Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb could end up as one of the first wide receivers taken in next year's draft
The Big 12 has been the butt of jokes for years around the NFL draft. That might have changed in 2019.
The offense-heavy conference had 26 players selected in this year’s draft, an average of 2.6 players per team. While that trailed the SEC’s NFL factory (4.6 picks per team), it put the Big 12 in line with the Big Ten (2.9) and Pac-12 (2.8). Meanwhile, with just two draft picks per team, the ACC brought up the rear this year among power conferences.
The Big 12’s success in this year’s draft owes in large part to the Oklahoma Sooners, who have won the league title four years running. Nearly a third of the conference’s total selections played their college ball in Norman. Looking ahead, OU accounts for six of the Big 12’s top 20 NFL prospects in 2020.
Note: Players are listed in alphabetical order
JaQuan Bailey, DL, Iowa State (Sr., 6-2, 251)
Bailey proved to be one of the more disruptive players in the Big 12 this season coming off the edge. He notched 14.5 tackles for a loss in 2018, ranking eighth overall in the conference. Given how hard the ISU defense usually plays, count on Bailey keeping his foot on the gas this season and finishing with a strong senior campaign.
Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech (Sr., 6-1, 240)
Tech teammate Dakota Allen received most of the accolades last year, but Brooks actually led the Red Raiders in tackles with 84. At 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, the Houstonian has the size to play inside linebacker at the next level. A new defensive scheme under first-year head coach Matt Wells may provide Brooks with an opportunity to better showcase his physical abilities.
Grant Calcaterra, TE/WR, Oklahoma (Jr., 6-4, 221)
Much like ex-teammate and current Baltimore Raven Mark Andrews, Calcaterra plays more of a flex tight end position. He won’t blow away opposing defenders with his blocking, but you’re drafting Calcaterra for his soft hands and ability to find openings in the middle of the field.
Calcaterra may decide he needs another year in school, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he puts his name in the draft as an early entry at the conclusion of the 2019 season. He has already put plenty of spectacular catches on film.
Samuel Cosmi, OL, Texas (R-So., 6-6, 295)
Cosmi was a revelation at right tackle for the Longhorns in ‘18. As a redshirt freshman, he started the final 13 games of the year and became the most dependable member of offensive line coach Herb Hand’s improved unit.
Cosmi may not have enough seasoning at the end of the 2019 season to leave early for the draft. If he does stick around for another year, Cosmi could have a chance to be an early selection in the 2021 draft.
Greg Eisworth, DB, Iowa State (R-Jr., 6-0, 198)
Eisworth may seem like a surprising addition to this list, but people who have been paying attention to what the Cyclones are doing on defense know what a physical force he is in their secondary. The 2018 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year led ISU with 87 tackles as a redshirt sophomore.
Eisworth is everything NFL teams are looking for in a hybrid safety. He should shoot up draft boards this year.
Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma (R-Sr., 6-2, 330)
Defense has been a sore spot for the Sooners recently, and new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is counting on Gallimore to anchor that side of the ball this year. The massive Canadian stepped up his game at nose tackle last year, signaling he’s up to the task.
Gallimore stands to gain from OU’s move to a one-gap scheme on the defensive line, which will provide him with more of a chance to make impact plays for the Sooners.
Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State (R-So., 6-1, 207)
Hubbard will have a chance to step into the spotlight this year after playing second fiddle as a redshirt freshman in ‘18 for Justice Hill. When Hill went down late in the year, Hubbard handled the load on the ground for the Cowboys, rushing for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns in the final four games of the year.
Given how much OSU coach Mike Gundy likes to feed the ball to his bell cows, don’t be shocked if a big ‘19 campaign motivates Hubbard to head out early for the draft.
Creed Humphrey, OL, Oklahoma (R-So., 6-5, 325)
OU just sent four offensive linemen to the NFL in the 2019 draft. Once Humphrey decides to leave, it will mean all five starters from the Sooners’ 2018 line will be in the pros.
OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh talks glowingly of Humphrey, who will anchor a unit featuring a significant number of new faces this year.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (Sr., 6-2, 219)
After three years at Alabama, Hurts has a reputation as a high-character player whom coaches want in their locker rooms. His ability to play QB on the pro level is less certain.
By transferring to OU for his final season, Hurts will get a shot to show NFL scouts what he can do in an offense that has produced the No. 1 overall pick in the last two drafts. Hurts doesn’t have the tools to rise that high on draft boards, but he will have every opportunity to improve his stock.
