While the Big 12 may not boast a 2019 number one overall pick like last year’s draft class, there is still plenty of talent for NFL evaluators and avid NFL draft fans to hone in on.
Below are some Big 12 breakout candidates and names you need to know before the conference kicks off on Thursday, August 30th when Oklahoma State takes on Missouri State.
Draft Darling: WR Denzel Mims
New Kid on the Block: WR Jalen Hurd
Under the Radar: OG Blake Blackmar
Breakout Candidate: WR Pooh Stricklin
Impressive Young Buck: QB Charlie Brewer
Despite finished second-to-last with a 1-8 conference record in his inaugural season in charge of the Bears, Matt Rhule managed to champion the fourth-highest ranked recruiting class in 2018 and the arrow is once again pointed up for the titan-turned-tarnished program. While third-year junior Denzel Mims may be the apple of most scouts’ eyes from the Baylor starters, its Jalen Hurd who intrigues most college football fans this season. After choosing to transfer and change positions from RB to WR to prolong his NFL longevity, Hurd has taken his yearlong sabbatical to rebuild his body in the mold of Calvin Johnson. Per reports from Baylor’s strength program, Hurd has posted a 3.80 shuttle in training, which would be the fastest time registered at the Combine since 2006. At 6’4” 230 pounds. Additionally, Baylor Assistant Coach Evan Cooper has shared that Hurd can squat over 500 pounds with a vertical of 40” and has timed in the 4.4s in the 40 yard dash.
Draft Darling: RB David Montgomery
New Kid on the Block: DE Matt Leo
Under the Radar: OLB Marcel Spears Jr.
Breakout Candidate: WR Hakeem Butler
Impressive Young Buck: TE Chase Allen
Everyone is gushing about third-year junior and 2017 First Team All-Big 12 RB David Montgomery, and deservedly so. Montgomery showcases unreal balance and seems to challenge the laws of gravity with the type of tackles he is capable of breaking on a weekly basis, a la Kareem Hunt. Keep an eye on fourth-year junior WR Hakeem Butler, who will step into the shoes of Allen Lazard as the alpha receiver in the Cyclones offense. Butler’s 6’6” frame and flashes of dominance in the red zone already has a lot of scouts buzzing. Although undersized, Marcel Spears Jr. is a ubiquitous force in run support and in coverage and could catapult to the top of draft boards with another strong season.
Draft Darling: DT Daniel Wise
New Kid on the Block: OT Kevin Feder
Under the Radar: S Tyrone Miller Jr.
Breakout Candidate: OT Hakeem Adeniji
Impressive Young Buck: CB Corione Harris
2017 didn’t go the way the Jayhawks envisioned, finishing in the Big 12 cellar with a winless conference record. Reinforcements are coming for Kansas, however, with a slew of transfers slated to start and help elevate the program. OT Kevin Feder (Ohio State), WR Daylon Charlot (Alabama), and C Alex Fontana (Houston) are all new faces pressing the top of the depth chart, but the real prize as it relates to the 2018 draft is three-technique Daniel Wise. Wise was selected to the Preseason All-Big 12 team and is the younger brother of Deatrich Wise Jr., who played well for the New England Patriots last season. Despite the injection of talent, Kansas is still a long ways away from making real noise in the Big 12 this season.
Draft Darling: OT Dalton Risner
New Kid on the Block: LB Da’Quon Patton
Under the Radar: S Denzel Goolsby
Breakout Candidate: WR Dalton Schoen
Impressive Young Buck: DE Bronson Massie
A two-time team captain, Risner is as impressive off the field as he is on it, earning First Team Academic All-Big 12 honors in 2017 and 2016 and has 36 career starts with experience across all five spots on the Wildcats offensive line. Schoen is this years “Braxton Berrios” of the class based on his underrated athletic ability and effectiveness out of the slot. A fourth-year junior walk-on and first team academic All-Big 12 selection as a mechanical engineering major, Schoen set the state football single-game receiving record (381 yards), won two basketball state championships, and earned all-district honors in baseball at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Kansas. Fourth-year junior safety Denzel Goolsby is one of my draft crushes and has the athleticism and instincts to shoot up draft boards come April should he declare.
Draft Darling: RB Rodney Anderson
New Kid on the Block: SS Brendan Radley-Hiles
Under the Radar: OT Bobby Evans
Breakout Candidate: WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown
Impressive Young Buck: LB Kenneth Murray
The Sooners offense certainly took a hit to their leadership with the departure of Baker Mayfield to the NFL, but if Lincoln Riley is really the young mad scientist that he is made out to be, we should be in for a show with pure athlete and Oakland Athletics outfielder Kyler Murray at the reigns. A couple of juniors in RB Rodney Anderson and OT Bobby Evans could challenge to be day two picks with good seasons, and all eyes will be on five-star freshman Brendan Radley-Hiles filling in for former strong safety and team captain Steven Parker in the secondary. It is indeed a new era for Sooners football, but Riley has done an admirable job of restocking the shelf with talent to keep them in the conversation in challenging for the conference title.
