Four downs: Texas NFL evaluations

AUSTIN, Texas -- Each week Sean Adams looks at a few topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

First down: Texas and the NFL draft

I was able to talk to ESPN Draft Expert Mel Kiper Jr. about Texas' draft eligible players, and he gave his assessment of all three players.

On safety Kenny Vaccaro, Kiper said, “He can cover and he can hit. He can play run and match up in coverage. He is moving up my board, and he is a mid-first [round] grade.” Vaccaro was No. 18 on Kiper's latest Big Board, which was released on Feb. 13.

Kiper said about Alex Okafor, “He can transition from power to quickness fairly easily and that was helped but playing inside during some of his career at Texas. I look for him to be a late first-round pick, but could go early in the second round depending on trades and needs.”

Marquise Goodwin received a lot of praise from Kiper, saying, “He is arguably the fastest and most explosive receiver in this NFL draft. He has had some drops, but when they used him he was explosive. He is a solid third-rounder right now and could move up.

Second down: Has Texas shed its label of being soft?

One of the oldest rumors in college football and one of the hardest stereotypes for the Texas Longhorns to break has been the label of being soft. It comes and goes and is probably seen as being accurate right now. With the success that Texas has had since Mack Brown has been at Texas, that label has to be somewhat of a myth. Texas is in the top five in producing NFL players, but some tend to think that the trend is heading south.

I asked Kiper about it and he gave me some clarity, “I don’t think it is applicable to these kids (Vaccaro, Okafor and Goodwin), but that sentiment has definitely been out there over the last five to seven years. There’s no doubt about that.”

In the end, Texas will have to earn its way out of the soft label if they have attained it again. I have a sneaky suspicion that the offensive line classes from 2012-14 will shed that label fairly quickly.

Third down: Do off-the-field issues affect the on-the-field play?

It all depends on when the issues take place. If an off-the-field action happens during the season, it can affect things in a football program. If the issue happens in the offseason and it is handled appropriately and quietly, it will have minimal impact on the 2013 season.

Let’s be honest, it has been a rough patch for the Texas athletic department as a whole, but I do not expect for any of the off-field issues to affect the 2013 team.

The 2013 Longhorns will still be a success or failure based on David Ash’s play at quarterback, the defense's ability to tackle and not give up the big play, Major Applewhite’s construction of the offense and Brown’s ability to motivate and lead the team. None of that has anything to do with any of the happenings off the field.

Fourth down: Around the Big 12

Is 2013 going to be a down year in the Big 12? I tend to think it is, and while it could be insulting to pick Texas to win the Big 12 based on it being a down year, the math is the math. Regardless of how I draw it up or how much I do not want to pick the Texas Longhorns to win the Big 12 in 2013, I cannot get away from that pick.

I’m putting it in print now even before the spring, Texas will win the Big 12 and if it does not, it will be a huge disappointment.