Collin Johnson, WR, Texas (Sr., 6-6, 220)
Johnson decided to come back for one more year at Texas and take another run at a Big 12 title. The Longhorns will be relying on him to lead the receiving corps in ‘19, which should give Johnson plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills out wide.
This season, NFL scouts will want to see if Johnson can handle being the focal point of the passing game with Lil’Jordan Humphrey gone.
Brandon Jones, DB, Texas (Sr., 6-0, 210)
Jones also passed on the opportunity to leave early and capitalize on a strong junior year. In 10 games, the 6-foot, 205-pound safety tallied 70 tackles, including 5.5 behind the line of scrimmage. As a senior, Jones’ experience in defensive coordinator Todd Orlando’s scheme will be a plus in terms of ways he can affect the game.
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma (Jr., 6-2,189)
Lamb lived in the shadow of stellar teammate Marquise Brown for the last two seasons, but his impressive showing against Alabama in the Orange Bowl served as an announcement that he’s ready for a season worthy of a Biletnikoff Award in ‘19.
A starter from day one at OU, Lamb already has nearly 2,000 receiving yards and 18 TDs in two years. He should see even more balls coming his way this season. Don’t be surprised if he becomes the clear-cut No. 1 WR on teams’ draft boards in 2020.
Ray Lima, DL, Iowa State (R-Sr., 6-3, 302)
Lima is one of the more underrated defensive linemen in the nation. After transferring to Iowa St. from El Camino (Calif.) Community College, Lima immediately set up shop in opponents’ backfields. He has a knack for disrupting the flow of offenses from the interior and should have a shot at earning defensive player of the year honors in 2019.
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor (Sr., 6-3, 210)
With Jalen Hurd siphoning off some targets in 2018, Mims didn’t put up the same numbers during his junior season as he did during his sophomore year. He’ll have a chance this fall to show the downturn in production was an aberration. If he does, his combination of size and speed will have NFL scouts salivating.
Sewo Olonilua, RB, TCU (Sr., 6-3, 231)
Olonilua is a big, physical running back who can steamroll would-be tacklers. He flashed some of that potential in his first two years with the Horned Frogs, but Olonilua became a fixture in the TCU backfield in ‘18. He toted the ball 135 times for 635 yards for the year.
Pro personnel people will love the physicality Olonilua can bring to their running games.
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU (Jr., 5-11, 195)
Reagor could find himself flying under the receiver radar in the Big 12 this season as he vies for attention with the likes of CeeDee Lamb and Collin Johnson. Make no mistake, though, defensive coordinators know who he is. Assuming offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie gets TCU’s QB position sorted out, look for Reagor to put up the kind of numbers as a junior that could tempt him to leave early for the pros.
Kenny Robinson Jr., DB, West Virginia (Jr., 6-2, 203)
Robinson made an enormous leap as a sophomore in ‘18, evolving from a contributor for the Mountaineers in 2017 to an all-conference safety. His performance against Oklahoma at the end of the ‘18 season (seven solo tackles, interception, fumble recovery) elevated Robinson to one of the premier defenders in the Big 12.
New head coach Neal Brown is counting on Robinson to lead the way as WVU implements a new defensive scheme this fall.
Trey Sermon, RB, Oklahoma (Jr., 6-0, 224)
Sermon has battled through injuries in his two seasons at OU to become a key cog in the Sooners’ devastating running game. OU head coach Lincoln Riley likes to use him as a battering ram to close out games and punish winded defenses, a strategy that helped Sermon find the end zone 13 times last year.
Sermon has also proved to be a more than capable receiver out of the backfield in OU’s dynamic offense. Even if the emergence of Kennedy Brooks means Sermon sees a reduced workload this year, pro teams will look favorably upon his well-rounded skill set.
Reggie Walker, DL, Kansas State (R-Sr., 6-2, 250)
Walker made a splash as a redshirt freshman, winning 2016 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year after notching 11.5 TFLs and 6.5 sacks. The defensive end has continued to produce since then in racking up 16 sacks and 30 TFLs in three years.
Walker probably won’t blow away NFL scouts with his physical attributes, but a strong ‘19 season would give him a remarkable track record of durability and productivity.
Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State (Jr., 6-0, 185)
In his sophomore season, Wallace emerged as the next in a long line of top-notch receivers for the Cowboys. He ended ‘18 with 86 catches for 1,491 yards and 12 TDs. Notably, 63 of his receptions went for at least 10 yards, and 25 of his catches generated at least 20 yards.
This year, OSU head coach Mike Gundy will be counting on Wallace to help ease the transition for a new QB. Maybe that will spur Wallace to return to Stillwater for his senior season in 2020?