Media Days Marathon: Draft Questions From The Big 12, Day 2
By David Seigerman
The bad blood between the Big 12 and the SEC simmered more than boiled this week at the Big 12 media days. Coaches continued to claim that their conference had no reason to feel second-best to any league.
And why should they? When it comes to producing prospects for the NFL Draft, the Big Ten isn’t second to the SEC. It’s fourth.
Twenty-two players from the Big 12 were selected in the 2013 draft, same as the Big Ten. It’s a totally respectable number, although it doesn't feel that way when it’s lined up against the SEC’s record 63 picks.
Over the past five seasons, 136 players from the Big 12 have been drafted; 229 players from the SEC have been drafted in that same span.
This is not to suggest that the Big 12 shouldn’t feel good about its football product. Rather, it’s merely an observation that when you have 10 teams in a league named for 12, perhaps it’s time to admit that things aren’t what they used to be.
Which leads us to our three draft-related questions from Day Two of Big 12 media days.
1. Where have all the quarterbacks gone?
A quick look at the first rounds of the last five NFL drafts, and at least one trend is readily apparent: the Big 12 produces quarterbacks.
Between 2009-2012, 13 quarterbacks went in the first round. Six were from the Big 12: Robert Griffin III, Baylor; Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M; Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State; Blaine Gabbert, Missouri; Sam Bradford, Oklahoma; Josh Freeman, Kansas State.
That none went in the first round in 2013 should not be alarming. That none are likely to go in the first two days in next year’s draft hints at the start of a down cycle.
In its own eyes, the Big 12 remains “a quarterback-driven league,” as Mack Brown put it.
Bob Stoops agreed: “Every year, it seems in our league there’s some incredible quarterbacks.”
For once, it might be harder for these coaches to defend their quarterbacks than opposing defenses.
There really are only three quarterbacks who appear, at this point in the season, would have even a shot at a spot in the 2014 draft:
Texas’ David Ash is a junior, and he’s a prospect on the come. He will be in the conversation, but ideally it wouldn't be until 2015.
Kansas’ Jake Heaps finally has his chance to play for Charlie Weis, who recruited him to play at Notre Dame back when he was the head coach of the Irish and Heaps was Scout.com’s top-rated pro-style recruit. Then Weis lost his gig and Heaps went to BYU, where he had a solid freshman season and then transferred after a regression in 2011. He sat out last year and watched Kansas passers complete fewer than half of their pass attempts. He will be an upgrade for the Jayhawks and might just play himself back onto the NFL radar, though, like Ash, he’s probably better off looking at the 2015 draft.
That leaves Casey Pachall, who has not yet been officially named TCU’s starting quarterback. The job was his at this point last year, and he did his job well through four games. He’d completed 66 percent of his passes, threw for nearly 1,000 yards and had 10 TDs to one INT.
Then he was arrested for a DWI, withdrew from school, entered rehab. He lost his job but, it appears, may have saved his life.
Should he get the nod again, as most Horned Frogs followers expect, he will be the Big 12’s best (if not only) quarterback prospect for the 2014 draft. He’s got NFL size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds), a big arm, he takes care of the ball. And he’ll have a chance this season to show off to the NFL a newfound maturity.
2. Which Sims is the better NFL prospect?
Neither West Virginia’s Charles Sims nor Kansas’ James Sims is the premier running back prospect in the Big 12. That would be Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk (just ask him).
Who’s next on the NFL’s wish list? Could be Oklahoma’s Damien Williams. Maybe Kansas State’s John Hubert. But then there are the league’s simultaneous Sims.
They are similar in size (James is 6-0 202; Charles is 6-0, 213) and style, and both will have a chance to shine in 2013.
James Sims was the league’s leading rusher last year, despite missing three games due to a suspension and playing for a team that everyone knew couldn’t throw the football.
Charles Sims didn’t arrive on the West Virginia campus until July, choosing to play one more collegiate season as a graduate student rather than enter the supplemental draft. He racked up more than 4,000 total yards and 37 TDs in three seasons at Houston, though he’s yet to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season.
Both backs have interesting upside and will benefit from their respective situations. But Charles Sims may be in position to help himself the most this season.
He’ll be playing again for Dana Holgorsen, who was his offensive coordinator at Houston during Sims’ freshman season. It was his busiest and most productive season, with 202 total touches and 1,457 yards. He’ll get his carries and have a chance to show off his receiving skills in a Mountaineers offense that lost its quarterback and top two receivers.
Besides, it sure sounded on Tuesday as if Holgorsen knows exactly what he wants to get out of Sims’ single season in Morgantown.
“He’s a Cougar for life,” Holgorsen said. “But he wanted to be able to play in the Big 12 to be able to increase his draft stock, which we’ll put him in position to be able to get that done.”
3. Who is the Big 12’s best prospect?
It may be Seastrunk (just ask him).
But the first name off the board next May is more likely to be one of these five:
Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Cyril Richardson, G/T, Baylor
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
There’s a decent chance all six of these players will be first-rounders, and they all have a shot to become the premier prospect at their respective positions. That includes Jeffcoat, though only if at season’s end he projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker. If he remains at defensive end, the best he could be would be second to Jadeveon Clowney.