When the official list of invitees to the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine was released, the college football world was abuzz at what a shockingly low number of players were headed to Indianapolis from the Big 12. In total, just 19 alums from the conference are set to showcase their skills for NFL scouts at Lucas Oil Stadium this week (Feb. 28-March 6), and some of the more interesting prospects like ex-Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon will watching at home. Despite the limited numbers, there are plenty of big time names set to run, catch and throw for the football world.
Who’s under the most pressure and who’s destined to be a future star on Sunday’s? Here’s a look at 10 Big 12 players to keep an eye on when the Combine gets under way and what they can do to solidify their status.
1. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
Few players dominated the second half of the college football season quite like Westbrook did, using his big-play potential to run all the way to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist. Despite some incredible numbers and terrific tape, where Westbrook winds up in the draft is anybody’s guess. He’s shown off speed on the field but will need to run a good 40 and test well to back up what we saw this past year. There are numerous off-the-field questions about Westbrook too so the interviews with teams during the week will play a big part in his draft stock as well.
2. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Mahomes isn’t being mentioned among the top tier of quarterbacks but that doesn’t mean he can’t sneak his way into it after a good showing at the Combine. He certainly has the size and athleticism to make a move and the amount of ridiculous throws he made in Lubbock is off the charts. Still, he’s a raw prospect and it’s time for teams to figure out just how much seasoning he’ll need in transitioning into the league. Don’t be shocked if somebody starts to fall in love with his potential when all is said and done from the Combine.
3. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
It should be worth tuning into the Combine to see Cannon run the 40-yard dash alone. Known by most Big 12 fans for his speed in stretching defenses, the wideout was made for an event like this. He’ll run fast, catch a lot of balls and should generally turn some heads. He’ll still have an uphill climb convincing some NFL scouts given his size and slender frame but the fact that former teammate Corey Coleman was a top-15 pick a year ago won’t scare folks away at all, especially with a good showing on the turf.
4. D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
Foreman was one of the few bright spots for the Longhorns last year and jumped into the NFL after a 2,000-yard season that saw him carry the ball a ton. He’s a big back but has a surprising amount of athleticism, which he’ll be able to display during drills and testing at the Combine. Despite plenty of positives, he’s not in that top running back group and will need a top performance in Indy to help gain some draft momentum. One way is to show he can be a good pass catcher out of the backfield and that he’ll be a perfect third-down player for teams in dire need of such an option.
5. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
It seems strange to say but Oklahoma’s all-time leading rusher and the NCAA record holder for most yards in a game never seemed to get the proper amount of respect in Norman as he was often overshadowed by much more controversial teammate Joe Mixon. The Combine offers an opportunity to change that and his all-around skill set is perfectly suited to the next level. If he runs quickly in the 40-yard dash, you could see his stock take off as he’s got a lot of attributes that teams will covet. Medical checks also will be important with that naggy ankle injury that was a problem at times with the Sooners.
6. Jordan Willis, DL, Kansas State
Kansas State fans and die-hard Big 12 followers know all about how disruptive Willis was at the college level so it will be interesting to see how much buzz there is about the conference’s 2016 defensive player of the year. He’s clearly well coached coming out of Bill Snyder’s program and has solid size coming off the edge. He benefits from being versatile enough to play in either base defensive scheme but will need a strong showing at the Combine to prove he can be a quality starter down the road.
7. Seth Russell, QB, Baylor
Russell was trending toward being one of the best quarterbacks Baylor has produced the past few seasons but injuries derailed his time in Waco significantly. He has a good arm that can make all the throws though and displayed surprising athleticism for somebody his size with the Bears. The medical checks (and re-checks) will be huge for Russell however and might be the biggest factor in his trip to the Combine. If everything goes well though, you could start to see some interest build in him for later rounds.
8. Rasul Douglas, DB, West Virginia
The first-team All-Big 12 pick is entering the league at the right time given the emphasis being placed on larger defensive backs who can play the run as well as cover big receivers. He’s got all the size you’re looking for and was a ball-hawk last season for the Mountaineers to help with a good first impression when he meets with teams. If he runs a good 40-yard dash and looks smooth during drills, the NFL stock could take off quickly for Douglas.
9. Charles Walker, DL, Oklahoma
Walker is one of the more interesting cases at the Combine considering he left school before the season was up to start training for the NFL. That certainly didn’t sit well with a lot of college fans but it’s a little understandable when you factor in his concussion history that kept him off the field late in the year. As a result, he’ll need a big-time performance in Indy when it comes to drills, interviews and on the medical front in getting the thumbs up from the doctors.
10. Josh Carraway, DL, TCU
Carraway will be an interesting NFL prospect after leaving TCU as one of the most dependable performers on Gary Patterson’s defense. He’ll shine when it comes to drills and measurements given his off-the-charts athleticism but he’ll need to prove to scouts that he’s got what it takes to set the edge and be strong enough to handle big offensive tackles. He’ll probably be viewed by most as more of a special teams player early in his pro career but there’s so much potential that he’ll be one to watch in Indy.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.