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Tramel's ScissorTales: NFL Draft shows how well coached Oklahoma State football was in 2021

Berry Tramel
Oklahoman

The NFL Draft has come and gone, with little OSU influence. Three Cowboys were selected, none before the sixth round

Linebackers Malcolm Rodriguez and Devin Harper went in the sixth round; cornerback Christian Holmes went in the seventh round. 

Hard to rationalize such a draft coming off such an OSU season. The Cowboys went 12-2 and finished seventh in the Associated Press poll. 

Most high-achieving college teams send many more players to the subsequent draft. Great teams either have seniors or talented underclassmen ready for the draft, or more likely both. 

Georgia, for instance, just won the national championship and produced an NFL Draft record 15 picks, including five in the first round. 

Alabama, the national runner-up, had seven picks, including two in the first round, two in the second and two in the third. 

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Michigan, third in the final AP poll, had five picks, including three in the first two rounds. No. 4 Cincinnati had nine picks, three in the first two rounds. No. 5 Baylor had six picks (two in the first two rounds). No. 6 Ohio State had six picks, No. 8 Notre Dame two (including a first-rounder), No. 9 Michigan State four (including a second-rounder) and No. 10 OU seven (including a second-rounder). 

So OSU’s success is a stunning credit to coaching and culture, the latter of which Mike Gundy loves to talk about. And you can’t argue with him. The Cowboys out-talented few opponents. 

Heck, going back over the five most recent seasons, only nine teams in the final AP top 10 had just three draft picks or fewer. 

2021: No. 7 OSU three; No. 8 Notre Dame two (including a first-rounder). 

2020: No. 9 Iowa State one; No. 10 Northwestern three (including two first-rounders). 

2018: No. 6 Louisiana State three (including one first-rounder and one second-rounder); No. 9 Texas two; No. 10 Washington State two (including a first-rounder). 

2017: No. 4 Clemson three; No. 9 Texas Christian three. 

Of those nine, only five failed to have a pick in the first two rounds – Clemson 2017 and four Big 12 teams. OSU 2021, Iowa State 2020, Texas 2018 and TCU 2017. 

TCU’s 2017 team produced a third-round pick in offensive tackle Joseph Noteboom, the highest pick on Texas’ 2018 team was defensive end Charles Omenihu in the fifth round, Iowa State’s lone pick off the 2020 team was tailback Kene Nwangwu in the fourth round and OSU’s highest pick last week was Rodriguez in the sixth round. 

So while the Cowboys lost not only the three draft picks but some players to the transfer portal and some players who went undrafted, perhaps the biggest loss was defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. He produced a big-time defense without big-time talent. 

Of course, Gundy has proven adept at hiring assistants, so that’s encouraging for new coordinator Derek Mason. The Cowboys have a legacy of winning, sometimes without elite talent. 

The 2022 NFL Draft proved it.  

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Oklahoma City Thunder's Jeremiah Robinson-Earl poses for photos during the team's media day at the Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.

Thunder report card: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl started his fourth NBA game and generally made a positive impression as a Thunder rookie this season, though two teammates were drafted in front of him. 

Our series of Thunder report cards continues with the 6-foot-8 power forward from Villanova: 

Shooting: B. JRE showed excellent accuracy for a rookie big man, making 35.2 percent of his 3-point shots. Even better, Robinson-Earl shot just .348 from the corners. So he was better at long distance. Get that corner shot down, and JRE could find a home as a stretch-the-floor player. One concern; Robinson-Earl made just 22.6 percent of his non-paint 2-pointers. 

Defense: B. Robinson-Earl is unlikely to ever be a defensive difference-maker, but he showed some chops as a rookie. His defensive field-goal percentage of .471 was slightly better than fellow power forwards Darius Bazley and Isaiah Roby (though Bazley admittedly covered tougher players much of the year) and in the range of veteran Derrick Favors (.466). JRE’s defensive rating of 110.9 (opposition points per 100 possessions, with Robinson-Earl on the court) was in the middle of the Thunder spectrum. 

