Breece Hall looks to improve his draft stock after leading the nation in rushing last season
Oklahoma State offensive lineman Teven Jenkins was the first Big 12 player off the board when the Chicago Bears selected him 39th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. During the final six rounds, 22 players spread across nine league teams heard their names called, with many others signing as undrafted free agents in the hours afterward.
We don't yet know how the newest crop of rookies will fare, but it's never too early to look ahead to next year. Dozens of current Big 12 players have pro potential, and we've gathered a list of 25 (and made sure to mention a few others) to keep an eye on next season with an eye toward 2022, in alphabetical order.
Alonzo Addae, DB, West Virginia
The transfer portal hit the West Virginia secondary hard following the 2020 season, with starters Dreshun Miller and Tykee Smith leaving for Auburn and Georgia, respectively. However, the Mountaineers benefitted from the portal last season when Addae arrived from FCS New Hampshire. He's back as a super senior after recording 66 tackles, two interceptions, and five pass breakups at the FBS level. Another productive season could catch the eye of NFL scouts.
Terrel Bernard, LB, Baylor
He's a bit undersized at 6-foot-1 and 222 pounds and played just five games last season because of injury, but Bernard is as productive as they come. Bernard recorded 55 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 6.5 tackles for a loss in 2020 after amassing 112 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for a loss, an interception, and a fumble recovery touchdown as a sophomore.
Nik Bonitto, LB, Oklahoma
Oklahoma's defense has taken a big step forward over the past two seasons, and its pass rush is a big reason why. Though the Sooners must replace Ronnie Perkins, whom the Patriots drafted in the third round, Bonitto is back to lead the charge. An All-Big 12 team snub in 2020, Bonitto recorded 8.0 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss as a third-year sophomore. He was also credited with 46 total pressures by PFF.
Kennedy Brooks, RB, Oklahoma
Rhamondre Stevenson joined teammate Perkins with the Patriots having caught the eye of scouts in part because of the opportunities created when Brooks opted out in 2020. Brooks, who ran for 2,067 yards in his first two seasons with the Sooners, is back and appears poised to be the primary ball carrier for Lincoln Riley's offense. Transfer Eric Gray will challenge for playing time, but the 220-pound Brooks is pro-ready.
Obinna Eze, OL, TCU
TCU's offensive line got a big upgrade when Memphis transfer Obinna Eze committed after starting 25 games and playing more than 1,800 snaps with the Tigers. Eze is expected to solidify the left tackle position for the Horned Frogs in 2021, and if he succeeds, the step up to a Power Five conference could also boost his draft stock.
Trace Ford, EDGE, Oklahoma State
Trace Ford didn't grade out particularly well on a per-play basis as a sophomore (his 57.1 defensive grade from PFF ranked 25th on the team and tied for lowest among starters), but he improved as a pass rusher, raising his grade from 61.9 as a freshman to 69.6 while recording 26 total pressures and 4.5 sacks. Having added 13 pounds since 2019, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound two-time All-Big 12 honorable mention has 16 career starts already to his credit and could be poised for a breakout.
Eric Gray, RB, Oklahoma
Breece Hall might be the first Big 12 running back selected, but don't be shocked if Gray, the Tennesee transfer, emerges as a worthy challenger. In addition to the 1,311 rushing yards he generated for the Vols across his first two seasons, Gray added 43 receptions for 369 yards. He needs to show a nose for the end zone, having scored 11 total touchdowns to date, but Gray is highly capable. He's also fresh, with just 258 career carries under his belt, and he'll share the workload with Kennedy Brooks in 2021. Fellow Vols transfer and former five-star offensive lineman Wanya Morris could also improve his stock with the Sooners.
Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
Hall led the nation with 1,572 rushing yards as a sophomore in 2020, and his 21 touchdowns are the most among returning players (and were second to Alabama's Najee Harris, the first running back selected in the 2021 draft). Hall also is the top returning vote-getter for the Heisman Trophy and will be eligible for the draft in 2022. Expect Hall to be in the mix for top running back prospect in the next cycle.
Kolby Harvell-Peel, S, Oklahoma State
Harvell-Peel declared for the 2021 NFL Draft in January after a junior season in which he recorded 44 total tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, one interception, and four pass breakups. He changed his mind a week later to return alongside Tre Sterling and Tanner McCalister in arguably the top safety group in the country.
Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, DB, TCU
TCU safety Trevon Moehrig was drafted in the second round by the Las Vegas Raiders, and teammate Ar'Darius Washington signed with the Baltimore Ravens as a free agent, leaving Hodges-Tomlinson and La'Kendrick Van Zandt (plus Memphis transfer T.J. Carter) to man the secondary for the Horned Frogs. According to PFF, Hodges-Tomlinson posted an impressive 89.1 coverage grade in 349 coverage snaps last season, and he led the Big 12 with 13 pass breakups. He's small (5-9, 171) but has big playmaking ability.
Siaki Ika, DL, Baylor
Most of the players on our list earned their spots with a track record of production. Ika has only played 15 games and 320 snaps of college football — none of them with the Baylor Bears. However, at 6-foot-4 and 350 pounds, he could be the missing piece of Dave Aranda's defense this season. If he takes on double teams and helps control the line of scrimmage for the Bears in 2021, he'll definitely draw the attention of NFL talent evaluators.
D'Shawn Jamison, CB, Texas
Jamison arrived in Austin as one of the most celebrated recruiting hauls of defensive backs in memory, alongside new Denver Broncos safety Caden Sterns, five-star B.J. Foster, and now-linebacker DeMarvion Overshown. Jamison quickly emerged as a dangerous return man and even played some offense as a freshman before settling in with more than 1,200 snaps as a defensive starter over the last two seasons. His three career return touchdowns should earn him an NFL invite, but he'll also have a chance to add to his defensive resume and improve upon his three career interceptions in 2021.
Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
He's not Kyle Pitts, but Pitts' meteoric rise to become the highest-drafted tight end in modern history could help a player like Kolar in 2021. Versatility is coveted in the position in the NFL, and Kolar has over 1,300 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns, as well as more than 500 career snaps as a run-blocker. He likely would have been drafted in the first few rounds this year and should be considered among the top players at his position in 2022.
Ochaun Mathis, EDGE, TCU
Mathis was a starter as a redshirt freshman in 2019, but he exploded as a 6-foot-5, 247-pound third-year sophomore, recording 9.0 sacks and 14.0 tackles for loss — both of which ranked in the top 3 among Big 12 defenders — as well as 33 total pressures, according to PFF. A similar junior season could make Mathis a highly sought-after prospect.
DeMarvion Overshown, LB, Texas
A former four-star safety recruit in Tom Herman's 2018 class, Overshown moved to linebacker in 2020 and should continue there for new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski. At 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds, he has a big frame but is still very light for an NFL linebacker. Yet with 60 total tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, one sack, and two interceptions in his first season at the position last year, Overshown should be an intriguing option for pro teams in need of an athletic linebacker or big safety.
Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
In past generations, a player like Pitre might have been considered too much of a tweener to have a bright NFL future. However, as a 6-foot, 200-pound safety-linebacker hybrid in an increasingly positionless era, Pitre should be able to carve out a role of some sort. Especially considering the all-around production he showed in 2020, including 60 total tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and two interceptions — both of which he returned for touchdowns.
Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State
Purdy is set to be a four-year starter for the Cyclones, having posted a 23-11 record since taking over early as a freshman. Purdy doesn't have ideal size for a pro passer, and he took a step back in 2020 — and continued a troubling trend of watching his average yards per pass attempt fall from 10.2 to 8.4 to 7.5 — but a big senior season could propel him into draft discussions.
Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
If this were a numbered list, Spencer Rattler would be a lock for No. 1, as he's a first-round quarterback prospect. Lincoln Riley-coached quarterbacks have an excellent track record in recent drafts, and Rattler has a high-end skill set to offset his non-prototypical physical traits. The evolution at the position — and the role of former Oklahoma signal callers like Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts in the changes in the evaluation process — also helps. There's a great chance Rattler improves on the 3,031 yards and 28 touchdowns he amassed as a redshirt freshman and first-year starter in 2020.
Josh Rivas, OL, Kansas State
Quarterback Skylar Thompson and sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn should make the most headlines for the K-State offense in 2021, but Rivas is arguably the best offensive player for the Wildcats heading into the season. Rivas was a full-time starter for the first time as a junior in 2020, and he graded reasonably well, but his 2019 performance in part-time duty showed the high upside of the 6-foot-6, 323-pound left guard. He ranked among the nation's best with an 85.6 PFF run block grade as a sophomore and followed with a respectable 74.1 last season.
Mike Rose, LB, Iowa State
Rose may be the only member of the Iowa State defense listed here, but the Cyclones have plenty of worthy candidates, such as Big 12 sack leader Will McDonald IV, All-Big 12 safety Greg Elsworth II, and fellow linebacker O'Rien Vance, who could all play in the NFL. But Rose, a four-year starter and the leading tackler in the conference with 96 total stops last season in addition to his 10.5 tackles for loss and five interceptions, may be the best bet.
Colin Schooler, LB, Texas Tech
Texas Tech has quite a few pro prospects to watch, including new quarterback Tyler Shough, receiver Erik Ezukanma, defensive back DaMarcus Fields, and several linebackers. In addition to Rico Jeffers and Krishon Merriweather, super productive "super senior" Colin Schooler should be on scouts' radars due to his experience and production as a rare five-year starter — three at Arizona and two with the Red Raiders. Schooler enters 2021 with 326 career tackles, 51.0 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, four interceptions, and four forced fumbles to his credit.
Dante Stills, DL, West Virginia
His All-American brother Darius signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent, and his father Gary was a nine-year NFL veteran, but Dante Stills might have the highest ceiling in the family. He's undersized for an interior defensive lineman at 276 pounds, but with a 6-foot-4 frame, there is room to fill out. And though his production took a dip in 2020, Stills managed 10.5 tackles for loss as a junior and enters his senior season with 12.0 career sacks.
Tre Sterling, S, Oklahoma State
Teammate Kolby Harvell-Peel has earned more accolades to date, but Sterling was the more productive Oklahoma State safety in 2020. Sterling racked up 74 tackles, 12.0 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, two interceptions (one of which he returned for a touchdown), and four pass breakups as a 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior. Like All-Big 12 linebacker teammate Malcolm Rodriguez, Sterling may not have the measurables to excite NFL scouts, but his film could.
Isaiah Thomas, DL, Oklahoma
Thomas blossomed into one of the top pass rushers in the Big 12 in 2020, turning 46 total pressures into 8.0 sacks as well as 13.0 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, and two pass breakups — and All-Big 12 recognition. Though he's listed at 267 pounds, the 6-foot-5 Thomas has played both inside and outside on the defensive line for the Sooners.
Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma
Thomas and Winfrey could be the best defensive line duo in the league entering 2021. Winfrey signed with the Sooners as the No. 1 junior college prospect in 2020 and started eight games in his first season at Oklahoma. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 297 pounds, Winfrey was responsible for 6.0 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, and 19 total tackles, but had a bigger impact than the stat sheet shows. He's a big reason why Oklahoma could have a national title-caliber defense in 2021.