PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon State Beavers have graduated some all-time great players to the National Football League. From Chad Johnson to Derek Anderson and Steven Jackson, there is a long list of players who once played ball at Corvallis before making the jump to the pros.
The Beavers haven’t had quite the success they would like over the past decade or so but there are still a decent amount of players who are still knocking away at it in the NFL and more to come from their deep program.
This article is here to break down the Top 3 players currently making significant impacts or putting up big numbers in the NFL who were once Oregon State Beavers.
How many are there?
The Beavers currently have 20 players on rosters in the NFL. This can range from active roster to injured list and even practice squad. They started the year off with 19, which is about average for a college their size. In comparison, the top team in the Pac 12 is Oregon with 31 players, and the top team in all of college football is Alabama, with more than 50 players on NFL rosters. The Beavers size up pretty well with other schools their size.
The Top 3
While there are 19 guys to choose from here, many are immediately eliminated based on their numbers or status on rosters. For instance, Minnesota Vikings backup quarterback Sean Mannion isn’t making this list anytime soon, but some guys were much closer calls and were tough to leave off the final three. This list is determined by the biggest impact on their team, accomplishments and stats and how they are currently playing. Let’s dive into it.
Wide receiver | Houston Texans
Brandin Cooks has bounced all around during his NFL career but he always makes a significant impact and splash wherever he is playing. Right now, that happens to be the Houston Texans. While the team could have probably dished him for a solid return at the trade deadline, they kept their No. 1 wide receiver, who is putting up big numbers. For the sixth time in his career, Cooks reeled in a 1,000-yard receiving season. He currently has 1,011 yards, six scores and an average of 11.6 yards per catch. This season, he has been the Texans' only reliable option and has rewarded them with big numbers.
Cooks began his career in New Orleans with the Saints, becoming one of Drew Brees' favorite slot targets. His best season came in 2016 when he caught eight touchdowns and went for 1,173 yards. He averaged 15 yards per catch during that season. In 2017, he was traded to the Pats, where he played just one season and broke out with 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns. He was injured during the Super Bowl and traded to the Rams just a few months later.
The Rams also saw a ton of production out of Cooks and went to the Super Bowl, where they ultimately lost to his old team in the Patriots. It was with the Rams where Cooks signed a five-year, $81 million extension with the Rams with $50.5 million guaranteed. The Rams ultimately traded him to the Texans two seasons later and Cooks will likely look for another opportunity after the season as he is still south of 30 years old and producing at a high level.
Safety | Buffalo Bills
Jordan Poyer has turned into one of the top safeties in the league. The Philadelphia Eagles drafted him in the seventh round of the 2013 draft with the 218th pick. Many seventh-round picks don’t even make it past their rookie season but Poyer held his own and ended up with the Cleveland Browns after the Eagles gave him a four-year contract in May, but put him on waivers in October of that same year.
Poyer became a consistently good player in Cleveland and an ultimate depth guy who could fill in and start. After his time with Cleveland ended, which was cemented with Hue Jackson’s firing, Poyer joined the Buffalo Bills in 2017 as they gave him a four-year, $13 million contract that includes $7.40 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $3.50 million. He was reunited with his former Browns DB coach and really flourished. Poyer has been in Buffalo since and was even given a two-year contract extension before the 2020 season. PFF grades him with a 77.2 grade, and he has five interceptions which are tied for first in the NFL in 2021.
Poyer has recorded 608 tackles, nine sacks, 41 pass deflections, seven forced fumbles, and 20 interceptions during his NFL career. He also has one touchdown.
Punter | Los Angeles Rams
For years, Johnny Hekker was the premier punter in the NFL. He was to punting what Justin Tucker is to kicking. While his numbers have started to fall off quite a bit, he is still considered a top-10 punter in the league and has also become an expert at onside kicks and kickoffs.
Hekker was undrafted during the 2012 draft but caught on with the Rams. That season, the then-St. Louis Rams signed Hekker, and he broke out in Week 2 as he was nominated for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week after recording three punts, 165 yards and a 48.7 net punt average, with the longest punt being 66 yards. Hekker has become known for his fake punts. He has completed 14 of 23 passes after fake punts.
Hekker only got better from there. In 2013, he was named to the Pro Bowl and was first team All-Pro. From 2015 to 2017, Hekker was named to both the Pro Bowl and to the All-Pro first team each season. At the end of the 2014 season, he was given the largest contract ever to a punter at six years, $18 million with $9 million guaranteed.
Hekker re-upped his contract through structuring and can stay with the team through 2023 if he’d like.
VIDEO PLAYLIST: More sports coverage from KGW