The Big 12 Conference has a recent history of putting players into the early part of the draft but that trend is likely to be short lived. For the most part the talent from the senior class leaves much to be desired and there are no underclassmen ready to save the day. Here are insider notes on prospects from each school around the conference.
– Guard Cyril Richardson has received some high grades by NFL scouts, who expect the big lineman to be an early selection in next April’s draft. While I like Richardson I am concerned he’s a bit one-dimensional and will only fit certain systems (power running) at the next level.
– I feel Baylor has one of the most underrated defensive backfields in the nation. Ahmad Dixon is a complete safety with terrific size. Scouts have given Dixon free agent grade but I think he has early last day potential. Cornerbacks Joe Williams and KJ Morton are both draftable dime backs for the next level.
– Tight end Jordan Najvar could end up as a UDFA steal. He has the size and athleticism to develop into a third tight end in the NFL yet will struggle to see playing time and develop in Baylor’s system.
– Keep an eye on defensive end David Irving. He’s an impressive physical specimen who displays flashes of brilliance. If he shows consistent progress this season he’ll enter his senior campaign with high grades from scouts or could even jump into the 2014 draft.
– I like Cyclone safety Jacques Washington. He’s a defensive back that does not make mental mistakes and consistently puts himself in a position to make plays on the ball.
– I was surprised to see how little scouts think of running back James Sims. What he lacks in physical skills Sims makes up for with great vision and running instincts.
– Its going to be interesting to see where Keenan Taylor lands up in the 2014 draft if he has a big senior season. Mention his name to scouts and for the most part you’ll get a shrugged shoulder response. Taylor lacks classic size but has a complete game and is effective on the line of scrimmage or blocking in motion.
– On the other hand I don’t believe Ty Zimmerman should be receiving draftable grades in the early going. On film he’s primarily a downhill safety who struggles outside the box and he can be a liability in man coverage.
– When I watch offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas on film I see a big athlete with a great amount of upside potential yet a prospect who needs a lot of work on his game before he’ll be NFL ready.
– Nice to see offensive lineman Tavon Rooks received draftable grades from a few scouts. I like Rooks but feel he similar to Lucas; a mobile lineman that really must elevate and polish his game.
– Aaron Colvin is a defensive back who could make a big jump up draft boards or really fall into the last day of the draft. I’m not sold on his ball skills in man-to-man coverage and Colvin lacks the size to be an every down safety in the NFL.
– Conversely I believe Gabe Lynn is a bit underrated and has a versatile game. While I feel he’s middle round worthy scouts I’ve talked with believe he’s a free agent prospect.
– I’m told wide out Jalen Saunders was stamped as a late round prospect by scouts while his counterpart Jaz Reynolds is viewed as a free agent. Saunders has second day talent but really needs to elevate his game this year, which may be tough considering the OU quarterback situation. Reynolds flashed big time talent in 2011 before he was sidelined with suspension last season. Both receivers can play at the next level.
– Cornerback Justin Gilbert is considered a last day pick by NFL scouts but I think he’ll surprise people this season. He has the size NFL teams want in the era of bigger cornerbacks and shows the ability to shut down opponents. Gilbert needs to up his game mentally and remain alert every time he’s on the field.
– It will be interesting to see what, if anything, becomes of Tayo Fabuluje’s football career. The BYU transfer looked dominant at times last season for the Horned Frogs and shows great upside. Several weeks ago it was announced the big offensive lineman left the TCU program due to personal reasons. Obviously getting his life in order is priority number one, but Fabuluje offers plenty of next level potential.
– I’m told that scouts do not rank offensive lineman Trey Hopkins or Donald Hawkins as draftable players. Ditto for cornerback Carrington Byndom.
– Jackson Jeffcoat, who missed most of last season with injury, has been given an early round grade by scouts. It’s completely understandable. When healthy Jeffcoat is a difference maker up front and a defender who disrupts the actions. His actual size/speed numbers from either the Senior Bowl in January or Combine in March will be the determining factor as to his position at the next level; defensive end or outside linebacker. For the record, I have Jeffcoat listed at OLB.
– Glad to see defensive end Will Clarke is getting noticed by scouts. The tall lineman flashes skills and seems to have a decent upside as well as a degree of versatility to his game. I gave Clarke a seventh round grade but was told he has a higher ranking right now and could move North with a big senior campaign.
– Scouts I spoke with are disappointed with the crop of senior and junior prospects presently in the WVU program. In the past the school found a way to put a player into round one and several more into the draft’s second day. The transfer of running back Charles Sims helps the cause but overall it looks as though the pickings could be slim out of West Virginia the next two draft’s.