Top NFL draft prospects by position from the Big 12
Counting down the days to the 2016 NFL draft, we will now take a look at the best prospects coming out of the Big 12, at every position.
[Editor’s note: Looking for more on the NFL draft? Check out our 2016 NFL draft guide, loaded with scouting reports, signature stats and much more.]
- Corey Coleman, Baylor
While sports hernia surgery officially ended his breakthrough season, losing QBs Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham to injury triggered the decline. Through Week 8, Coleman earned the third-highest overall and receiving grades at the position, averaged 137.7 YPG, and scored nearly twice as many TDs (18) as other FBS receivers. Following the loss of Russell, Coleman’s numbers dipped. His overall and receiving grades plummeted, his YPG dropped 42 percent, and only scored twice the rest of the way.
Coleman is one of the most explosive WRs in the draft. Since 2014 – on balls thrown 20 or more yards – Coleman finished fifth in the class in receptions (26), third in yards (1,076), and first in TDs (16). Showcasing elite effectiveness within Baylor’s limited route tree despite average size (5-foot-11, 194 pounds), Coleman could find himself selected within the top 15 picks, and he’s the top WR prospect on the PFF draft board.
There is some concern over the consistency of Coleman’s hands. He dropped the fifth-most passes in 2015, and posted the 10th-highest drop rate over the last two seasons among draft-eligible WRs.
- Josh Doctson, TCU
A 2015 All-American, Doctson averaged north of 100 yards, and over a TD per game since 2014. He posted the class’ sixth-highest yards per route run average (YPRR) over that time (3.06) and allowed only one intended target to be intercepted. Doctson flashed big-time athleticism at the combine, averaging the third-highest finish among WRs recording at least four measurements.
Doctson’s explosive 2015 season was also cut short. The wrist injury he suffered in Week 10 against Oklahoma State raises durability concerns, after he broke his hand in spring practices. Doctson’s numbers were reliant upon ball placement, evidenced by recording the 41st-ranked yards after the catch average (4.59), and 49th-ranked missed tackle rate (one per 11.9 receptions) within this class.
Each of the draft-eligible WRs hold a level of concern, but Doctson remains a smooth, vertically gifted outside receiver with a skilled set of hands. Look for Doctson to be selected in the middle of the first round.
- Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
Lingering questions surrounding Shepard’s size have hurt his draft stock a little bit, but it’s worth noting he measured out to the exact weight, and one inch shorter than Corey Coleman. There is also the fact that he played primarily out off the slot for the Sooners, as opposed to being an outside receiver.
But Shepard has been one of the most productive receivers in college football the last two seasons. He posted the second-highest overall grade, third-highest receiving grade, and the fourth-highest run-blocking grade within the class since 2014. Sterling is an exceptional route-runner (3.23 YPRR since 2014) and showcases the finest skinny post in the class. While some are beginning to take notice, Shepard is a first-round talent who remains beneath the spotlight.
- DeAndre Washington, Texas Tech
Washington is undersized, but he possesses abilities that suit him well to be a change-of-pace back in the NFL. Washington stands out from the group with an NFL-ready blocking technique, allowing only three QB pressures in 2015, and earning the ninth-best blocking grade in the nation. Combined with extensive experience as a receiver, Washington is clearly on the fast-track to contributing to an NFL roster.
- Spencer Drango, Baylor
If this evaluation were based entirely around statistical college performance, Drango would be included within the first tier of the class’ linemen. He earned PFF’s second-highest grade among tackles in 2015. But the two-time All-American may find a difficult transition to the NFL. Built with a massive frame, Drango met infrequent resistance within Baylor’s frenetically paced attack. His footwork is a concern, as he grants quicker opponents the chance to shed his blocks and disrupt plays in the backfield.
He is clearly suited for the guard position in the NFL, yet he played 52 straight games exclusively at left tackle for the Bears, and the position conversion will likely delay his development. Drango will be able to tap into his impressive strength at guard to sit and contain rushing opponents.
- Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
Whitehair is another highly decorated offensive lineman from the Big 12 (he ranked first among tackles in PFF grades this season) with strengths, limitations, and a pending position change. The combine reinforced film perceptions, as Whitehair’s arms measured 43rd of 47 tackles and guards. Without the length to push outside rushes up-field, Whitehair allowed defenders into his body, resulting in 75 percent of his total pressures allowed to come on those type of plays.
