Tony Jefferson, Kenny Stills and Tom Wort have decided to forgo their senior years at OU and enter the NFL draft. If history (of Sooners entering early) is any indication of how they’ll do in the pros, the bust potential seems high. Of those Sooners who decided to leave Norman early, only the All-Americans were successful on the next level.
Roy Williams was the eighth overall player drafted in the 2002 NFL draft after the Dallas Cowboys did some wheeling and dealing to get the All-American safety. Williams played seven of his nine years for the Cowboys and was named to the Pro Bowl five times (2003-07). He played his final two seasons at Cincinnati, but retired after a fractured forearm slowed his career.
Tommie Harris was the 14th overall pick by the Chicago Bears in the 2004 draft. The All-American defensive tackle played seven years in the Second City and was named to the Pro Bowl three times (2005-07). He was hampered by a couple of knee injuries (late 2006 and 2007) and signed with Indianapolis, and then San Diego. His career now appears to be through.
The Minnesota Vikings took Adrian Peterson with the seventh overall pick in the 2007 draft. The All-American running back was just voted to his fifth Pro Bowl, and he came up nine yards shy of breaking the NFL’s season rushing record in 2012. Peterson, the all-time leading rusher in Vikings history, is becoming one of the best runners in NFL history.
In 2008, the Atlanta Falcons selected Curtis Lofton in the second round. The former All-American linebacker became a starter for the Falcons his rookie year, and he led the team in tackles in 2010 and 2011. He signed with New Orleans in 2012 and led the team with 123 stops.
Gerald McCoy was the third overall pick by Tampa Bay in 2010. The All-American defensive tackle was voted to his first Pro Bowl in 2012. A torn bicep hampered him in 2011, but obviously he made a tremendous comeback in ’12.
The St. Louis Rams made Sam Bradford the No. 1 overall selection in 2010. The former Heisman Trophy winner has been the starting quarterback every year for the Rams, and he was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in '10.
Most of the other Sooners who jumped to the pros early were all-conference first teamers, except for Malcolm Kelly. He was a second round pick by Washington in 2008, but injuries hampered his career and he was released in August 2011.
Jimmy Wilkerson went to Kansas City in the sixth round in 2003. He spent five seasons starting at defensive end for the Chiefs and then signed with Tampa Bay in 2008. He started for the Buccaneers in 2009, but suffered a torn knee late in the season. A year later he signed with New Orleans, but did not start for the Saints. He signed with Seattle in 2011, but spent the season on injured reserve. Wilkerson is currently an unsigned free agent.
The Cleveland Browns tabbed Brodney Pool in the second round in 2005. The former all-Big 12 cornerback played five years for the Browns and two for the New York Jets. He signed with Dallas in 2012, but was cut because he failed his initial conditioning test during the first week of training camp.
Reggie Smith never panned out after being chosen in the third round of the 2008 draft by San Francisco. He was hampered by injuries and cut after he signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2012.
Atlanta took Dominique Franks in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. He was cut from the Falcons’ roster early in 2012, but re-signed with the team a week later. Franks has played sparingly the last three years and started four games in 2011. He remains active on the team as the third-string cornerback.
Ronnell Lewis was a fourth-round pick by Detroit in 2012. It’s too early to tell how he will pan out, but he’s listed as third-team defensive end for the Lions.
Dynamic running back De’Mond Parker was an early entrant to the 1999 draft and a fifth-round choice by the Green Bay Packers. He played two years for the Pack and started only once. He signed with Detroit in 2001 and Buffalo a year later, but was cut by both teams.
So, if you’re not an All-American at OU, the outlook for your career on the next level is rough. Jefferson was a first-team all-conference pick for the Sooners and that came last year. Stills made the Big 12's second team the last two years. The best for Wort was a Big 12 honorable mention nod in 2011.
Odds aren't good that all three will be on an NFL roster in five years. If history holds true, they'll all be out of work.