Road performance: C. Robinson-Earl was a notably different player at home than on the road. Despite similar minutes played, on the road JRE was down 2.5 points per game (8.7-6.2), 0.8 rebounds (6.0-5.2) and 90 percentage points on 3-point shooting (.391-.301). 

Rebounding: B. Robinson-Earl showed signs of being a solid rebounder. His rebounding rate of 13.0 (percentage of available rebounds he grabbed while on the court) and 9.1 rebounds per 36 minutes were third-best among Thunder big men who played more than 25 games, trailing only Aleksej Pokusevski and Favors. 

Playing with SGA: B. Robinson-Earl seemed to mesh well with franchise cornerstone Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Thunder was outscored by 9.1 points per 100 possessions while they played together, which is not good, but the Thunder generally was outscored by everyone. The JRE number with SGA was better than those SGA numbers posted by Bazley, Josh Giddey, Aaron Wiggins, Favors and Roby. 

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Why Antetokounmpo is the NBA’s best 

Giannis Antetokounmpo has become the NBA’s best player, by acclimation and by consensus. 

Giannis’ NBA Finals performance last summer – per-game averages of 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists – seemed to seal the deal. Especially when Antetokounmpo posted 50 points in the Game 6 closeout. 

He’s 6-foot-11, a terror on both offense and defense, and seemingly without peer. 

Then you watch Kevin Durant play, and you wonder if Giannis indeed has a peer. Durant also is 6-11, and while not the defensive menace on the level of Antetokounmpo, he’s an offensive wunderkind. Incredibly skilled. A shotmaker of every kind.  

Durant is the more skilled player. Antetokounmpo the more physical force. 

This is an NBA era when shooting and ball skills are more important and more valued than ever. Antetokounmpo is not a great shooter – 29.3 percent this season from 3-point range, about his career average – and he committed more turnovers per 36 minutes than did Durant this season (3.6-3.4), though Durant had a slightly higher turnover rate. 

So Durant is the more skilled player in this highly-skilled era. But that’s exactly why Antetokounmpo is the game’s greatest player today. 

Ten years ago, there wasn’t much comparison to Durant. Players that tall and that skilled. But the game has changed, and while there are no Durants, there are players that big with tremendous amounts of skill. 

Meanwhile, there are no players like Antetokounmpo. That big. That fast. That strong. That ferocious. 

His early nickname was the Greek Freak, and I guess that still holds. But Antetokounmpo is not a freak. He’s a force straight out of a horror movie. 

On Sunday in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Bucks, playing without key cog Khris Middleton, routed the Celtics 101-89, with Giannis posting a triple double – 24 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists. Antetokounmpo had an off-game shooting, nine of 25, but no matter. 

Boston had no counter to Giannis’ dominance. In Antetokounmpo’s 38 minutes, Milwaukee outscored Boston by 23 points. Which means in the game’s other 10 minutes, the Celtics outscored Milwaukee by 11 points. 

Teams have learned to play against huge players with incredible skill. Joel Embiid. Nikola Jokic.  

But teams have no answer for a physical force like Giannis, who can cover the entire court in two or three dribbles with those incredible strides, and who can defend the basket with science-fiction arms and jumping ability. 

Look at it this way. The Celtics just eliminated Durant’s Brooklyn Netropolitans in the East’s first round. Boston’s two tall, talented wings, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, didn’t reach Durant’s level during the series, but they came close, and Durant struggled. 

Tatum and Brown looked like they were playing a different game Sunday. They looked futile against Antetokounmpo. 

In another era, when the NBA was rugged and physical and an alley fight, maybe it would be Durant sticking out the most. But in this era, while Durant is a marvel, Antetokounmpo is straight out of Jurassic Park. And he’s the NBA’s best player. 

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The List: NFL’s greatest late-round quarterbacks  

Only one quarterback, Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, was selected in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, the slowest run on QBs in decades. But that doesn’t mean this class can’t produce a great quarterback. 

