As I’m sure you’re aware by now, the Big 12 produced only 14 picks in last weekend’s NFL Draft. The league’s coaches have heard about it, and they say (on the record, at least) that they’re not concerned about it and, frankly, they’re tired of talking about it.
“You have cycles. You have waves,” Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg. “We’re obviously down when it comes to top, top prospects. We have good players, but maybe not the elite level that some of the other leagues have. I don’t think it’s panic mode yet.”
Added West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen: “I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. I’m a little tired of [the media] making it a big deal.”
And TCU’s Gary Patterson: “I don’t go out and recruit saying, ‘This guy, the only reason I’m going to take him is he fits the NFL model.'”
While it’s true that the Big 12 coaches’ jobs is to find players that win games first, second and third and find players the NFL may one day like somewhere around sixth or seventh, it’s impossible to NFL’s tepid interest in Big 12 players as anything other than another problematic data point in a disturbing ongoing trend for this once proud conference.
It’d be easy to ignore last weekend’s NFL Draft if the Big 12 didn’t also produce a then-low 17 picks in 2014.
It’d be easy to ignore last weekend’s NFL Draft if the Big 12 wasn’t also consistently behind its peers in signing top 250 recruits.
It’d be easy to ignore last weekend’s NFL Draft if the Big 12 wasn’t also the only Power 5 conference to miss the College Football Playoff twice in three years.
Bottom line: the Draft is another data point proving the Big 12 is suffering through a significant down period right now. There’s nothing saying that can’t change. Tom Herman and Matt Rhule succeeding at Texas and Baylor, respectively, would go a long way toward lifting the conference out of the ditch it currently finds itself in, as would winning high-profile non-conference games like Oklahoma at Ohio State and TCU at Arkansas. More than anything else, though, the conference’s fortunes won’t turn until its coaches find a way to recruit a large influx of talented players. The NFL Draft is the best arbiter of judging who has the most talent, as Herman himself admitted in the piece that the NFL will go wherever it has to go to find talent. And it hasn’t been going to Big 12 campuses as much as it used to.
Big 12 football is down right now and last weekend was another low point in a period full of them for this conference. Believing otherwise is as intellectually dishonest as believing Big 12 coaches wouldn’t turn around and thump their collective chests if the league started producing SEC-like draft numbers.