Big 12 spotlight: Schools with most active NFL players
The NCAA recently released an interesting list of players on NFL opening weekend rosters by college. This week we’re taking a look at which teams in the Power Five conferences produce the most pros. We conclude our series with a look at the Big 12.
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
1. OKLAHOMA (33)
The skinny: Adrian Peterson may be at the back end of his NFL career, but he continues to be the marquee player for the Sooners. However, he is far from the only star in the league, with DeMarco Murray, Trent Williams, Gerald McCoy and Sam Bradford all being difference makers at their respective positions. The Sooners also have younger players who may be ready to take the next step such as Sterling Shepard and Kenny Stills; additionally, rookie Joe Mixon is primed to have a big season with Cincinnati.
Farrell’s Take: The Sooners checking in at No. 1 is a bit of a surprise since Texas has such a huge home-state recruiting advantage, but the Longhorns' recent drought of producing numerous NFL prospects each year has hurt them. With the way OU is playing and the way recruiting is going, they could hold onto the top spot here for a while.
2. TEXAS (29)
The skinny: While the Longhorns haven’t produced to the level their fans would like on the field in recent years, the program has still sent a steady flow of talent to the NFL with minor droughts here and there. Earl Thomas, Brian Orakpo and Justin Tucker continue to be three of the top players at their respective positions, Jamaal Charles and Derrick Johnson were considered top players in the league during their prime, and Kenny Vaccaro, Roy Miller, Malcom Brown, Jordan Hicks, Quandre Diggs and Brian Robison have all established themselves as important NFL veterans.
Farrell’s Take: Texas should be far and away No. 1 here with the recruiting advantage of being the favored program in the Lone Star State for so long. The end of the Mack Brown era and especially the Charlie Strong era hurt the numbers badly, and it will take a few years for Tom Herman to right the ship. There is, however, a ton of young talent on the current roster.
3. WEST VIRGINIA (24)
The skinny: When you think about West Virginia football, it’s the offense that usually comes to mind first. However, the majority of the successful players coming out of Morgantown actually reside on the defensive side. Bruce Irvin, Adam Jones and Karl Joseph, who had a promising rookie season in 2016, have continued their collegiate success into the NFL. On offense, Tavon Austin has shown flashes of excellence, but hasn’t been able to do it consistently, Kevin White has been ravaged with injuries, and Geno Smith is very close to becoming a career backup quarterback.
Farrell’s Take: With no home recruiting advantage, it’s actually quite impressive that West Virginia is third in the Big 12. It speaks well to Dana Holgorsen’s ability to recruit and the smart way they use JUCOs to bolster the roster. It’s hard to predict whether this number will stay steady, jump or drop because West Virginia has to reach into so many places for recruits.
4. TCU (20)
The skinny: Star power has been somewhat lacking with TCU alumni since LaDainian Tomlinson retired in 2012. Leading the way nowadays is Andy Dalton, with Jerry Hughes also having his fair share of successful moments in Indianapolis and now Buffalo. Two players that haven’t panned out to this point are Jason Verrett and Josh Doctson, who were both recent first-round draft picks, while linebacker Josh Carraway battled his way onto the Tennessee roster this season as a rookie despite being drafted in the seventh round.
Farrell’s Take: Despite quite a bit of recent success on the field and some recruiting issues at Texas that have opened up the state a bit, TCU is still fairly low on this list. However, considering they are still somewhat new to the Power Five and in light of Gary Patterson's talent evaluation ability, they should remain in the top five for a bit.
5. BAYLOR (15)
The skinny: The Bears have sent a substantial amount of players to the NFL in recent years as the program has improved. However, that has not translated into success at the professional level. Receivers Terrance Williams and Kendall Wright have had productive, yet unspectacular careers to this point, which can also be said of 2016 first-round pick Corey Coleman. Spencer Drango and Xavier Howard have shown some potential; Phil Taylor has seen his career derailed due to injuries and Andrew Billings missed his entire rookie season in 2016 due to an injury. Worth mentioning is that kicker Matt Bryant made his first Pro Bowl after the 2016 season.
Farrell’s Take: This number will plummet with the scandal at Baylor, and it’s shocking how low it is already considering the recruiting and on-field success they had under Art Briles. I expect Baylor to drop to the next tier very quickly as Oklahoma State rises.
Farrell’s Take: The Cowboys have a lot of offensive talent and should put Mason Rudolph and James Washington into the NFL very soon, allowing them to push for top-five status. Kansas State has a home recruiting territory issue while Texas Tech has a winning tradition issue, so it’s not shocking to see them this low.