They began their college careers as five-star signees with the Texas Longhorns. But when executives gather Thursday for the NFL Draft, linebacker Jordan Hicks and running back Malcolm Brown can expect long waits before hearing their names called during the three-day session in Chicago.
Brown, who never topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark in any of his four seasons in Austin, is “not even a lock to be drafted,” said Dane Brugler, senior draft analyst for CBS Sports and NFLDraftScout.com. But both players, who endured injury-plagued college careers, can look forward to one thing in Chicago.
“NFL teams draft you based on what you can do, not what you have done,” Brugler said. “Neither guy had the college résumé you would have expected. Neither one lived up to all the hype coming out of high school. But in terms of NFL skill sets, Hicks checks a lot of boxes. And Brown can make a living between the tackles and does not fumble the football.”
As a result, Brugler projects Hicks (6-foot-1, 236 pounds) as a fifth-round pick and Brown (5-11, 224 pounds) as a sixth- or seventh-rounder in what should be a bounce-back draft for Texas players. A year ago, the Longhorns had no players selected for the first time since 1937, breaking a 77-year streak with at least one draftee that was the nation’s longest active mark.
During this year’s draft, as many as seven former Longhorns could hear their names called. The first to go should be … Malcom Brown, a defensive tackle who projects as a first-round selection and is not related to his former Texas teammate with the same name.
“Big Malcom,” as he was known to Texas teammates, is expected to be the first player selected from a college in the Lone Star State. He will vie with West Virginia receiver Kevin White to see who emerges as the first prospect selected from a Big 12 school.
But the wait will be longer for Hicks, a 2010 signee who missed most of two seasons (2012, 2013) with hip and Achilles injuries, and “Little Malcolm,” who had his most productive rushing season (904 yards, 9 TDs) as a junior in 2013. Neither player earned more than second-team All-Big 12 honors from league coaches in any season at Texas, although Hicks earned second-team spots on two All-America teams last season (Walter Camp, FWAA) after posting a career-high 147 tackles, including 13 for losses.
Until his breakthrough senior season, Brugler said “a lot of scouts had written off Hicks because of durability issues.” But he changed some minds by playing in every game during last year’s 6-7 season while showing a strong football IQ.
“I’ve had four defensive coordinators and four linebackers coaches in five years [at Texas],” said Hicks, who played on teams that used both 4-3 and 3-4 alignments during his college career. “You can say, ‘Geez,’ but at the same time, it makes me versatile. I’ve seen a lot.”
Asked about his history of injuries, Hicks said: “Going through that, you’re like, ‘Man, what’s wrong with me?’ You start to question [yourself] before you just realize that a lot of things are out of your control.”
Hicks, who has been downgraded by scouts for his inconsistent tackling technique, has the speed and change-of-direction skills to play on special teams in the NFL.
Brown, a running back with a powerful frame but limited speed and explosiveness, is not viewed as a special teams option at the next level. But he would be a welcomed addition to most running back rotations, Brugler said, because he can “grind out the tough yards” while protecting the football and serving as a reliable receiver.
Like Hicks, Brown said he is eager for a fresh start with a new team after a college career that fell far short of the signing day hype.
“I feel like I have a lot to prove, and I feel like I have a lot to show people that I haven’t been able to show the past couple of years due to injuries and things that didn’t go completely my way,” Brown said. “I’m definitely ready to go to the next level with a fresh start.”
Unlike last year, multiple Texas players figure to be joining Brown in that quest when the final pick is made Saturday in Chicago.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760
Local college draft prospects
A look at NFL draft projections for players from Big 12 and Texas colleges, based on feedback from NFL scouts. The three-day draft begins Thursday in Chicago:
First day (Round 1)
Kevin White, West Virginia, WR
Malcom Brown, Texas, DT
Tweeners (Rounds 1-2)
Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma, WR
Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M, OT
Second day (Rounds 2-3)
Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma, DT
Paul Dawson, TCU, LB
Tyler Lockett, Kansas State, WR/KR
More tweeners (Rounds 3-4)
Bryce Petty, Baylor, QB
B.J. Finney, Kansas State, C
Daryl Williams, Oklahoma, OT
Final day (Rounds 4-5)
Jordan Hicks, Texas, OLB
Ben Heeney, Kansas, LB
Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma, OT
Kevin White, TCU, CB
Chris Covington, Rice, DT
Craig Mager, Texas State, CB
Mark Glowinski, West Virginia, OG
Final day (Rounds 5-6)
Bryce Hager, Baylor, ILB
Blake Bell, Oklahoma, TE
JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas, CB
Randall Evans, Kansas State, CB
Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma, OLB
Final day (Rounds 6-7)
Malcolm Brown, Texas, RB
Joey Mbu, Houston, DT
Mario Alford, West Virginia, WR
Quandre Diggs, Texas, CB
Chris Hackett, TCU, FS
Deshazor Everett, Texas A&M, CB
Final day (Round 7)
Adam Shead, Oklahoma, OG
Jordan Taylor, Rice, WR
Bryce Callahan, Rice, CB
Aaron Ripkowski, Oklahoma, FB
Bubble riders (Round 7 or free agents)
Cedric Reed, Texas, DE
Trevor Pardula, Kansas, P
Julian Wilson, Oklahoma, CB
Trey Williams, Texas A&M, RB
Antwan Goodley, Baylor, WR
Sam Carter, TCU, SS
Deontay Greenberry, Houston, WR
Cameron Clear, Texas A&M, TE/OT
Jimmay Mundine, Kansas, FB/TE
Dexter McDonald, Kansas, CB
E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State, TE
Ryan Mueller, Kansas State, DE
Tray Walker, Texas Southern, CB
Dreamius Smith, West Virginia, RB
Jarvis Harrison, Texas A&M, OG
Chucky Hunter, TCU, DT
David Mayo, Texas State, ILB
Jaxon Shipley, Texas, WR
Eric Tomlinson, UTEP, TE
Levi Norwood, Baylor, WR
Tayo Fabuluje, TCU, OG
Steve Edmond, Texas, ILB
Josh Lambo, Texas A&M, K
Spencer Roth, Baylor, P
Note: Remaining prospects project as free-agent signees.