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Big 12 In The NFL

Big 12 Has Fast Start, Rough Finish In NFL Draft

With the fewest players selected amongst any Power Five conference, this weekend was a tough one.

The NFL Draft was this past weekend, and even though the Big 12 managed to get the first overall pick in the draft, the next few days were somewhat disheartening for fans of the conference. Things started out well on Thursday evening, when Baker Mayfield went first overall in the draft, but then no other Big 12 player went in the first round. Only two would go (late) in the second round on Friday.

All told, the Big 12 would end up last in the Power Five, with 20 players drafted by NFL teams. The conference fell just behind the Pac-12 with 30 and far below the SEC, who beat out all other conferences with 53. Most alarming for fans of the conference, however, was that the Big 12 had only two more draft picks than the AAC, which saw 18 players drafted.

Every team except for Baylor and Iowa State were taken by an NFL team this weekend, a statistic that makes more sense for the former team than the latter. It’s not difficult to understand that the Bears, who only won one game last season, would not have many players drafted. It is notable, though, that the Cyclones, who beat both conference championship participants, had no one drafted.

Below is a summary of how the 2018 NFL Draft went for the Big 12.

PLAYER, CFB TEAM ROUND, PICK OVERALL PICK NFL TEAM
Baker Mayfield, OU 1st Round, 1st Pick 1st Cleveland Browns

No one was helped by having an outstanding 2017 season more than Baker Mayfield, who shot up to the first overall pick after a year in which he won the Big 12, the Heisman, and picked apart a vaunted Georgia defense in the College Football Playoff.

For all the criticism of the media attention that Mayfield drew this past season, it’s hard to say that all the discussion about his off-the-field antics and chip on the shoulder attitude actually hurt him.

In fact, it might have helped.

Of course, the downside of going No. 1 overall is that you’re normally going to the worst team in professional football, and that is very true of Mayfield’s situation. The Browns have been a team which struggled for a long time, especially with quarterbacks. Mayfield can make history if he can turn the Browns around, but if he falls short he’ll just be another name in a long line of unsuccessful signal callers to come through Cleveland.

PLAYER, CFB TEAM ROUND, PICK OVERALL PICK NFL TEAM
Connor Williams, UT 2nd Round, 18th Pick 50th Cleveland Browns
James Washington, OSU 2nd Round, 28th Pick 60th Pittsburgh Steelers
Mason Rudolph, OSU 3rd Round, 12th Pick 76th Pittsburgh Steelers
Malik Jefferson, UT 3rd Round, 14th Pick 78th Cincinnati Benglas
Orlando Brown, OU 3rd Round, 19th Pick 83rd Baltimore Ravens
Mark Andrews, OU 3rd Round, 22nd Pick 86th Baltimore Ravens
Joe Noteboom, TCU 3rd Round, 25th Pick 89th Los Angeles Rams

We already gave a few thoughts on Day Two of the NFL Draft here, but there are some other interesting things to note.

Of all the Big 12 early enrollees in this year’s draft, Connor Williams probably benefitted the most from his decision to forego his senior season.

Williams might have been able to go higher if he hadn’t been injured for most of last season, but he has a chance to really make a name for himself in Dallas. Williams was drafted as a guard even though he played tackle in college, so making that transition for him will be his biggest challenge.

It’s not very encouraging for the Big 12 that so many of their high profile players didn’t get picked up until the third round. Players like Mason Rudolph and Orlando Brown were thought to be possible Day One guys at one point or the other, but each dropped to mid-third round status.

Nonetheless, each probably ended up in a good spot. If Rudolph can develop, he could be taking over for “Big Ben” in Pittsburgh some day. Brown, a high quality run blocker, will be a nice fit with the Ravens.

PLAYER, CFB TEAM ROUND, PICK OVERALL PICK NFL TEAM
Keke Coutee, TTU 4th Round, 3rd Pick 103rd Houston Texans
Dorance Armstrong, KU 4th Round, 16th Pick 116th Dallas Cowboys
Kyzir White, WVU 4th Round, 19th Pick 119th Los Angeles Chargers
D.J. Reed, KSU 5th Round, 5th Pick 142nd San Francisco 49ers
Tre Flowers, OSU 5th Round, 9th Pick 146th Seattle Seahawks
Michael Dickson, UT 5th Round, 12th Pick 149th Seattle Seahawks
Obo Okoronkwo, OU 5th Round, 23rd Pick 160th Los Angeles Rams
DeShon Elliot, UT 6th Round, 16th Pick 190th Baltimore Ravens
Dylan Cantrell, TTU 6th Round, 17th Pick 191st Los Angeles Chargers
Matt Pryor, TCU 6th Round, 32nd Pick 206th Philadelphia Eagles
Marcell Ateman, OSU 7th Round, 10th Pick 228th Oakland Raiders
Travin Howard, TCU 7th Round, 13th Pick 231st Los Angeles Rams

The last day of the draft was full of head scratching for Big 12 fans, as players like Allen Lazard – who some thought would be drafted on Day Two – went undrafted.

Obo Okoronkwo was drafted surprisingly low, as was Oklahoma State’s wide receiver standout Marcell Ateman. Both players were projected to go much earlier in the draft than they did, so it was a little disheartening to see them drop.

One of the biggest Day Three standouts was Keke Coutee, the first Big 12 player off the board in the fourth round. Fellow former Red Raider Wes Welker currently is on the staff for the Texans, and he was undeniably influential in getting Coutee to Houston.

Matt Pryor was not very high on a lot of mock drafts, so it’s a pleasant surprise to see the former Horned Frog go late in the sixth round.

The Cowboys and the 49ers got really good value for Dorance Armnstrong and D.J. Reed, respectively. D.J. Reed’s decision to enter the NFL with a year of eligibility left is also somewhat difficult to argue with because he’ll be getting a paycheck to do what he does in 2018, but he certainly could have been a star for Kansas State next season.

It’s also somewhat entertaining that a punter was drafted ahead of six other Big 12 players who were All-Big 12 caliber. Dickson is the winner of the Ray Guy Award, though, which inevitably helped his draft stock. His higher selection also speaks to the fact that Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll isn’t afraid to be unconventional.

Even though the weekend didn’t go as well as some in the conference might have hoped, it’s important to keep in mind that the draft, like so many other things in sports, is all about perception. There will be first round draft picks who rarely ever see the field in the NFL and there will also be players taken in the later rounds who become the face of their respective franchises.

The draft doesn’t determine who is and isn’t successful at the next level, nor is it the final word on the quality of different college teams. Still, the 2018 NFL Draft should serve as a reminder to Big 12 fans that the battle for perception is still very much an uphill one for the conference.

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