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NFL Draft 2022: Isaiah Thomas, Perrion Winfrey & Co. will likely help keep this Sooners' streak alive

Ryan Aber

NORMAN — Over the past two seasons, Isaiah Thomas’ versatility has been a valuable weapon on the defensive line for OU.

Now, Thomas is hoping that versatility will help him as he moves onto the NFL.

The defensive end/defensive tackle figures to be picked during Saturday’s third and final day of the NFL Draft, a key piece of a rare defense-heavy draft class for the Sooners.

Thomas figures to go in the fourth or fifth round of the seven-round draft, which begins Thursday with the first round and continues Friday with the second and third rounds.

Thomas said his versatility, which helped him start 22 games over the last two seasons and total 70 tackles and 16.5 sacks with the Sooners, could continue in the NFL.

“Definitely both,” Thomas said. “Fortunately, I was able to do both here at OU. Teams, every time I talk to them they ask me what I feel more comfortable at. I probably start off and say defensive end, but I can also play inside. And they love that because they can have sub packages with me at D-tackle. Even if they primarily need me there I can gain 10 or 15 pounds and be able to perform inside.”

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OU defensive lineman Isaiah Thomas (95) sacks Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson (7) during a 37-31 win Saturday.

OU is likely to have four or more players picked for the 15th consecutive season — the longest active streak in college football.

Thomas, defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey, linebackers Nick Bonitto and Brian Asamoah and safety Delarrin Turner-Yell give the Sooners the chance to have five defensive players picked for the first time since 2005.

They’ll almost certainly have four for the first time since 2012.

In addition to Thomas, here’s a look at other Sooners who could be selected in this week’s NFL Draft:

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Perrion Winfrey, defensive lineman

Winfrey is the most likely to be the first Sooners’ player off the board after strong performances at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine gave him some momentum. Winfrey started all 12 regular-season games for OU last season, with 23 tackles — 11 for loss — with 5.5 sacks, two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.

Projection: Second round

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Nik Bonitto, edge rusher

Bonitto earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors from Pro Football Focus last season after being a first-team All-American by the site in 2020. Bonitto was extremely productive for the Sooners but is a bit of a tweener at the next level. Although he’s undersized among edge rushers, he still figures to go off the board in Friday’s second day of the draft.

Projection: Second to third round

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Brian Asamoah, linebacker

The Butkus Award semifinalist had 179 tackles and five sacks during his Sooners career, playing in 37 games and starting 19. Asamoah, who has plenty of athleticism and figures to have a chance to make a quick impact on special teams if nothing else, could go as high as Friday’s third round.

Projection: Third to fourth round

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Marquis Hayes, guard

Hayes has plenty of length and strength on the interior of the offensive line, though figures to need some refining in the NFL. Hayes would give the Sooners seven offensive linemen drafted in the last five drafts. Tyrese Robinson has a chance to add to that list but is likely to be an undrafted free agent.

Projection: Fourth round

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Kennedy Brooks, running back

Brooks has long been overlooked, and he figures to have to prove himself in the NFL as well. His measurables don’t jump off the page, but productivity has never been an issue. Brooks ran for more than 1,000 yards three times during his OU career, including a career-high 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns last season after opting out of the 2020 season. 

Projection: Sixth to seventh round

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Jeremiah Hall, tight end/fullback

Hall was supremely valuable for the Sooners over the last four seasons, with 68 catches for 757 yards and 12 touchdowns through the air and 13 carries for 53 yards and a score on the ground. Hall’s size and positional ideal don’t likely make him an ideal first with every team but teams with the need for a fullback or a tight end of Hall’s makeup aren’t likely to have an issue pulling the trigger on Hall late in the draft.

Projection: Late rounds or undrafted free agent

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Delarrin Turner-Yell, safety

Turner-Yell was a steadying presence in the secondary for the Sooners the last three seasons, starting 31 games during that span. Three of his four career interceptions came last season. He finished with 191 career tackles. Turner-Yell dealt with several injuries during his career and sometimes struggled with size and open-field tackling. His strength and instincts figure to give him a chance.

Projection: Late rounds to undrafted free agent