Here are the greatest quarterbacks in National Football League history taken outside the top 64 picks, which in the contemporary draft equates to third round or later: 

330th: Brian Sipe, 1972. Taken after quarterbacks Jerry Tagge, John Reaves, Pat Sullivan, Jim Fassel, Dean Carlson, Van Brownson, Craig Curry, Mike Franks, Joe Gilliam, Don Bunce and James Hamilton. TWO Nebraska quarterbacks taken before Sipe. All those quarterbacks combined to spend one season as a primary NFL starter (Tagge in Green Bay). Sipe spent eight seasons as the Cleveland starter. 

227th: Brad Johnson, 1992. One of the craziest draft stories. Johnson was picked behind 13 quarterbacks – David Klingler, Tommy Maddox, Matt Blundin, Tony Sacca, Craig Erickson, Casey Weldon, Will Furrer, Chris Hakel, Jeff Blake, Ricky Jones, Kent Graham, Bucky Richardson and Mike Pawlawski. Only Blake started more than 38 NFL games (Blake started 100). Johnson started 125, threw 166 touchdown passes and quarterbacked Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl title. 

222nd: Trent Green, 1993. He was picked after quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe, Rick Mirer (second overall), Billy Joe Hobert, Mark Brunell, Gino Toretta, Alex Van Pelt and Elvis Grbac. Green made 113 NFL starts. 

203rd: Jack Kemp, 1957. Part of a great quarterback class that included John Brodie, Len Dawson, Milt Plum and Sonny Jurgensen, others picked ahead of Kemp were Ronnie Knox, Bobby Cox, Chuck Curtis, Wade Mitchell and Corny Salvaterra. Kemp bounced around but became a star with the Buffalo Bills. 

200th: Bart Starr, 1956. Quarterbacks Earl Morrall, John Roach, Fred Wyant, Em Lindbeck, John Polzer, Tom Spiers, George Herring and George Welsh were selected before Starr. Only Morrall did much in the NFL. Starr quarterbacked the Packers to five NFL championships. 

199th: Tom Brady, 2000. Brady was selected in the sixth round, behind quarterbacks Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger and Spergon Wynn. Sometimes this isn’t a science. 

187th: Matt Hasselbeck, 1998. Taken in the sixth round, Hasselbeck made 160 NFL starts and threw 212 touchdown passes. He was picked after quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Ryan Leaf, Charlie Batch, Jonathan Quinn, Brian Griese and John Dutton. 

168th: Daryle Lamonica, 1963. Lamonica was picked by the Packers, but he signed with the Oakland Raiders, who picked him 188th in the rival American Football League draft. Taken ahead of Lamonica in the NFL Draft were Terry Baker, Dennis Claridge, Dave Mathieson, Don Trull, Pete Liske, Bill Nelsen and Mike Taliaferro. Nelsen is the only established starter on the list. Lamonica became the Raiders’ Mad Bomber. 

168th: Marc Bulger, 2000. Always part of the Tom Brady oversight, but Bulger spent eight years as a starter and quarterbacked the 2004 Rams to a playoff victory. 

135th: Mark Rypien, 1986. Taken ahead of Rypien were quarterbacks Jim Everett, Chuck Long, Jack Trudeau, Bubby Brister, Hugh Millen, Robbie Bosco and Doug Gaynor. Interesting collection of QBs, but only Rypien won a Super Bowl, with the 1991 Redskins. 

135th: Dak Prescott, 2016. Taken after other quarterbacks Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenberg, Jacoby Brissett, Cody Kessler and Connor Cook, Prescott is the best of the bunch by far. A Cowboy franchise QB. 

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129th: Roger Staubach, 1964. Scared away by Staubach’s five-year U.S. Navy commitment, NFL teams selected quarterbacks Pete Beathard, Bill Munson, George Mira, Jack Concannon, Henry Schichtle, Dick Shiner, Gary Wood and Larry Rakestraw before the Cowboys took a flier on Staubach. Seemed to work out. 

127th: Charlie Conerly, 1945. Even in the dusty days of the NFL, draft mistakes were made. And Conerly was a big one. He spent 14 years with the Giants, going 57-31-1 as the starter. 

119th: George Blanda, 1949. Blanda played 27 seasons, starting with the ‘49 Bears and finishing with the 1975 Oakland Raiders. Blanda was mostly a kicker, of course, but did spend about a decade as a starting quarterback, going 53-50-1. 

