Creed Humphrey considers himself lucky.
He redshirted his first season at Oklahoma before enjoying three years as the Sooners’ starting center, earning the Big 12’s Offensive Lineman of the Year award and All-America honors in both 2019 and ’20.
Humphrey’s extensive on-field experience is a luxury not all prospects can point to in a strange lead-up to this year’s NFL draft, which begins at 7 tonight in Cleveland.
Aside from the Senior Bowl, players were only able to rely on on-campus pro days to impress NFL scouts. The 2021 NFL combine never materialized even with the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly nearing its end.
Humphrey is cognizant of his good fortunte, which didn’t force his pro day to be a make-or-break performance last month.
“I definitely think it’s important for some people that don’t have a ton of tape out there,” Humphrey said following his pro day on March 12. “I’m lucky. I got to play at an early age, I got to play in a lot of games here. I’m lucky with the tape I have. I don’t think there was as much pressure for me as there could be for some other people.”
Humphrey, who didn’t allow a sack last season, ranks No. 48 on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s draft rankings and is considered the second-best center behind Alabama’s Landon Dickerson.
He isn’t restricting himself, however, to one position.
“I want to be on the field wherever I can be,” Humphrey said. “I see myself as a versatile guy. I can play any of the three interior positions.”
Perhaps his flexibility will play to his benefit.
It also might be OU’s best chance at a first-round pick.
The Sooners have had at least one first-rounder in each draft since 2018. OU’s highest selected player in the 2017 draft was Joe Mixon, the 48th overall pick to Cincinnati in the second round.
Humphrey figures to be the Sooners’ best option to keep the streak going with offensive line needs never out of style.
Regardless of his draft position, OU coach Lincoln Riley anticipates Humphrey can make an impact given the skill and athleticism he’s put on display the past three seasons.
“He’s a great athlete,” Riley said. “He really is. To see a center vertical jump 33 inches and run and move the way he has, it’s kind of hard to believe he’s a center, honestly, watching him. He’s done a great job. He’s trimmed down a little bit. Looks really good, moving well, lifting well.
“That’s what’s made him a really good player here, helped him become a really good player. It’s going to give him an opportunity to have a great career in the NFL, just that combination. The athleticism, the smarts, the size, the strength. He’s got a lot of what you’re looking for.”
Here’s a look at OU’s other draft hopefuls:
• Ronnie Perkins, defensive end: Unlike Humphrey, Perkins didn’t have as many opportunities to showcase himself before entering the draft.
He started half of his freshman season in 2018 and sat out OU’s first five games last season, due to suspension.
Perkins tried making up for lost time with 10.5 tackles for loss, 9 quarterback hurries and 5.5 sacks in six games. He ranks as Kiper’s No. 40 overall prospect and No. 4 defensive end.
“I’m not really worried about missing half the season affecting my draft status,” Perkins said. “Gotta talk to teams, gotta tell them the situation and how everything played out. Really, it’s all up to the team at the end of the day. It’s all up to that team and how they feel about the situation.”
Perkins sees himself as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme but he doesn’t have a preference which defense takes him.
“Wherever my coaches feel like I fit in on the football field,” Perkins said, “that’s what I’ll do.”
• Tre Brown, cornerback: Instead of returning another season, Tre Brown chose to pursue the NFL after earning All-Big 12 honors this past season and ending his OU career with a game-sealing interception in the Big 12 championship against Iowa State.
Brown projects between a late Day 2 and early Day 3 selection and boosted his stock with his performance at the Senior Bowl.
“I feel like it really helped,” Brown said. “I’m a very underrated guy. I’m not the type to cry over not getting recognition or anything. I like to show that on the field and every chance I get, I’m gonna go hard and people are going to notice me from there.”
His speed will make him an intriguing prospect for any secondary. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds at OU’s pro day but felt he could have run faster.
“The people who know, know,” Brown said. “I definitely had goals, low 4.3, try to get 4.2, but that’s a technique thing, not always where you’re just going [out] there running.”
• Rhamondre Stevenson, running back: While running backs don’t carry as much value around draft weekend, Stevenson should be an easy choice for a franchise in the fifth round or later.
Like Perkins, Stevenson missed five games to suspension last season. He rushed for 665 yards, seven touchdowns and averaged 6.6 yards per carry.
The hulking prospect ranks as Kiper’s seventh-best running back behind the likes of Alabama’s Najee Harris, Clemson’s Travis Etienne and former Sooner Trey Sermon, who left Oklahoma for Ohio State.
• Outside shots: Both defensive back Tre Norwood and offensive lineman Adrian Ealy left OU early to pursue the draft.
While both could sneak in as Day 3 selections, they should be high priority undrafted free agents if they don’t.
Norwood played nearly every position at OU.
Ealy, who’s listed at 6-foot-6, spent most of his time at right tackle the past two seasons.