Another typical year for the Big 12 in the NFL draft. A few of the league’s big stars didn’t get much attention, including two of the most dangerous receivers of 2018 David Sills and Lil’Jordan Humphrey. The Sooners cleaned up with a commanding lead over the rest of the league, seeing eight players drafted. Amusingly and fittingly, all of them were on offense.
Dana Holgorsen got out at the right time over in Appalachia, after having five players drafted to the NFL he’s now heading to Houston to coach up a group that’s a bit stronger than I think many realize.
Texas came up short in the draft once again with a number of players hearing their names called in the free for all free agency round that always follows the draft. Their left tackle, star receiver, and a few other players quickly found NFL homes but only DE Charles Omenihu and CB Kris Boyd were actually drafted.
Here’s a review of the results with a few notes on each team:
Oklahoma: the player infrastructure is gone
8 players drafted: QB Kyler Murray (first), WR Marquise Brown (first), OT Cody Ford (second), OT Bobby Evans (third), OG Dru Samia (fourth), OG Ben Powers (fourth), K Austin Seibert (fifth), RB Rodney Anderson (sixth).
The most explosive offense in college football history now loses a pair of small but explosive turbo chargers in Kyler Murray and Marquise Brown along with nearly the entire OL. The word around Norman that I often hear is that the next crop of offensive linemen for the Sooners is even more talented, but that’s frankly sort of hard to believe. The departing Oklahoma OL was exceptionally talented with better reach and athleticism than their recruiting rankings would have suggested.
What’s more, they started a ton of games. The next crop will have a lot to learn in order to maximize their talent and if you recall the beginning of the 2015 season one of the stories was the struggles of the Sooner run game as all of their young OL were trying to work out the new run game on the fly.
On the positive side, the Sooners have arguably the best recruiting pitch for offensive players in the country and not only is the next crop talented but there’s little reason to see their pipeline getting diminished.
West Virginia: Holgorsen’s escape
5 players drafted: QB Will Grier (third), OT Yodny Cajuste (third), WR Gary Jennings (fourth), TE Trevon Wesco (fourth), LB David Long (sixth)
The league’s second best offense was also gutted at several critical spots. The Mountaineers beat Texas without Cajuste but he was a major piece and it’s pretty hard to replace tackles of that caliber. Losing Wesco has to be rough for incoming Neal Brown as well, he was perfectly suited to his preferred style of Air Raid offense. They can find more guys that will fit the program but it would have been nice to have some leftovers.
Holgorsen rebuilding that roster against the 2019 schedule would have been tough. They draw the perennially competitive James Madison Dukes from FCS, at Missouri, NC State, and then a Big 12 slate that includes October bouts with Texas and Oklahoma and finishes the year vs Oklahoma State and then at TCU.
I was cautious about David Sills’ projection to the NFL after watching him get handled by apparent seventh round talent Kris Boyd, but going undrafted was sort of surprising. But we tend to eval players based on the tiers that are offered to us, assuming that 1-5 star ratings and the seven rounds of the draft and UDFA represent substantial changes at each tier. They don’t. How many of your players get drafted in later rounds vs signing as UDFAs matters to your program primarily for matters of perception and recruiting.
TCU: Offensive wave forthcoming
3 players drafted: DE LJ Collier (first), DE Ben Banogu (second), Ty Summers (seventh)
As is pretty normal, the Frogs had a small handful of defenders drafted, they’ve had a pretty strong tradition of seeing DEs get selected in the higher rounds. Patterson has really been talking up Ochaun Mathis as the next great one and they have a half dozen other guys that will vie for the other spot so probably they’ll keep churning them out in coming years. I think Summers was a steal for the Packers, that dude can move and knows how to play coverage. So many of the top LBs in the draft have never had to match slots on option routes and are about to face TEs and WRs in the NFL that are nightmares in comparison to what they’re accustomed to facing.
The Frogs always see their offense go in ebbs and flows, perhaps because Gary Patterson doesn’t commit as many numbers to that side of the ball and they have up and down cycles in between fielding experienced QBs and OL. In the next two years I’m sure we’ll see them get some OL in the mix and then obviously Jalen Reagor is likely to hear his name called some day as well.
The next tier
Oklahoma State: 2 players drafted. RB Justice Hill (fourth), DE Jordan Brailford (seventh)
Iowa State: 2 players drafted. RB David Montgomery (third), WR Hakeem Butler (fourth)
Texas: 2 players drafted. DE Charles Omenihu (fifth), CB Kris Boyd (seventh)
Kansas State: 2 players drafted. OT Dalton Risner (fourth), CB Duke Shelley (seventh)
I liked Dalton Risner and David Montgomery for the NFL and evidently scouts did as well. I also thought Alex Barnes was a good candidate though and he went undrafted. Sometimes I think we have to read between the lines when clearly exceptional athletes don’t get called, perhaps there are less public concerns. I haven’t heard a single bad thing about Barnes, but the dude dominated when he was the feature in Manhattan and then dominated the combine. Either he was overlooked or he had some other issues that made teams hesitant.
There’s not much doubt that he would have done a ton for himself by returning to school one more year and running for a gazillion yards in Klieman’s power run game. Ditto Lil’Jordan Humphrey for Texas, that guy has a chance to make real noise with the Saints catching passes from another Westlake legend but he could have done a lot better for himself contract-wise with another year in Austin.
I can’t believe everyone allowed Hakeem Butler to slip to the fourth round to Kliff Kingsbury, the blessed. He’ll be moving him around and running him on adjustable deep patterns for Kyler Murray, unbelievable addition. The Kingsbury move reminds me of when Jimmy Johnson or Pete Carroll made the jump from college to the NFL and cleaned up because they dominated their early drafts with savvy selections.
All four of these schools will have a few more guys picked in the upcoming seasons. The Oklahoma State roster has more skill talent waiting to come up, Texas of course is loaded with young talent, Kansas State will benefit from running a less spready scheme (for a little while at least), and don’t look past Iowa State cranking out more overlooked stars.
The bottom tier
Texas Tech: 1 player drafted. LB Dakota Allen (seventh)
Baylor: 1 player drafted. WR Jalen Hurd (third)
Kansas: 0 players drafted.
Matt Rhule is playing the long game of course, trying to find NFL measurable in less developed players and then send them on to the professional leagues after years of intensive coaching. Next year will be the tell of whether he’s hitting on any of these guys and actually producing some NFL-caliber football players.
Antoine Wesley bailed for the NFL only to go undrafted. I don’t know why he was overlooked but some of these guys that go early do so because of grades, they effectively back themselves into the pro ranks with a failure to keep up their school work. The problem for them is that the NFL will say “if you didn’t do your homework in college why should we believe you’ll do the coursework we give you?” Good organizations like to invest in people that proved themselves in the mail room, so to speak.
Jalen Hurd was an obvious prospect but he sure went pretty high. He and Lil’Jordan Humphrey will be interesting to watch in the NFL, they’re both converted running backs that used agility and IQ to learn how to become really effective flex TEs. Whether the NFL figures out how to use guys like that is a point I’m interested in observing.