Not many people would consider the Oregon State Beavers a football powerhouse. They simply aren’t on the same level as the Alabama’s, USC’s, or Miami’s who churn out half a dozen NFL prospects every year. However, the number and quality of players the Beavers send to the NFL might surprise you. There are currently 23 Beavers in the NFL. While these players have all had varying levels of success, some have clearly established themselves as top tier players. With the NFL season just days away let’s take a look at where former Beavers are now.
Steven Jackson, Running Back
After an illustrious career at OSU, Jackson was drafted with the 24th pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. After nine very successful years for the Rams, Jackson moved on in free agency to the Atlanta Falcons. Injuries hampered his success this past season, and as a whole the Falcons struggled.
At 31 years old, Jackson is one of the oldest starting running backs in the NFL. Last year he saw his yards per carry average drop by nearly one yard. While injuries certainly slowed him down, he also has over 2500 carries in his NFL career. The Falcons have a lot of depth at running back behind Jackson, and while he is their clear starter, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his carries to drop drastically.
Brandon Browner, Cornerback
Browner’s journey to the NFL has been full of high’s and low’s. After going undrafted in the 2005 NFL Draft, Browner was signed by the Denver Broncos. However, an unfortunate injury cost him the entire season and resulted in him being waived. From there he joined the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. After a success three year stint in the CFL he was signed by the Seattle Seahawks in 2011.
In the 2011 season Browner started every game for the Seahawks and accumulated 6 interceptions. This spectacular season earned him a Pro Bowl appearance. In 2012 Browner was suspended for the final four games due to a substance abuse violation. Injuries and another suspension cut Browner’s 2013 season short, however, he did receive a Super Bowl ring. In the offseason Browner signed with the New England Patriots. Browner will be suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season but is expected to start when he returns.
Stephen Paea, Defensive lineman
Paea had a very successful career at OSU, and as a result was drafted in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Paea garnered national media attention when he benched 225 pounds a record 49 times during the NFL Combine. In two years in the NFL Paea has six career sacks, an impressive number for an interior lineman. He is expected to start for the Chicago Bears.
Markus Wheaton, Wide Reciever
Wheaton was selected in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a rookie, Wheaton caught six passes for a combined 64 yards. Despite his modest showing in his first year, big things are expected from Wheaton in the upcoming season. He is currently listed as the Steelers starting receiver opposite of Antonio Brown. Wheaton received high praises during OTAs and training camps this offseason. With an increase in playing time many people are expecting Wheaton to have a breakout campaign.
After a spectacular junior year at OSU Cooks declared for the NFL Draft. Cooks tested very highly at the NFL combine and was projected as a first round draft pick. During the 2014 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints traded up the draft Cooks with the 20th pick in the draft. Cooks landed in an ideal situation with New Orleans, as they have a high powered offense that loves to throw the ball and spread the field.
Cooks preformed well during offseason workouts and training camp. In the preseason Cooks caught nine passes for 100 yards and one touchdown. While Cooks is currently listed as the third string wide receiver, it would not be surprising to see him rise up the depth chart as the season goes on. With the Saints style of offense Cooks should see the field often and has the potential to put up big numbers in his rookie year.
Following each week of NFL action I will be providing updates on these players as well as other Beavers in the NFL. Check in weekly to see how your favorite Beavs are fairing in the NFL.