Draft Darling: RB Justice Hill
New Kid on the Block: QB Dru Brown
Under the Radar: CB AJ Green
Breakout Candidate: OG Marcus Keyes
Impressive Young Buck: WR Dillon Stoner
As strong as the Sooners program seems to be despite the departure of their marquee players, their in-state rivals in Stillwater are candidates for taking a step back this season in the absence of Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Marcell Ateman. Hawaii graduate transfer QB Dru Brown is an enormous question mark heading into the season and the Cowboys will need to lean heavily on their ground game spearheaded by third-year junior Justice Hill to be competitive. Fellow third-year junior CB AJ Green is a prospect who can shoot up the positional rankings with the opportunity to match up against some pretty good receivers this season.
Draft Darling: WR Collin Johnson
New Kid on the Block: RB Tre Watson
Under the Radar: CB Kris Boyd
Breakout Candidate: DE Breckyn Hager
Impressive Young Buck: QB Sam Ehlinger
Not only has Tom Hermann been active in recruiting (#1 class in the Big 12, #3 class in the nation for 2018), he’s also been efficient in poaching transfers to start immediately for the Longhorns and challenge for the conference title this season. Former Cal RB Tre Watson and Rice OT Calvin Anderson will both fill big shoes for Chris Warren III and Connor Williams respectively, and Sam Ehlinger should take a big step in his development as he enters his second year in the program. DE Breckyn Hager really started to find a rhythm as a pass rusher last season and could see the type of pass rush productivity that Mat Boesen enjoyed at TCU. Senior CB Kris Boyd is a good technician on the perimeter and all eyes will be on him after Holton Hill opted for the pros after last season.
Draft Darling: LB Dakota Allen
New Kid on the Block: WR Seth Collins
Under the Radar: S JahShawn Johnson
Breakout Candidate: WR TJ Vasher
Impressive Young Buck: S Justus Parker
Texas Tech lost a lot of starters from 2017 and may struggle out of the gate as the team looks to build some chemistry. QB McLane Carter will be the starter under center and Oregon State transfer Seth Collins is penciled into the X receiver spot vacated by Dylan Cantrell. Third-year sophomore and 6’6” 190 pound receiver TJ Vasher may not only be my breakout candidate for Texas Tech, but for the entire Big 12 owing to the amount of targets he’s likely to get in Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense. If the Red Raiders are competitive this season, however, it will ironically be largely in thanks to its defense, led by heartbeat LB Dakota Allen. Starting safety duo JahShawn Johnson and Justus Parker are a few players who are much more talented than their current draft stock likely has them forecasted.
Draft Darling: DE Ben Banogu
New Kid on the Block: LB Ja’Wuan Johnson
Under the Radar: LB Ty Summers
Breakout Candidate: OT Lucas Niang
Impressive Young Buck: WR Jalen Reagor
TCU made a strong effort in challenging Oklahoma last season for the Big 12 title, and their path may be even clearer in 2018. Sophomore WR Jalen Reagor is one of the most exciting young prospects in the conference, but a new and unproven name behind center in Shawn Robinson may stall his development. Junior OT Lucas Niang is the new chief of the Horned Frogs offensive line after the departure of Joseph Noteboom, and Ty Summers might be the best linebacker in the country that not enough people are talking about. Early prediction is a TCU vs. West Virginia Big 12 Championship this season. Speaking of West Virginia…
Draft Darling: QB Will Grier/WR David Sills V
New Kid on the Block: DT Jabril Robinson
Under the Radar: OT Yodny Cajuste
Breakout Candidate: LB David Long
Impressive Young Buck: FS Kenny Robinson
Last but not least and my pick to feature as 2018 Big 12 Champions, West Virginia has a lot of returning talent headlined by QB Will Grier. Grier was building unreal chemistry with his receivers David Sills V and Gary Jennings prior to a thumb injury last season, and the incendiary Marcus Simms is the early favorite to replace Ka’Raun White at the Z receiver position. Left tackle Yodny Cajuste is one of the more underrated tackles in this draft class, but will need to play a second-consecutive healthy season after an ACL tear in 2016. Circle the name of true sophomore safety Kenny Robinson, who is tabbed as the next pro-caliber Mountaineers safety following the trail of Karl Joseph and Kyzir White.
FINAL STANDING PROJECTIONS