Whitehair’s methodological discipline was phenomenal, as he wasn’t flagged for a single false start over the last two seasons. Transitioning to guard will require minimal preparation after corralling 21 starts there from 2012-13.
- Trevone Boykin, TCU
Boykin finds himself in a state of perpetual limbo as height concerns continue. Standing 6-foot tall, Boykin’s pre-draft advice from several sources urged a switch to wide receiver. He has stated he is willing to play receiver or quarterback, depending upon how individual teams view him.
What simply cannot be questioned within Boykin’s game is the truly spectacular progress he made at TCU as a passer. Among the substantial improvements from 2014-15, Boykin posted a 112 percent increase to his overall grade, and 347 percent increase to his passing grade. In addition, Boykin recorded percentage gains to his completion and accuracy percentages overall (6.7 and 5.9), under pressure (25 and 24), and reduced his sack rate by 38 percent.
Boykin will need to drop some mechanical habits learned playing within TCU’s spread-option offense, but no more than others hailing from similar systems. Considering the foundation of success he built under center, Boykin has shown enough to warrant a shot at remaining at quarterback as a developmental project.
- Hassan Ridgeway, Texas
Ridgeway improved his pass-rushing productivity by 121 percent from 2014 to 2015 after somewhat surprisingly seeing a 20 percent drop in total snaps. Ridgeway’s grading also displayed substantial improvements across the board, providing a glimpse of some untapped potential. That said, his athleticism is capped, which keeps him a little distance from the top prospects at this position in the class. We have him in the late second-round range on the PFF draft board, behind Baylor nose tackle Andrew Billings, but personally I like him a little bit more than some others based on his per-snap productivity at Texas.
4-3 defensive end
- Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
Ogbah found immediate success upon taking the field for the Cowboys, collecting Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year as a sophomore. Also impressive was the continued development he displayed during his remarkable All-American junior season.
Ogbah’s place among the nation’s elite was cemented after he earned the fifth-highest pass-rush grade among edge defenders in 2015. The fact that he measured in with the third-longest arms at his position at the combine indicates he has the physical tools to improve some of his run-defense deficiencies (although he still graded positively in that regard in 2015). He would be a welcome addition for a team toward the end of the first round or in the early second.
- Nick Kwiatkowski, West Virginia
Kwiatkowski is not an all-world talent, but he counters weaknesses with grit and determination. Grading positively in 12 of 13 games last season, Kwiatkowski rewarded the Mountaineers with the third-highest overall, fourth-highest coverage, and third-highest run defense grades in the nation. On the down side, his run-stop percentage dropped by 29 percent from 2014 and – despite collecting three interceptions – he allowed 48 percent more yards per coverage snap.
A “Will” weakside linebacker in a 4-3 base defense is required to possess high-level athleticism to force plays downfield – as well as in strong-side pursuit – and Kwiatkowski was able to provide that proof after an impressive showing at the combine. His pass-rushing tactics are raw and his tackling efficiency will need to improve, but Kwiatkowski could provide immediate returns for a 4-3 defense on early downs.
- Xavien Howard, Baylor
Howard is one of the more polarizing cornerbacks in this class, complicated further by questionable combine results. While he enjoyed a breakout season in 2015, his play from 2014 was entirely unremarkable. During that season, Howard allowed seven coverage TDs and posted the 256th-best overall grade in the nation.
Howard was able to find rhythm last season, finishing within the top 20 cornerbacks in this class in overall and coverage grades. One unfortunate area of consistency to his game has been a well-below-average ability to stop the run. His missing 10-of-31 tackle opportunities is cause for concern. Burned on a few memorable deep targets last season, Howard ranked 25th in the class on 20-or-more-yard gains per coverage snap.
Howard will need to continue to display improvements to all areas of his game to hold an NFL roster spot, but is equipped with the size to carry value with further development.
- Karl Joseph, West Virginia
Joseph was unable to improve his draft stock in 2015 after starting 38 consecutive games. Joseph lost the final nine games of his career after suffering a non-contact knee injury. Fresh from posting the fourth-highest safety grade from Week 5 against Oklahoma, Joseph closed that game with the fifth-highest overall safety grade in the nation.
A lack of medical clearance prevents answers to physical questions from workouts and that fact alone will likely drop him to the second day of the draft. But his college production certainly warrants teams taking a second look at him.