118th: Mark Brunell, 1993. The left-hander was taken in what would be the fourth round today. The Packers traded him after one year to Jacksonville, and a career was made. Brunell spent nine years with the Jaguars, going 63-54 as the starter, and ended up with an 18-year career. He was picked after Drew Bledsoe, Rick Mirer (second overall) and Billy Joe Hobert. 

116th: Steve Grogan, 1975. Steve Bartkowski and Gary Sheide were quarterbacks picked ahead of Grogan. Sheide never played in the NFL. Bartkowski became a Falcon institution, but Grogan was even better as a New England franchise quarterback, going 75-60 as the starter and throwing 182 touchdown passes. 

102nd: Johnny Unitas, 1955. The Johnny U. story often is told about Unitas not making it with the Pittsburgh Steelers and playing semi-pro before the Colts signed him. But Unitas actually was a decent prospect coming out of Louisville. He was picked in what today would be the fourth round, behind QBs George Shaw, Ralph Guglielmi and Dave Leggett. 

102nd: Kirk Cousins, 2012. Not all 102nd picks are created equal, but Cousins has carved out a nice career. He was taken behind Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Nick Foles and Brock Osweiler. 

99th: Joe Theismann, 1971. Hard to imagine a Notre Dame quarterback being underrated, but Theismann was. He was taken behind QBs Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning, Dan Pastorini (1-2-3 overall), Lynn Dickey, Leo Hart, Ken Anderson and Karl Douglas. Theismann went 77-47 as the Washington starter and led the 1982 Redskins to a Super Bowl title.   

98th: Rich Gannon, 1987. Picked behind Vinny Testaverde, Kelly Stouffer, Chris Miller, Jim Harbaugh, Cody Carlson and Mark Vlasic, Gannon became a two-time first-team all-pro. 

82nd: Joe Montana, 1979. Montana was selected in the third round, behind quarterbacks Jack Thompson, Phil Simms and Steve Fuller. The 49er dynasty was launched.  

76th: Chris Chandler, 1988. Strange year. Tom Tupa, more of a punter, was the only QB taken before Chandler, who bounced around but found a home with the Falcons and ended up making 152 NFL starts. 

75th: Russell Wilson, 2012. Wilson was picked in the third round, behind Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler. Wilson became an absolute star. 

67th: Ken Anderson, 1971. Taken in what would be today’s third round, Anderson spent 16 years with the Bengals, with a record of 91-81 as the starting QB. Twenty-one quarterbacks were selected in ‘71; Anderson was the best. 

More:What did OU football coach Brent Venables have to say at the Sooners coaches' caravan stop in Tulsa?

Tulsa offensive lineman Tyler Smith (48) participates in drills at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, March 4, 2022.

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Mailbag: Big 12 talent 

I ignited some interest last week with my item about no Big 12 players taken in the first round of the NFL Draft

Tom: “When the only player selected from Oklahoma was from Tulsa, it sure speaks volumes about the programs. These graders on high school kids and their stars are certainly at time questionable. Although in recent years it appears to have improved to a point. However at the pro level it is a bottom line business. Make stupid draft choices out of valuable opportunities, and the bad decisions can affect your franchise for a decade. Whatever the reason, it is obvious there are problems either in attracting, retaining or developing talent within the Big 12 overall. However, I am optimistic that especially on the defensive side of the ball, improvement in especially development will occur with (Brent) Venables. In retrospect, I wonder if any development was occurring to the defensive players during their experience at OU?” 

Tramel: Actually, OU’s five defensive players selected in later rounds is an indictment of the coaching at OU, not the recruiting or the player development. And Tulsa’s back-to-back years with a first-round draft pick – linebacker Zaven Collins a year ago; offensive tackle Tyler Smith last week – shows that quality players can be found in a lot of places. 

For all the well-deserved hype of the Southeastern Conference, the SEC had just 12 of the 32 first-rounders last week. The Big 12 -- OU and OSU now; OSU later – must do better. 

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.