The Big 12 has produced back-to-back number 1 overall picks in the NFL Draft, five first-round selections in the last three drafts, and the reigning league MVP in Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. This class features several players who could make a case for being in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft next April in Las Vegas.
Baylor Bears: WR Denzel Mims
Denzel Mims has all the tools and ability to be a top-level wide receiver at the next level. He’s in line for a breakout season this year for the Baylor Bears. With his consistently improving technique as a route-runner and his leadership for the Bears in place, Mims is a player I’m keeping an eye on this season. He’s a Senior Bowl candidate player and one that will impress coaches and scouts while down in Mobile.
Honorable Mention: CB Raleigh Texada
Iowa State Cyclones: DE JaQuan Bailey
JaQuan Bailey has been a wrecking ball for the Cyclones since he stepped on the field as a freshman. Bailey posted 8 sacks last season with an astounding 14.5 tackles for loss, giving Bailey a career 31 tackles for loss and 18 sacks. Bailey possesses the size, length, and quickness to be an NFL-caliber defensive end. Another season of stout play from the senior will see his name gain traction in NFL circles.
Honorable Mention: LB Marcel Spears
Kansas Jayhawks: DB Bryce Torneden
Bryce Torneden has played safety/nickel for the Jayhawks the last couple season. He’s not afraid to fill the lane and stuff the run, and he’s solid in coverage. He returns this season as a leader for the Jayhawks with the loss of players like Joe Dineen and Daniel Wise. PFF graded Torneden has the best safety in the Big 12 last season. Under the tutelage of the Mad Hatter, Torneden could evolve into a top-100 prospect. Kansas has a history of producing quality NFL DBs, and Torneden could join that list.
Honorable Mention: OT Hakeem Adeniji
Kansas State Wildcats: OT Scott Frantz
Last season saw the Wildcats produce fan-favorite OT Dalton Risner who was selected 41st by the Denver Broncos. Scott Frantz was Risner’s fellow bookend at tackle for the Wildcats. Frantz’ power and mauling ability on his tape will earn him several fans in the draft community. He’s excellent in the run game and moving to the second level. He’ll need to be coached up on his pass blocking, as his hands and footwork can be inconsistent, especially against inside counters. His athletic ability and power could still develop into a top-100 selection in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Honorable Mention: OC Adam Holtorf
Oklahoma Sooners: OC Creed Humphrey
Oklahoma just put four of their starting five offensive linemen last season into the NFL Draft, where all of them were taken in the top-125 picks. Creed Humphrey is the only returning starter there…but he’s also the best of all of them. An elite-caliber center is rare, but Humphrey was the epitome of that last season for the Sooners. His power, anchor, and technique combined with his rugged mentality and athleticism are outstanding for a player that has only played one season at the collegiate level. He held his own against Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, who just went third overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. I believe Humphrey is the best player and prospect in the Big 12.
Honorable Mention: WR CeeDee Lamb
Oklahoma State Cowboys: RB Chuba Hubbard
Chuba Hubbard is a former track-star and that athletic ability shows up on tape. His explosiveness and receiving ability are endearing for his NFL future. Hubbard tagged in an insane 31 runs of 10 yards or more last season. Hubbard also forced 45 missed tackles on only 124 carries last season. With Justice Hill now on the Baltimore Ravens, Hubbard is ready and poised for a breakout season as the leader for the Cowboys offense. That explosiveness at the running back position points to a high selection in the NFL Draft for Hubbard when he declares.
Honorable Mention: WR Tylan Wallace
TCU Horned Frogs: OT Lucas Niang
Lucas Niang is a truly underrated and under-appreciated offensive tackle. Niang did not allow a single sack last season per PFF and is PFF’s highest-graded pass-blocking returning offensive tackle in the Big 12. He shut down Ohio State’s Nick Bosa (the #2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft) and Chase Young (a projected top-5 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft). He’s explosive off the line with effortless foot speed. He’s got all the tools as a tackle. The buzz needs to be building for Niang, as he looks like a first-round prospect.
Honorable Mention: WR Jalen Reagor
Texas Longhorns: S Brandon Jones
I’ve already discussed Brandon Jones previously for PFN, so I don’t want to get super in-depth again. Jones possesses the athleticism and tackling skills NFL teams love to see in safeties. Jonathan Abram was a hard-hitting safety who just went in the first round of the NFL Draft, and Jones is better than him. His elite athletic ability and further development will push Brandon Jones into those first-round talks and potentially top-25.
Honorable Mention: OC Zach Shackelford
Texas Tech Red Raiders: OT Terence Steele
Terence Steele has started for the Red Raiders since he was a freshman. He started off at left tackle before moving to right tackle and settling in there as a junior. He is now moving back to left tackle as a senior. This constant moving is impacting his development, but the tools are there for Steele to be a top-100 prospect. He stands 6’6 300+ pounds and moves well for his size. New Head Coach Matt Wells pointed to Steele as a leader for the team and a player who has drastically improved in the spring. Toolsy offensive tackles always end up being selected high in the NFL Draft, and Steele has it all.
Honorable Mention: WR T.J. Vasher
West Virginia Mountaineers: RB Kennedy McKoy
West Virginia is entering a time of transition for the program. Fortunately, there is still a lot of talent leftover on the Mountaineers team. Kennedy McKoy is one such player. McKoy is deadly fast, elusive, and smart. Despite his smaller frame, he runs well between the tackles and sets up his blocks well. With Will Grier and several wide receivers gone, West Virginia will need McKoy to step up. The NFL loves running backs with the skillset and smarts that McKoy possesses. The rest of the 2020 class of running backs is loaded, but that does not diminish the talent of Kennedy McKoy.
Honorable Mention: OL Colton McKivitz