Connor Williams is living the life of a coveted NFL prospect.
The former Texas offensive tackle recently was fitted for a suit from Lombardo’s, a Dallas business that specializes in custom apparel. Williams needs to look nice when he attends the NFL draft festivities headquartered at AT&T Stadium in Arlington from Thursday through Saturday.
He’s written about how he was bullied as part of an NFL.com Back 2 Campus feature. Hyundai has included him in its multiplatform “Rolling with the Rookies” series. As part of that, Williams helped design a pair of cleats.
He’s also vying to become the first Longhorns offensive player to be selected in the first round since Vince Young back in 2006.
“It’d be amazing to be able to represent the state of Texas and university like that,” Williams said during the NFL combine.
To think, Williams was a lightly regarded prospect when he committed to Texas the first week of his senior year at Coppell High School back in 2014. That year’s composite rankings of 247Sports listed him as only the 58th-best prospect in the state and the 44th-best tackle in the country.
Williams isn’t the only glamorous draft prospect this year from the state of Texas who wasn’t the most notable of signings coming out of high school.
The biggest recruiting oversight of them all probably is Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, the former Lake Travis High School standout who walked on at Texas Tech after receiving only two FBS scholarship offers.
This draft is top-heavy with quarterbacks, and there’s still no consensus on who will be the first one off the board. But Mayfield, the former Oklahoma sensation, has proclaimed his worth — top five or bust. He appears shirtless on the regional cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. The story details a meeting Mayfield conducted back in January with agent Jack Mills at a Mexican restaurant in Hollywood. Mayfield said he didn’t plan to fall lower than the Denver Broncos at No. 5.
Marcus Davenport, the UTSA star who tortured quarterbacks, could be the second defensive end selected Thursday night. He was a skinny receiver ignored by college recruiters when he played for San Antonio Stevens.
The 247 composite in 2014 said Davenport was a two-star prospect who ranked No. 405 in the state. He’s expected to be the first defensive player from the state drafted. He’ll be on hand Thursday night at the Cowboys’ stadium to walk the red carpet with all the other top draft names.
Then there’s SMU’s Courtland Sutton, who is zooming up draft boards as scouts look for a big-play, big-bodied wideout. According to the analysts at NFLDraftScout.com, the draft “is loaded with flankers at receiver but offers few split ends with the height, leaping ability and strength to star in the red zone. Sutton excels in this area.”
Sutton was a three-star safety at Brenham when he was being wooed by recruiters. Draft prospects also make recruiting visits. Sutton’s first this spring was to the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
“I think the Eagles like me a lot — I really like the coaching staff; I really like the culture there. I think they’ll only continue to rise,” Sutton told the NFL Network after his visit.
Will Hernandez, a four-year starter at left guard for Texas-El Paso, is another perplexing recruiting miss. When he was coming out of Chaparral High School in Las Vegas, UTEP was his lone offer.
Hernandez dazzled at the combine. He had the top effort in the bench press and was lithe during agility drills. Hernandez has evolved from “who’s that?” in recruiting to “instant starter,” according to NFL.com.
Texas A&M record-setting receiver Christian Kirk is a player who has held his recruiting value. He was a five-star prospect when he signed with the Aggies out of Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 2015.
Kirk is hoping to extend A&M’s string of first-rounders to eight years. He’s projected as a borderline first-rounder.
“I just believe in everything that I can do,” Kirk said. “I just bring a different aspect to the game, a different dynamic, being able to play in the slot, being able to play outside, special teams, whatnot. I just want to show these coaches I’m an all-around football player.”
Some of the biggest stars in the NFL were hidden recruiting finds. Last week, the NFL Players Association released its list of players who generated the most money in merchandising sales. Four of the top six were unheralded recruits out of high school.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, No. 2 on the list behind Tom Brady, was a three-star prospect. Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz, who was No. 3, played for North Dakota State. Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown, who ranked fifth in merchandising, was a no-star recruit on Rivals.com. And Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, who was sixth in money, was forced to go to junior college because he had no FBS offers out of high school.
Last year’s first round was overloaded with former four- and five-star prospects. An analysis from 247Sports listed 22 selected in the first round.
But there were some recruiting rags-to-riches draft tales. Temple’s Haason Reddick evolved from walk-on defensive back to first-round linebacker. And Wisconsin offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk, a first-round selection by New Orleans, started college at a Division III school.
When the draft begins Thursday, Williams will be among the college football glitterati awaiting his pro football fate. Recruiting rankings, high or low, will be but a minor detail.
Thursday-Saturday, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, ESPN, NFL Network
Thursday: Round 1, 7 p.m.
Friday: Rounds 2-3, 6 p.m.
Saturday: Rounds 4-7, 11 a.m.