The Big 12 lost 10 underclassmen to the NFL draft, seven of them All-Big 12 selections in 2015. When you add the departing seniors to those exiting early, the Big 12 is losing 25 of the 30 players who earned first-team All-Big 12 honors this season. That’s a ton of talent out the door.
This post was supposed to be a breakdown of the Big 12’s winners and losers for the draft deadline, but there are no winners to choose from this year. No notable, all-conference caliber juniors who seriously considered going pro ended up staying in school.
So, instead, here’s a look at the four teams that lost the most:
Worley needed another year in college. Smallwood, the Big 12’s rushing champion, might not have. Neither is expected to be drafted in the first three rounds, which makes you wonder if they received poor advice. Smallwood will end up being a steal who will fit well into the pro game. He’s too versatile to fail. Worley had an up-and-down season (including an academic suspension for WVU’s bowl win) and received a "stay in school" grade from the NFL advisory committee. He must have thought that because he had six interceptions, he’s ready for the big leagues. He will need to make a strong showing at the NFL combine.
Billings is likely to be a first-round pick and Coleman should go in the first or second. From a long-term standpoint, that is going to be a very good thing for Baylor’s brand. Coleman’s decision was never in doubt. Don’t forget to draft him for your fantasy team in August. Billings' decision was a bit tougher to predict, but he made the right call. The draft community will figure out how insanely good the nose tackle is soon enough. In the short term, getting Billings and Howard back would have been huge for the Bears’ defense and title hopes in 2016.
Sanchez had a great run as a 37-game starter and was going pro no matter how this season ended. Hard to know if the cornerback will end up as a third-round pick as he expects, but he is a playmaker. Alexander’s departure was a bit more surprising, though Bob Stoops has hinted that the linebacker's family situation (he became a father in March) played a role. He probably could have boosted his stock by staying at Oklahoma in 2016, but Alexander did lead the Sooners in tackles in back-to-back seasons. With Alexander gone, Oklahoma is losing five of its top six linebackers.
Going pro:DT Hassan Ridgeway
The Longhorns only lost one, but boy did they need him to stay. Ridgeway must have received some great feedback, because on production alone (6.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks in eight starts this season) he had so much more he could have achieved in 2016. Ridgeway showed flashes of being dominant, but dealt with injuries at the beginning and end of his junior season. He might have been one of the league’s top defensive players next season. Instead he’s off to the pros, and Texas’ defensive tackle depth behind Poona Ford is rather questionable.