After taking home the conference crown and sending several players to the 2022 NFL Draft, what do the defending Big 12 champion Baylor Bears have in store for the 2023 draft cycle? The losses incurred in 2022 will hurt, but Baylor has re-stocked well enough to remain a threat and a source of NFL talent.
Baylor prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft
Baylor’s 2023 NFL Draft class is headlined by an absurd two-deep defensive line rotation. But on both sides of the ball, there are prospects to know.
Gavin Holmes, WR
In light of the departures of Drew Estrada and second-round pick Tyquan Thornton, the Bears will be looking for new contributors at the wide receiver position in 2022. Sixth-year senior Gavin Holmes has the requisite experience to be first in line, but he only has 410 career yards to his name currently.
Two ACL tears and frequent injury concerns have prevented Holmes from seeing the field consistently. But if he can stay healthy and play at 100% in 2022, Holmes is intriguing. He’s 5’11”, 207 pounds, and ran a 4.43 out of high school.
Ben Sims, TE
Interestingly, Baylor’s leading receiver isn’t a receiver at all. It’s tight end Ben Sims, who logged 31 catches for 361 yards and six scores in 2021.
Sims has NFL size at 6’4″, 253 pounds, and could go on to be one of the better tight end prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. Where he lands is still up for debate, but Sims has size, athleticism, and visible body control, which he can use to corral high passes. He’s also a stellar blocker, which only compounds his multi-phase appeal.
Connor Galvin, OT
Understandably, the 2021 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year is not only one of Baylor’s top prospects, but also one of the early favorites in the 2023 offensive tackle class. Connor Galvin returns as a standout on the Baylor line, and a stellar college tackle. He also projects to have a role at the professional level.
Galvin likely has Day 2 potential. He’s well-sized and athletic at 6’7″, 310 pounds, and he’s also assignment-sound. Pad level and strength remain pressing issues, among others, but he could be a future NFL starter.
Khalil Keith, OT
Across from Galvin, the Bears’ starting right tackle will likely be Khalil Keith — a 6’5″, 329-pound behemoth with an urgent style in his blocking. Keith has the size to be a wall on the right side, and he’s not a bad athlete, either. Like Galvin, he does have issues with pad level at times. Nevertheless, Keith has enough talent worth monitoring. And with so many starters on the Bears’ line returning, he could be due for a breakout season.
Grant Miller, G
Baylor dipped into the transfer portal to strengthen their offensive line ahead of the 2021 season, adding center Jacob Gall from Marshall and offensive guard Grant Miller from Vanderbilt. Miller started all 14 games for Baylor at right guard in 2021 and has locked down that spot for the 2022 season as well. At 6’4″, 309 pounds, Miller might be a bit light, but his building experience will only serve him well as he exhausts his eligibility.
Jacob Gall, C
It’s difficult to tell how much interest Jacob Gall will field at the NFL level. He’s undersized at 6’2″, 305 pounds, and not an overwhelming athlete. Nevertheless, he’s accrued a great amount of experience in his time at the college football level. Between Buffalo and Baylor, Gall’s played in 47 games thus far. Last year, he started all 14 games for the Bears. He offers stability for Baylor, and in the NFL, perhaps he could find a stable role as a depth piece.
Siaki Ika, NT
Baylor might have the best defensive line in the Big 12, and one of the best units in the nation. And it all revolves around Siaki Ika, who just might be the best nose tackle prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Ika, called “Apu” by his Baylor teammates, is listed at 6’4″, 350 pounds, and comes with all of the power and strength you’d expect with that size. But beyond that, he has rare pass-rushing upside for a nose, possessing great burst and a searing hot motor. With his skills, Ika could be heavily coveted by odd-front teams in April.
TJ Franklin, DT
Settle in, because we’ll be talking about Baylor defensive linemen for a while. The next prospect on the list is veteran lineman TJ Franklin, who returns as a vital playmaker after tacking on six tackles for loss, four sacks, and a forced fumble in 2021.
Many of the Baylor interior linemen — outside of Ika — follow a similar mold. Franklin fits that mold, listed at 6’4″, 290 pounds. He’s a true 3-technique with nice size and frame density, to go along with violent hands and great point-of-contact power.
Gabe Hall, DT
While Franklin has a slight edge in terms of experience, Gabe Hall arguably has greater upside as a 2023 NFL Draft prospect. Rotating in often last season, Hall logged five sacks and seven tackles for loss, showing off disruptive upside at 3-tech. He’s listed at 6’5″, 290 pounds, but sports a wicked first step, and has great lateral burst off the snap. Combine that with his size, and Hall could be a serious sleeper candidate alongside Ika.
