J. W. Wheeler, an offensive lineman on the 1935 Oklahoma football team coached by Lawrence Jones, was the first and only Sooner selected in the very first National Football League Draft.
Those are two names that most Sooner fans have never heard of, but there have been plenty of Oklahoma players since that we have heard of and even seen in action that make up a select list of 393 former Sooners who have “NFL draft pick” as part of their career bio.
Forty-five Sooners have been selected in the opening round of the NFL Draft, and five Oklahoma players have gone No. 1 overall, including in each of the last two years..
This will be the 85th year of the NFL Draft, which this year will be April 23-25, although absent the showcase and all the glitter and extravagance typically associated with the event because of the coronavirus crisis.
Baker Mayfield was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, the No. 1 pick of the Cleveland Browns, and Kyler Murray was the first overall selection in last year’s draft, the top pick of the Arizona Cardinals. Only one other school (USC in 1968 and ’69) has had back-to-back No. 1 overall picks in the history of the NFL Draft.
That will not be the case in this year’s NFL Draft, but Oklahoma is still expected to have as many as six players selected. That would make it 13 consecutive years that no fewer than four Oklahoma Sooners have been selected in the draft. No other school can make that claim.
The most prolific NFL Draft in OU history was in 2010, the year that quarterback Sam Bradford was taken No. 1 overall by the St. Louis Rams. In addition, an Oklahoma players was taken third overall (DL Gerald McCoy), fourth (OT Trent Williams) and 21st (TE Jermaine Gresham), all in the first round. Seven Sooners overall were selected in that year’s draft, four of which were among the first 21 players selected in the opening round.
The biggest NFL Draft, in terms of the most Oklahoma players selected in a single draft, was in 1988. Thirteen Sooners from Barry Switzer’s 1987 Sooner team taken in the 1988 draft, including first-round picks Ricky Dixon (No, 5 overall) and Keith Jackson (No. 13).
Three other times (in 2005, 1975 and 1973), as many as 10 Oklahoma players were selected in the NFL Draft.
Only twice in the 84-year history of the NFL Draft has there been a draft year that did not include a single Oklahoma player. That happened in 1962 and again in 1995.