Sizing up the Big 12 early entrants

After the season, we took a look back at the players who had decisions to make about the NFL.

The deadline to make those decisions arrived on Saturday, and the results made one thing clear: We're in for a very strong Big 12 in 2011. Let's add it up:

Headed to the NFL:

  • Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

  • Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri (sophomore)

  • Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Staying in school:

Yes, Miller, Crick, Dennard and David are done playing in the Big 12, but Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M got huge announcements from stars ready to return in 2011. As a result, all three teams should be inside the top 15 at worst to kick off next season.

Had Smith and Gabbert joined them, Missouri could have been in the same group. The Tigers should be solid about everywhere else in 2011, but finding a new quarterback could prove difficult.

Don't expect the Big 12 to exert the same kind of dominance in the first round of the NFL Draft this year as it did last year, but it should still have four first-round selections. Gabbert is the only underclassman from that group that also includes Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, Texas A&M LB/DE Von Miller and Colorado tackle Nate Solder.

The Big 12 had six early entrants last season.

More interesting is the Big 12's number of early entrants in 2011 compared to the rest of the country:

  • SEC - 14

  • ACC - 10

  • Pac-10 - 8

  • Big Ten - 7

  • Big East - 5

  • Big 12 - 3

Will that mean a big 2011 for the league in a year that it needs some balance at the top from teams not named Oklahoma or Texas?

Could be.