In preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top draft-eligible prospects from FBS-level programs. This summer series will run until the start of the college football season.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 9
2012 NFL Draft picks: 3 – WR Justin Blackmon (1st round, 5th overall), QB Brandon Weeden (1st round, 21st overall), FS Markelle Martin (6th round, 190th overall)
In last April's draft, Oklahoma State had two players drafted in the first round, the second time since 2010 that a pair of Cowboys were selected in the initial 32 picks. In fact, Oklahoma State has produced more first round picks in the last four years than the previous 19 years combined. With the team's success on offense since Mike Gundy took over as head coach, the Cowboys haven't had a defensive player selected in the top-50 picks of the NFL Draft since 2003 when defensive end Kevin Williams was drafted ninth overall.
Oklahoma State has recorded back-to-back double-digit win seasons the past two years (first time since 1987-88), but could make it three straight with 10-plus wins in 2012. Although it will be tough to replace the players they lost (bring back only 12 starters from 2011), the Cowboys return one of the top backs in the Big 12 (Joseph Randle) and might have the best cornerback tandem in the nation (Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown). While it's unlikely Oklahoma State will produce another pair of first round picks in 2013, the Cowboys will still have a handful of draft picks next April.
Top-five prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft
1. RB Joseph Randle (6-1, 195)*
Although the Cowboys' leading passer (Weeden) and receiver (Blackmon) are now cashing paychecks in the NFL, the team's leading rusher will be back for his junior season in Stillwater. And although he was overshadowed at times because of Oklahoma State's lethal passing attack, Randle (pictured above) is one of the most talented running backs returning to college football in 2012. He was a four-star recruit out of high school in Kansas, committing to the Cowboys over Stanford, Texas A&M and Kansas State. Randle made an immediate impact as a true freshman in 2010, backing up Kendall Hunter and finishing with 452 yards and a pair of scores. With Hunter moving on to the NFL, Randle won the starting running back job as a sophomore last season and finished second in the conference with 1,216 rush yards on 208 carries and 24 touchdowns (third-best among RBs in the nation). He also added 43 catches and 266 receiving yards with two scores, earning First Team All-Big 12 honors. Randle has a leaner-than-ideal frame and there are some questions about his ability to carry the load, but he works well through traffic and shows the balance to stay on his feet after first contact. He has excellent acceleration and wastes little time hitting his second gear through the hole, using his outstanding vision to find room to run both as a rusher and receiver. While Weeden and Blackmon were first round picks this past year, Randle isn't too far behind and could be a future early round pick in 2013 or 2014.
2. CB Justin Gilbert (6-0, 195)*
Although Brodrick Brown has more experience and polish as a cover cornerback, Gilbert might have the larger football ceiling. With a year of starting experience under his belt, he is also one of the conference's top special teams return men and enters 2012 tied for the NCAA-lead among all active players with four kickoff returns for touchdowns. Gilbert was a moderately-recruited CB/WR out of Texas, choosing the Cowboys over Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Nebraska. He saw most of his playing time as a true freshman on special teams, recording 18 tackles and a pair of scores on kickoff returns. Gilbert became a starter at cornerback opposite Brown last season as sophomore, finishing with 59 tackles. He finished second in the Big 12 with five interceptions (tied with Brown) and was among the conference leaders with 15 passes defended. Gilbert also scored twice more on kickoff returns, giving him four for his career. Entering his junior season in 2012, he already ranks second in the school history with 1,401 career kickoff return yards, including a 26.9 average. He has good size for the position to match his excellent speed and acceleration. Gilbert progressed with each game last season on defense, showing improved cover skills and the ability to track the ball while staying toe-for-toe with receivers. He doesn't have the same resume as Brown (yet), but his upside is undeniable as he ranks as one of the better underclassmen corners in the country.
3. CB Brodrick Brown (5-8, 185)
Although he can be easily overlooked because of his smaller frame (he's listed at 5-8), Brown is one of the better senior defensive backs in the conference. He finished third in the country last season in passes defended (20), giving him 31 for his career. Brown was a little-known cornerback recruit out of Houston and received very little attention from FBS-level programs, redshirting for the Cowboys in 2008. He saw little playing time as a freshman before earning a starting cornerback job as a sophomore in 2010, recording a career-high 77 tackles. Brown had his best season in 2011 as a junior (13 starts) with a team-best five interceptions (second in the Big 12) and conference-best 20 passes defended, earning All-America and All-Conference honors. He plays bigger than his frame suggests with a physical playing style and outstanding vertical. Brown has excellent ballskills and is highly competitive with the ball in the air, showing blanket cover skills and a nose for the ball. He has good overall experience, entering the 2012 season with 28 straight starts, and also ran track for the Cowboys. Although some will be quick to dismiss his pro potential because of his short stature, don't make the same mistake because his ballhawking ability and instincts are NFL-quality.
4. WR Tracy Moore (6-2, 215)
The Cowboys will need to replace three of their top four receivers from a year ago, including two-time Biletnikoff winner and first round pick Justin Blackmon. However, they do return Moore who finished third on the team in receiving last season and is the most experienced target on the Oklahoma State roster. The son of a former NBA player, he was a three-star WR/TE recruit out of high school and chose the Cowboys over Missouri, Colorado and Tulsa. Moore saw immediate action and started seven games as a freshman and sophomore, combining for 28 catches for 395 and four touchdowns. He had his best season last year as a junior, finishing third on the team (behind Blackmon and Josh Cooper) with 45 grabs for 672 yards and four scores. Moore, who is listed at 10 pounds lighter than when he was in high school, has a good-sized frame with nice length and catching radius to reel-in tough catches. He needs to show improved hands and focus as a senior, but has the playmaking ability to create after the catch. Moore doesn't have the same ability as Dez Bryant or Blackmon, but he should lead the Cowboys in receiving this season and boost his draft stock into the mid-round range.
5. OG Lane Taylor (6-3, 330)
Although he was a minor blip on the recruiting radar, Oklahoma State took a chance on Taylor and it's paying dividends as he enters the 2012 season as one of the top offensive linemen in the conference. He is one of the most experienced members of the Cowboys' roster with 36 career starts. After redshirting in 2008, he went from being buried on the depth chart to starting at right guard because of injury as a freshman in 2009 (11 starts), earning All-Conference honors. Taylor has started every game (but one) the past two seasons at right guard (25 starts) and has a legitimate argument to be the top returning guard in the Big 12 this season. After spending a lot of time in the weight room, he has done a nice job putting on weight and maxing out his frame, adding over 30 pounds since his freshman season. Taylor isn't the most mobile blocker, but he stays coordinated in his stance and works well in small areas. With the Cowboys having to replace three starting offensive linemen from last season, Taylor's leadership and experience will be key for Oklahoma State's offensive success in 2012.
WR Isaiah Anderson (5-10, 170)
OT Michael Bowie (6-4, 325)
OG Jonathan Rush (6-4, 285)
DE Nigel Nicholas (6-3, 270)
DT Calvin Barnett (6-2, 300)
OLB Shaun Lewis (5-11, 220)
K/P Quinn Sharp (6-1, 205)
Photo credit: US Presswire