Even early departures by Curtis Lofton and Malcolm Kelly couldn’t save Oklahoma’s impressive streak of first-round NFL draft choices.

The Sooners’ run of producing at least one first-round draft choice for six straight years ended Saturday, as Lofton and Kelly — the only Sooners taken — didn’t go until the second round.


Even early departures by Curtis Lofton and Malcolm Kelly couldn’t save Oklahoma’s impressive streak of first-round NFL draft choices.
The Sooners’ run of producing at least one first-round draft choice for six straight years ended Saturday, as Lofton and Kelly — the only Sooners taken — didn’t go until the second round.
The Atlanta Falcons chose Lofton, a linebacker who was last season’s Big 12 defensive player of the year, with the 37th overall pick. At No. 51, the Washington Redskins took Kelly — once touted as a surefire first-round pick — as they made an apparent effort to bolster their receiving corps.
A third Oklahoma player who opted to skip his senior season, defensive back Reggie Smith, went unselected Saturday, although he figures to be chosen when the draft concludes with its final five rounds Sunday.
During coach Bob Stoops’ nine years at Oklahoma, the Sooners had failed to produce a first-round pick only once before — in 2001. Stockar McDougle went in the first round of the 2000 draft to the Detroit Lions, and the run from 2002 to 2007 included standouts Adrian Peterson, Tommie Harris and Jammal Brown.
Miami has the longest streak of first-round picks at 14 years, but it took safety Kenny Phillips going with the 31st and final opening-round selection Saturday to extend it.
The 6-foot, 243-pound Lofton had been clocked in 4.77 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, but improved that time to 4.63 seconds when he was tested at Oklahoma’s pro day on March 11 in Norman. He maintained after the latter workout that he is faster in games than in combine-style drills.
Lofton had 157 tackles for the Sooners in 2007, the sixth-best total in school history, and established a school record with nine double-digit tackle games.
Lofton said the Falcons told him they think he can play at any of the three linebacker positions in their defensive scheme. While with the Sooners, Lofton started at middle linebacker and strong-side linebacker.
“It’s going to be fun to mix it up and see which position fits best,” Lofton said.
He ended up being the second linebacker taken in the draft, after the Cincinnati Bengals chose Southern Cal’s Keith Rivers with the ninth overall pick. But Lofton was the third player taken by the Falcons, who drafted Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan and USC offensive tackle Sam Baker with their two first-round picks.
“Curtis was a catalyst for our defense and a part of our first back-to-back championships in Big 12 history,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “He has outstanding instincts and an explosiveness that allows him to close quickly.”
The 6-4, 217-pound Kelly bounced up and down mock draft boards in recent weeks. Pro scouts liked his size and production, but some questioned his speed and wondered if Kelly still was feeling the effects of a quadriceps injury that limited him to only two plays during the Sooners’ Fiesta Bowl loss to West Virginia.
Kelly’s agent, Chad Speck, took the unusual step of sending a letter to NFL teams in late March, assuring them that Kelly was fully recovered.
Kelly skipped the NFL combine and Oklahoma’s pro day while rehabilitating the injury but didn’t do himself any favors when he performed for scouts in Norman on April 9. He ran a 4.68-second time in the 40 before publicly criticizing Oklahoma coaches for allowing the workout to be held on a different type of artificial surface than Kelly had wanted.
He later apologized for his outburst and ran the 40 again for a handful of scouts on a track, but his best time in that workout was 4.63 seconds.
Kelly hinted at those issues after his selection, saying he has “something to prove” after falling into the middle of the draft’s second round.
“I bring a guy who’s going to be consistent, a guy who’s going to show up every day and not give you any problems off the field, who’s going to be a competitor day in and day out,” he said.
“When all those teams go by and the teams don’t select you, I’m just glad the Redskins picked me up, so I’ll just help them.”
The Redskins, who traded their first-round pick, used all three of their second-round picks on receivers, selecting wideouts Kelly and Devin Thomas of Michigan State along with tight end Fred Davis of USC.
No other players from Oklahoma colleges were selected in the draft’s first two rounds. Felix Jones, who played at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa before going to college at Arkansas, was the No. 22 overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys.