFL Draft in New York.

The Chicago Bears made Cedric Benson their highest draft pick since selecting legendary Walter Payton by making him the No. 4 pick overall while Kansas City grabbed Derrick Johnson when he was (surprisingly) still on the table as the No. 15 pick. Still, it was the fourth time in the last five Drafts that a pair of Longhorns were taken in the First Round.

Speculation that Benson's stock had fallen considerably proved ill founded -- but it was there -- and it reached Benson's ears during the past few months. No small part of it had to do with the association some NFL teams and national media made between Benson and former Longhorn great Ricky Williams who, of course, abruptly jilted the Miami Dolphins late last July, Benson told an ESPN audience.

In fact, Benson told ESPN that certain NFL coaches and scouts attempted to "degrade me" and "manipulate me" during the past few months before adding, "I thought the (NFL scouting) process was a big slap in the face for everything that I've done and the way I've carried myself. There's no respect for what you've done, but obviously the Bears believe in me and we're going to get some things done in Chicago. I feel a whole lot better. I'm eager and anxious and ready to go to Chicago and get things done."

Benson won the 2004 Doak Walker Award, honoring the nation's top RB, during his senior campaign in which he ran for 1,834 yards (No. 3 all-time on Texas's single-season list) and 19 touchdowns (No. 4). He was also the Cingular ABC Sports All-America Player of the Year while nabbing first-team All-America honors from both ESPN and Sports Illustrated. Benson was a unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection.

During his standout career, Benson rushed for 5,540 yards on 1,112 carries (5.0 avg.) to rank sixth on the NCAA D-I career list and No. 2 all-time in UT history (trailing only Ricky Williams). His 6,161 all-purpose yards is also second only to Williams (7,206) at the Forty Acres. Benson is just the fifth RB in college football history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons. His 64 career TDs trail only Ricky Williams (72) and Travis Prentice of Miami, Ohio (73, 1996-99) on the NCAA all-time list. Benson owns the NCAA record by scoring at least once in 37 games.

Orangebloods will remember Benson as a tough, durable RB who gained 3,108 of his 5,540 career rushing yards (56.1 percent) after contact.

While Benson spent the past couple of days in New York (as part of a select group of marquee players invited to attend Draft Day proceedings), Johnson gathered with family members in his native Waco to await the verdict. Some speculated that Johnson could go as high as the No. 3 pick (Cleveland) but no lower than No. 10 (Detroit). Yet cornerbacks were a hot commodity in the early going as three of them (West Virginia's Adam Jones, Miami's Antrel Rolle, Auburn's Carlos Rogers) heard their names called before D.J.

Johnson was, unexpectedly, the second LB taken in Saturday's Draft (falling behind Maryland OLB Shawne Merriman). In fact, I did an early morning radio segment on Cleveland's ESPN affiliate in which the hosts speculated that the Browns would take D.J. but had begun to hear grumblings about some of D.J.'s so-called weaknesses (namely, ability to take on blockers and over run the play). In short, I told them there was too much upside with D.J. to think that his stock would fall dramatically, adding that I expected the Browns to go with Michigan WR Braylon Edwards (which, of course, they did). Still, I was surprised that D.J. fell out of the Top Ten -- even though there isn't a strong track record of linebackers going early on Draft Day (just seven LBs have been taken in the Top Ten during the past decade).

During his senior campaign, Johnson became Texas' first ever Butkus Award recipient (honoring the nation's top LB) and won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation's top defensive player. The Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year was also Texas' first LB to garner consensus All-American honors since Britt Hager wore the Burnt Orange in 1983.

Johnson posted 458 career tackles (281 solo) to rank third on Texas' all-time list. His 65 career TFL set a new school record and is third all-time in D-I football. His nine INT are a school career record for linebackers, as are his 30 PBU. His 11 forced fumbles rank third on the school's all-time list.

The Draft concludes Sunday with former Longhorn FB Will Matthews and TE Bo Scaife expected to go in the later rounds. FS Phillip Geiggar and QB Chance Mock.

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