Jaxon Player, DT
Jaxon Player is 6’0″ at most, and may measure in under that. That will turn some people away from him. That’s their mistake. Player isn’t the largest lineman, but he’s incredibly dense and compact, and has decent proportional length for his frame. Beyond that, Player shows off incredible initial burst and can levy violent swims and bull rushes with his power capacity and upper-body torque. With Player, talent, natural leverage, and hand usage all blend together. He had 15 tackles for loss in 2021, and he isn’t done rising.
Cole Maxwell, DT
The arrival of Player might limit the number of reps Cole Maxwell receives in his final season. But at the very least, Maxwell provides excellent rotational depth for the Bears. And if provided the opportunity, he has flashed the talent to make an impact. Maxwell is 6’5″, 295 pounds, but played as far out as 5-tech at times for Baylor in 2021. He can still add to his hand usage arsenal, but the size-athleticism combination remains intriguing.
Brayden Utley, DL
Perhaps best known for his big-man interception off a deflection in the 2021 Big 12 Championship Game, Brayden Utley brings plenty more than unlikely turnovers. Utley is an intriguing part of Baylor’s rotation. Listed at 6’1″, 270 pounds, he has the size to move all around the line. And especially with the sheer volume of talent Baylor has in 2022, Utley can be that mix-and-match piece. He’s not the best athlete of the group, but he functions as a nice rotational piece.
Garmon Randolph, EDGE
Most of Baylor’s defensive line talent rests on the interior. But junior JACK linebacker Garmon Randolph is very much worth mentioning among them.
Randolph is still working toward his ultimate breakout. He logged 30 tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks in 2021. But Randolph has a massive 6’7″, 265-pound frame, and moves very well in space for his size. His combined length and athleticism, when channeled, could play extremely well off of the interior talent beside him.
Dillon Doyle, LB
The return of veteran LB Dillon Doyle is especially valuable for a team like Baylor, a team experiencing turnover and lifting up youth on both sides of the ball. Doyle was the Bears’ second-leading tackler last year, with 89 takedowns, nine tackles for loss, a sack, two pass deflections, and a forced fumble. Doyle isn’t an elite athlete, and can be a bit clunky in coverage. Still, he has great size, play strength, and a steady demeanor that makes him a terrific presence in the locker room.
Matt Jones, LB
Doyle gives Baylor’s LB room much-needed stability. However, the loss of Terrel Bernard naturally creates a need for someone else to step up. In 2022, Matt Jones is the prime candidate to be that guy alongside Doyle.
Jones picked up 52 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, a pick, two deflections, and two forced fumbles while playing in the team’s LB rotation in 2021. Jones, like Doyle, has great size — enough to rush the edge as an extra blitzer. But he also has the athleticism to make plays in coverage.
Al Walcott, CB
With Kalon Barnes gone, Al Walcott is now the top dog in Baylor’s CB room. Listed at 6’2″, 211 pounds, Walcott brings a visibly larger frame than Barnes. And while he doesn’t have the generational recovery speed that Barnes had, Walcott is by no means slow. For Walcott, playing lower in his stance and quickening his transitions will be key in 2022. But he has the tools to succeed and flashes good recognition ability as well.
Mark Milton, CB
Opposite Walcott, there will be a void to fill for the Bears in their secondary. Mark Milton is the prime candidate to take up the available starting spot. Milton has good size and length at 6’1″, but he’s also a speed threat — the exact kind of player Baylor has craved in the past. Milton ran a 4.48 40-yard dash out of high school and has the recovery speed to insulate growth and potentially make plays down the stretch in 2022.
Christian Morgan, S
Losing Jalen Pitre hurts, but the Bears still have draft-worthy talent at safety — most notably Christian Morgan. Morgan has coverage experience, as well as playmaking ability in the intermediate range, as evidenced by his four career interceptions and eight pass deflections. Additionally, Morgan has great size at 6’1″, 214 pounds. A veteran leader on the back end, Baylor will rely on Morgan to make an impact in 2022.
Lorando Johnson, S
Lorando Johnson likely won’t declare in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle, but his name is one to keep in the memory banks. In an exclusive interview with PFN last cycle, Baylor DB Pitre spoke very highly of Johnson, and regarded him as a potential stud in the years to come. Now, there’s talk that Johnson may take on Pitre’s role and get his chance to shine at the STAR position. With an opportunity arising, Johnson demands attention, even as a redshirt sophomore.