Twenty Big 12 alums were selected in the NFL draft last weekend, which continued to lag the other Power 5 conferences. In fact, that represented a sizable increase from the 14 players the league sent to the pros in 2017.
If the NFL’s appetite for Big 12 prospects keeps growing, there might be room in the 2019 draft for these 25 players, the top prospects in the conference this season.
Note: Players are listed in alphabetical order
Dakota Allen, LB, Texas Tech (Sr., 6-1, 235)
A Red Raider on the defensive side of the ball may feel like a stretch. You can’t overlook Allen’s productivity and capacity to fly to the football, though.
Calvin Anderson, OL, Texas (R-Sr., 6-5, 300)
As a graduate transfer out of Rice, Anderson is essentially entering a contract year with the Longhorns. He immediately becomes UT’s best offensive lineman once he steps on the field and will likely get the starting nod at left tackle.
Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma (R-Jr., 6-1, 219)
Anderson’s injury history may scare off some teams, especially at such a demanding position. No running back played as well as Anderson (above, right) in the second half of 2017. If he keeps that up in 2018, some of the injury concerns will fade from view.
Ben Banogu, DL, TCU (Sr., 6-4, 249)
Banogu’s return for another year will give the Horned Frogs a shot in the arm on defense this fall. The Louisiana-Monroe transfer notched 8.5 sacks last season and helped turn TCU’s defensive line into one of the squad’s strengths. Another year like that will send him climbing up draft boards.
Kris Boyd, DB, Texas (Sr., 6-0, 195)
Boyd made second team All-Big 12 as a junior in 2017 and is back for one last ride. With standout defensive backs Holton Hill and DeShon Elliott now gone, the spotlight will shine even brighter on Boyd in Texas’ secondary this season.
Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma (Jr., 5-10, 160)
As a junior college transfer, Brown developed into one of the Sooners’ most effective weapons in 2017, averaging nearly 20 yards per reception. Despite his diminutive stature, Brown’s blazing speed and shiftiness in the open field will command the attention of pro scouts.
Joe Dineen Jr., LB, Kansas (Sr., 6-2, 235)
Dineen (right) is a tackling machine who notched 137 stops during his junior season. A player who goes that hard while team is getting its doors blown off has to impress some talent evaluators.
Bobby Evans, OL, Oklahoma (R-Jr., 6-5, 299)
A year ago, Evans probably played the best ball of any member of OU’s stellar offensive line. Whether Evans stays at right tackle this year or replaces Orlando Brown on the left side, the redshirt junior will have a decision to make at the end of the season.
Will Grier, QB, West Virginia (R-Sr., 6-2, 215)
Grier might not have made this list but for a broken finger that ended any chance that he would enter the 2018 draft. Even so, he has an opportunity to raise his stock this fall.
Breckyn Hager, DE/LB, Texas (Sr., 6-4, 245)
Hager is best known for his long, flowing mane, but he’s an effective disruptor. In second year as part of Todd Orlando’s defense, there’s no reason why Hager shouldn’t get back up to his 2016 levels of production.
Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State (Jr., 5-10, 185)
Hill built on an ultra-productive freshman season by shouldering even more of the offensive load for the Cowboys in 2017, rushing for nearly 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns. Hill has accumulated almost 500 carries in two years and will be the centerpiece of OSU’s attack in 2018. All that mileage could push him to leave early for the big leagues.
Collin Johnson, WR, Texas (Jr., 6-6, 215)
Johnson looks the part of an NFL wideout. Going into his junior year, he has yet to prove he can play the position at the pro level. Scouts certainly want to see more before Johnson entertains ideas of leaving early.
Brandon Jones, DB, Texas (Jr., 6-0, 205)
As a sophomore in 2017, Jones made an impact on the Texas D right away. He started at safety in all 12 games in which he played. His 61 tackles ranked third on the team, and he provided an active presence in UT’s secondary.
David Long Jr., LB, West Virginia (R-Jr., 5-11, 221)
Long’s 75 tackles last season included 15.5 behind the line of scrimmage. He will be instrumental in any improvement by the Mountaineers on defense in the fall.
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor (Jr., 6-3, 197)
Mims broke out last season when he went over 1,000 yards receiving in Baylor’s unimpressive offense. With his size and speed, he will tantalize NFL personnel people as a potential target in short yardage and going downfield.
David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State (Jr., 5-11, 219)
Montgomery is slippery with the ball in his hands, either catching it out of the backfield or running between the tackles. If he replicates his 2017 season (258 carries, 1,146 rushing yards, 11 TDs) this fall, he’ll be an early entry candidate.
Charles Omenihu, DL, Texas (Sr., 6-6, 275)
A three-year letterman, Omenihu will anchor the Longhorns’ defensive line in 2018. An all-conference season would help solidify his spot in the 2019 draft.
Ben Powers, OL, Oklahoma (Sr., 6-4, 314)
Powers has shown himself to be a nasty brawler in his two years starting at guard for the Sooners. An NFL team looking to solidify its run blocking will come calling for him in 2019.
Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State (R-Sr., 6-5, 300)
To the chagrin of the rest of the Big 12, Risner (right) opted to return for a fifth year in Manhattan. A three-year starter, Risner has shifted to around on KSU’s offensive line. NFL scouts value that kind of versatility, although his future will likely remain as a tackle.
Duke Shelley, DB, Kansas State (Sr., 5-9, 180)
Shelley is trying to follow in the footsteps of former teammate D.J. Reed, who was drafted in the fifth round by the San Francisco 49ers this year. With 30 starts at cornerback in three years, Shelley can showcase his veteran savvy to personnel evaluators this season.
David Sills V, WR, West Virginia (Sr., 6-4, 204)
Once a target of Lane Kiffin to play quarterback, Sills has evolved into a dangerous receiving threat with a nose for the end zone. He snagged 18 touchdown passes in 2017, tied for the most in the country.
Marcel Spears Jr., LB, Iowa State (R-Jr., 6-1, 215)
Spears played a key role in the Cyclones’ underrated defense last season, and he will have an even bigger part to play this fall following LB Joel Lanning’s departure.
Ty Summers, LB, TCU (R-Sr., 6-2, 235)
TCU head coach Gary Patterson deploys Summers in a number of ways in his patented 4-2-5 defense. Demand for linebackers with Summers’ complement of skills will continue to grow as NFL offenses further refine their passing games.
Reggie Walker, DL, Kansas State (R-Jr., 6-2, 246)
After earning the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Award in 2016, Walker suffered a sophomore slump in ‘17. He’ll look to get his groove back this fall and potentially move on to the pros.
Daniel Wise, DL, Kansas (R-Sr., 6-3, 290)
Wise was a first-team All-Big 12 selection a year ago for the moribund Jayhawks. If his play continues on its current trajectory, he’ll have a good case for being picked in 2019.
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.