Missouri football may need to start changing its self-portrait.

Coach Gary Pinkel and the coaching staff insist, correctly, that the program is among the best in the country at developing talent. But the Tigers no longer are the overlooked underdogs performing over their heads.

The “we don’t get any respect” card hardly seems credible when such football authorities as NFL general managers are giving the program a resounding affirmation.

There are few SEC schools currently churning out as many NFL players as Missouri. Programs like Alabama, LSU and Florida are exceptions, but the Tigers are producing pro-level talent as well as almost anyone.

The ’15 draft class arguably is the best in school history, even though the ’09 group can make an argument. Mizzou never has produced a two-year haul this impressive. One year after Kony Ealy, Justin Britt, E.J. Gaines and Michael Sam got drafted, the school produced a six-player haul, most of whom got selected in the first two rounds.

NFL teams have a clear respect for the players Pinkel and his staff are developing.

Last week’s NFL draft represented pretty close to the best possible scenario for Missouri football. To wit:

  • Mizzou produced more first- and second-round draft picks in 2015 than Ohio State, Alabama and Oregon, three teams that made the College Football Playoff last year. Only Florida State (5) produced more.
  • Shane Ray, despite being cited for marijuana possession the week of the draft and rehabbing a foot injury, still got selected in the first round at No. 23 overall.
  • G Mitch Morse, at No. 49 overall in the second round, got selected much higher than even his fan club in the draftnik community anticipated. After the season, many considered him a borderline third-day prospect.
  • DE/OLB Markus Golden, labeled as a “tweener” by draft analysts, fell into the “stock falling” category on many pre-draft websites, including ours. Even optimistic projections didn’t foresee Golden flying off the board before the fourth round, yet the Arizona Cardinals grabbed him in the second.
  • WR Bud Sasser, more likely to go undrafted than not, it seemed, got selected in the sixth round by the hometown St. Louis Rams.
  • RB/KR Marcus Murphy was even less likely to get drafted than Sasser, though seventh-round picks often are reserved for special teams players. The New Orleans Saints grabbed him there, bringing the total number of Mizzou players drafted to six (including former WR Dorial Green-Beckham).