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NFL Draft tracker: How former Oklahoma State football players fit with their new teams

Scott Wright

For more than three decades, Oklahoma State fans have had a natural affinity for the Detroit Lions, thanks to the illustrious career of running back Barry Sanders

Now, Cowboy fans have another reason to love the Lions.

Detroit selected Oklahoma State linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez in the sixth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, making him the first OSU player to come off the board in this year’s draft. 

Rodriguez, of course, won’t be able to wear his usual No. 20 in Detroit, thanks to Sanders, whose number has been retired by the franchise.

Here’s a look at the Cowboys who have been drafted and how they fit in their new homes:

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Oklahoma State's Malcolm Rodriguez (20) sacks Oklahoma's Caleb Williams (13) in the third quarter during a Bedlam college football game between the Oklahoma State University Cowboys (OSU) and the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. OSU won 37-33.

Malcolm Rodriguez, linebacker

Pick: Round 6, No. 188 overall

Team: Detroit Lions

How he fits in: Linebacker was an area of concern for the Lions prior to the draft, but they waited until the sixth round to pick one. Alex Anzalone is the unquestioned leader of the group, but beyond that, the Lions’ linebackers are somewhat unproven.

That opens the door for Rodriguez to compete for snaps right away, because of his speed and playmaking skill. Rodriguez finished his OSU career with 409 tackles, becoming just the fourth Cowboy to surpass the 400-tackle mark. 

Because of his lack of size at 5-foot-11, 232 pounds, Rodriguez will face more daunting physical challenges in the NFL than he had in college. But if used right, he can be an impactful player who can contribute as a linebacker and on special teams.

If you keep him clean and let him run to the football, he will make every single tackle,” ESPN analyst Louis Riddick said, referring to Rodriguez as a “good developmental prospect.”

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Devin Harper, linebacker

Pick: Round 6, No. 193 overall

Team: Dallas Cowboys

How he fits in: Dallas entered the draft needing to add some depth at linebacker and did it with a pair of late-round picks. First was Damone Clark of LSU, a late fifth-round pick who underwent spinal fusion surgery in March and is expected to miss all of the 2022 season as a result. 

With that, Dallas saw a need for more immediate help and picked Harper less than 20 picks later.

Dallas’ draft focus seemed to be heavy on players with strong athletic traits and Harper fits that image. He ran a 40-yard dash in the mid-4.4 range at OSU Pro Day and had a vertical leap of 40 ½ inches. 

At 6 feet and 234 pounds, Harper finished with 96 tackles, six sacks and 15 quarterback hurries at inside linebacker last season and has lots of special teams experience that should benefit him in Dallas.  

Riddick described Harper’s pass rush success as “insane efficiency,” adding that “when you turn on the tape and watch this young man play, it’s undeniable. He plays to his traits more times than not. That’s what you want in the sixth round. That’s getting value.

“Adding this kind of guy in the sixth round that can run and hit like this, this is awesome.”

Oklahoma State linebacker Devin Harper (16) intercepts a pass intended for Kansas wide receiver Takulve Williams (16) during the first half of a 47-7 win at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in Lawrence in 2020.

Christian Holmes, cornerback

Pick: Round 7, No. 240 overall

Team: Washington Commanders

How he fits in: As part of a seventh-round run on cornerbacks, Washington jumped in the mix and grabbed Holmes, the third defender from OSU to be selected

The Commanders are somewhat thin at cornerback, so Holmes should have ample opportunity to compete for a roster spot. The 6-foot, 201-pound Holmes had 130 tackles, 30 pass breakups and three interceptions over his five-year career between Missouri and OSU. 

His muscular frame and good speed combined to make him an attractive prospect after a strong showing at OSU Pro Day.

“He’s a cornerback that’ll come up and hit you,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “He’s got the size to match up against bigger wide receivers in the National Football League, so you like that aspect of him. A little inconsistent at times in coverage, but he is smothering at times.”