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Big 12 draft projections: Potential sleeper, risk

If NFL teams could go back in time and re-draft the 2014 NFL draft, former Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin probably wouldn’t have lasted until the fourth round.

After sitting out most of the 2013 season while recovering from a pre-draft ACL injury, Colvin looked like one of the better rookies in the league once he stepped on the field for the Jacksonville Jaguars in November. He ended up with 27 tackles, two passes defensed and one fumble recovery for a touchdown in six games played (one start).

On the other side of the spectrum, No. 8 overall pick Justin Gilbert finished with 29 tackles, eight passes defensed and one interception in 14 games (two starts). The former Oklahoma State standout struggled in his rookie NFL campaign, recording seven total tackles in Cleveland’s final eight games and being labeled as a bust by many before his NFL career even got off the ground.

When the 2015 NFL draft gets underway on Thursday, the Big 12 will feature other former stars who are potential sleepers and potential risks. Here’s a look at one Big 12 sleeper and one Big 12 risk among the conference’s 2015 prospects.

Sleeper

Don’t be surprised if Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett outperforms several first-round picks. The Wildcats' all-time leading receiver is a proven playmaker who showed his ability to take over games time and time again during his four seasons in Manhattan, Kansas. Lockett finished his career with 249 receptions for 3,710 yards and 29 touchdowns along with four kickoff returns for touchdowns and two punt returns for a score. And he tended to play his best against the best with 100-yard games against TCU, West Virginia, Baylor and UCLA in his final five games as a Wildcat.

A likely Day 2 pick, Lockett probably will land in the second or third round largely for the same reasons he was overlooked on the recruiting trail. He’s too small, he’s not a No. 1 target and he’ll get manhandled are just a few of the statements used against Lockett then and now. Yet Lockett is confident and quick, a stellar route-runner and a proven playmaker who can change games as a receiver and returner. If he lands with the right team, Lockett could be one of the best rookies in the NFL in 2015.

Risk

Three years from now, we could be wondering how Jordan Phillips lasted past the top 15 picks. Or we could be wondering why he can’t seem to maximize his potential. The former Oklahoma defensive tackle has the physical skills to perform like a top-10 NFL draft pick. At 6-foot-5, 329 pounds, Phillips moves like a linebacker. His unique athleticism for a player his size would intrigue any NFL scout, and his overall potential is the reason he could land in Round 1.

Yet plenty of questions remain. First off, a back injury took away the bulk of Phillips' 2013 season, and even though he played the full 2014 season without any issues, back injuries will always be a worry. Secondly, he doesn’t dominate games the way a player with his talent should. Phillips should be a one-on-one nightmare on every play, with the ability to beat double-teams with his quickness and strength. Yet when Big 12 coaches handed out All-Big 12 honors, they placed him on the second team while five other conference defensive linemen landed on the first team. Phillips can be a dominant force; he just doesn’t do it enough. He's a classic boom-or-bust prospect.