With the NFL Draft only hours away, players from all across Big 12 country are getting ready to to see if they’ll be selected to go play in the professional ranks in the next few days. The process begins Thursday evening in Arlington, TX and will conclude on Sunday.
Let’s look at which players are projected to be taken in the first round and who might hear their names called if everything falls their way.
DAY ONE (ROUND 1)
PROJECTED FIRST ROUND PICKS
EARLY FIRST ROUND: BAKER MAYFIELD, QB, OKLAHOMA
Mayfield is the only player from the Big 12 who is all but assured to go in the first round of the NFL draft. Opinions differ on where exactly he’ll go, with some mock drafts slotting him to be a top five pick, with others having him drafted somewhere mid-first round. Mayfield is thought to be one of the best quarterbacks in the draft, but not many like him over USC quarterback Sam Darnold.
The reasons usually cited for his lower status are the fact that he doesn’t have prototypical size (at 6’1″ he’s shorter for a quarterback) and he struggles in precision passing, but there are also doubts as to whether his success in Lincoln Riley’s spread offense will translate into the NFL.
Mayfield’s positives, though, have to do with his decision-making, accuracy, and ability to just make plays overall. That last trait is something Big 12 fans are all too familiar with.
There are several teams with first round picks that need quarterbacks. He’s most likely to be drafted by either the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins or Denver Broncos. Assuming Mayfield goes in the first round, he will be the first quarterback that Oklahoma has had drafted in the first round since Sam Bradford in 2010. Bradford, like Mayfield, was also a Heisman Trophy winner.
LATE FIRST ROUND: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
The other most likely player to be drafted in the first round is Connor Williams, who is creating controversy over what kind of fit he’ll have in the NFL.
What most scouts seem to like most about Williams are the way he uses his hands and the fact that he moves his feet really well for someone his size. He also plays with a nastiness that NFL teams can appreciate. Even though he missed most of the 2017 season with injuries, in addition, Williams was dominant in most of the games he’s played.
Williams does have his negatives, however, that make him a late round selection. Some worry that he lacks the size to play tackle in the NFL and he hasn’t done a lot of pulling in college to show teams that he can do it.
Connor Williams will likely go to the Philadelphia Eagles if he is drafted in the first round, although some projections think he could end up with the New England Patriots or Jacksonville Jaguars. If Williams is drafted in the first round, he will be the first offensive lineman Texas has had taken in the first round since 2002 and the first offensive lineman drafted in general since 2008.
ON THE BUBBLE: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Mason Rudolph is projected by many to be a second round pick, but he could very well hear his name called on the first day of the NFL Draft. It’s entirely possible, because of the need for his position in the professional ranks, that he is the only other Big 12 player taken in the first round.
Rudolph’s positives include his accuracy, decision-making ability, and prototypical NFL size. There is of course a reason that Rudolph broke passing records at Oklahoma State and he has characteristics that could make him a good take for a team looking for a quarterback.
On the other hand, there are other traits exhibited by Rudolph that could leave him outside the first round. There are concerns about whether he can excel at making pro-style progression reads after having played in an offense under head coach Mike Gundy that didn’t normally require him to do so. Additionally, Rudolph’s arm strength is considered average, something that is likely to keep him from being picked too high.
Still, there are definitely a lot of NFL teams who need quarterbacks. Rudolph has received buzz as a possible first round draft pick by the Patriots. He would be the first quarterback since 2012 that the Pokes have had drafted in the first round.
ON THE BUBBLE: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Were Jefferson to be drafted in the first round, it will be because of his athletic potential. He has an ideal frame and is about to move from sideline to sideline. For a 6’3″ 240-pound defender, he also has great speed that would be helpful in pass coverage or in blitzes. He is, in addition, a sound tackler.
There are a few aspects to his game that he needs to develop, however. He is not especially aggressive in defending the run – he struggles at times to get off blocks and he doesn’t always exhibit an instinctive ability to find the ball. Jefferson also has issues with playing in pass coverage, something that he may or may not be able to improve.
If Jefferson is not drafted in the first round, it could be because there are other linebackers ahead of him who have a longer history of showcasing success on the field. While Jefferson played at a high level as a junior, his previous two seasons were less consistent. Having a lot of potential in that sense could work somewhat against him, as NFL teams might be leery of whether that potential will be realized.
If Jefferson is selected in the first round, it is likely that he would be selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are projected to take a linebacker right out of the gates. Jefferson would be the first linebacker from Texas taken in the first round since 2009.
On The Bubble: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
As many Big 12 defenses know too well, Washington has a knack for getting past opposing defensive backs and has great hands. His ability to concentrate on the ball is also particularly outstanding. All of those things make him a prime candidate to be a first round pick.
Nonetheless, there are a couple reasons he will likely be selected in the second round.
The biggest reasons teams seem to be hesitating with Washington have to do with the fact that he doesn’t have prototypical receiver height and his times in the 40 yard dash have not been overly impressive. Some NFL teams may not know whether he’s a better fit outside (where he played a lot at Oklahoma State) or in the slot, something that appears to be hurting his draft stock a little bit.
It is also generally difficult for wide receivers to get drafted in the first round anyway, so that is a major obstacle that might prevent the former Cowboy wideout from hearing his name called tomorrow evening.
If Washington is selected in the first round, the Dallas Cowboy and Jacksonville Jaguars are probably his two best bets. He would be the first Oklahoma State wide receiver to go in the first round since 2012.