Trio of former Oklahoma Sooners named to NFL Top 100

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Under Lincoln Riley, the Oklahoma Sooners have become quite the offensive juggernaut. The level of production he’s gotten out of his offenses has been something to marvel at. His quarterbacks, in particular, have helped spur a movement of offensive skill players to the Sooners through both the transfer portal and via traditional recruiting.

The success on Saturdays has carried over to Sundays, and the more success Oklahoma’s Sooners in the NFL have, the more it will speak to recruits making their decisions on where to play college football.

As the NFL season is about to start, the NFL Network is working through its annual list of the Top 100 players in the NFL. The Oklahoma Sooners had three players make the list heading into 2021; let’s take a look.

71. Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns

The last we saw of Mayfield, he was nearly leading the Browns to a huge playoff upset of the Chiefs after playing the best ball of his pro career during the second half of 2020. He’s closed out all three of his seasons on a high note. He’s also gotten off to slow starts each year. Perhaps all the turnover at head coach and offensive coordinator were the primary cause. Will stability on the sideline manifest into consistency on the playing field? Cleveland needs more from its QB in order to fulfill Super Bowl aspirations. Mayfield’s past suggests he’s up for the challenge. – Adam Maya, NFL.com

Baker Mayfield’s shown a ton of growth since entering the league. After a strong rookie season, he and the Browns struggled a bit in his second year in the NFL. Last season, under new head coach and play-caller Kevin Stefanski, Mayfield had the best season of his career thus far.

After 14 interceptions in his rookie season and 21 in year two, Mayfield cut his interceptions to eight in 2020. A dramatic decrease while posting the highest QBR of his career.

Mayfield and the Browns won their first playoff game in 26 years, and the Browns are one of the teams to watch in the AFC heading into 2021.

A former Sooners offensive lineman ranks in the top 50.

42. Trent Williams, OT, San Francisco 49ers

Returning from a year-long hiatus, Williams looked rejuvenated in 2020, and the 49ers handily rewarded the imposing left tackle by making him the highest-paid OL in NFL history. The performance that preceded the payday was flat-out dominant: per PFF, Williams played 957 snaps and allowed 19 pressures while grading out as the league’s best run-blocking tackle. Needless to say, the eight-time Pro Bowler is on another level, and the Niners offense stands to keep benefitting immensely from his presence. – Maya

For the last decade, Trent Williams has been one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. First with the Washington Football Team and now with the San Francisco 49ers, Williams has made it to eight straight Pro Bowls and been a fixture on several playoff teams.

He’s a key cog to the San Francisco 49ers running game and the play-action that Head Coach Kyle Shannahan wants to run.

Though injuries have taken their toll, Williams is just 33 years old and has a chance to play in the league for a long time to come.

A skilled Oklahoma Sooner finds his way into the top 40.

39. Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals

If it was possible to clock Murray’s ascension up this list, it would probably compare to one of the explosive Cardinals QB’s highlight-reel carries. After debuting at No. 90 his rookie year, Murray turned in an exceptional Year 2 on his way to earning the first of what is likely many Pro Bowl selections. He completed 67% of his passes for 3,971 yards and posted a 26-12 TD-INT ratio while leading Arizona to its best record (8-8) since 2017. If 2020 is any indication, it shouldn’t be long before Murray’s talent gets the Cards over the hump. – Jelani Scott, NFL.com

Kyler Murray hasn’t had the success that Baker Mayfield has had in the NFL, but he’s produced a ton of highlights and is one of the bright young stars in today’s game. A threat to score from everywhere on the field with his strong arm and elusive running style, Murray is as dynamic as it gets in the NFL.

He and the Cardinals have an uphill battle in the NFC West, which is arguably the toughest division in the NFL, but Murray’s playmaking style has earned the respect of his peers and could carry the Cardinals to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Coming up next, several Sooners who could find their way onto 2022’s NFL Top 100.

CeeDee Lamb had a strong rookie season for the Dallas Cowboys, but injuries to the Cowboys’ offensive line and, most importantly, quarterback Dak Prescott limited his production. He’s been one of the best players in Dallas Cowboys training camp, and many expect Lamb to assert himself as the wide receiver one for the Cowboys as early as 2021.

Joe Mixon has had some nice seasons, but he’s yet to have an elite rushing season because the Cinncinati Bengals have been a dumpster fire. Mixon has all the talent in the world, but he can’t do it on his own. The Bengals need better offensive line play and quarterback play to help Mixon get his production into the top tier of the NFL.

Lane Johnson has been one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL for a long time. However, injuries in the last two seasons have slowed a career that saw him make his first All-Pro team in 2017 and three straight Pro Bowls from 2017 to 2019. If he can get through the 2016 season healthy, there’s a good chance he’s back on this list.

Jalen Hurts takes over as the full-time starter for the Philadelphia Eagles. And while there have been mixed reviews, there’s no denying he’s one of the hardest workers in football. He’ll continue to improve. The question is, will he improve enough in 2021 for the Eagles to feel confident he’s the long-term answer at the quarterback position.

Of any former Sooner not on the list, Mark Andrews is arguably the biggest upset. He’s one of the best tight ends in the NFL, but because the Baltimore Ravens don’t throw the football as much as other teams, he doesn’t get the same recognition that guys like Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Darren Waller receive.

Kenneth Murray had a really nice rookie season for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2020. If the Chargers can contend in the AFC West, Murray will be a big reason for it. The more headlines the Chargers steal, the greater chance Murray will earn the respect of his peers as one of the best in the NFL.