The Big 12 had 10 players choose to leave early for the NFL. The list, plus some analysis of their draft chances, follows.
KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
Cannon feels like a first-round talent to me, much like his Baylor predecessor, Corey Coleman, who went in the second half of the first round to Cleveland last year. Cannon has that blend of size, speed and downfield quickness teams are looking for and he left college football with a huge performance in the Cactus Bowl. He torched Boise State for more than 200 yards and two touchdowns. That’s great film to leave for NFL scouts.
D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
Likewise, I think it’s quite possible Foreman is taken in the first round. He had a supreme season — more than 2,000 yards rushing — and is as physical a back as there is in this draft. The hard part will be finding a team that sees value in the bell cow back in today’s NFL. But he may benefit from what Ezekiel Elliott did in Dallas this past season. Bell cow backs aren’t going to sweep the NFL again, but Elliott proved under the right circumstances it can work. Foreman has similar skills and durability. He just needs the right team. He lasts no later than Round 2.
Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia
Gibson feels like a Day 2 player and a receiver who could step in right away and be a complement to an elite receiver. He played in a great system with the Mountaineers, who have produced solid, athletic receivers of late.
Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State
I caught Lee in his regular-season finale against TCU and was impressed. Still, he might have benefited from staying in school one more year, as many rankings have him as a mid-round or late-round pick. But that’s where the scouting process can help him.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
I think Mahomes will go in the first round. I could see him ending up in a place like San Francisco or Jacksonville. He’ll have to overcome the “system” stigma of playing at Tech. But lord his numbers were incredible and his pass/run ability means you can do a lot of different things with him. He needs good pieces around him and a creative coordinator to best capitalize on his skills.
Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
Mixon’s character is going to be a huge question with NFL teams. Keeping his nose clean is key. His talent isn’t a question. He might be one of the best combo backs in the draft and he can bring value immediately as a pass-catching running back. He won’t go in the first round due to the character concerns. He’ll probably drop into Day 2. I promise there will be some teams who won’t see the reward worth the risk.
Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
I go back and forth on Perine. On one hand he proved in college he could be a dominant, durable back with solid receiving skills to go along with his rushing ability. On the other I’m not sure how his talent translates to the NFL, and that’s the key here. The combine and scouting process is paramount for Perine. The tape is there but scouts will want to see the intangibles. Mixon might have more upside, but Perine comes with fewer off-field concerns. Right now he feels like a Day 2 pick.
Vincent Taylor, DT, Oklahoma State
The Defensive MVP of the Alamo Bowl is headed for the NFL and he possesses an intriguing blend of strength and quickness. I caught him in October and was impressed with how he crashed the line of scrimmage. At 310 pounds he has the potential to be a great fit for a team looking for a run-stopping tackle in a 4-3 or a nose tackle in a 3-4.
Charles Walker, DL, Oklahoma
Walker decided in November that he was ready for the NFL. The near-300 pound defensive tackle could rise up draft boards quickly, thanks to his standout career with the Sooners. But there’s a caveat. When Walker declared he had missed a month with a concussion and he had three in his OU career. His medicals are critical to assuaging NFL teams’ concerns about Walker’s long-term potential.
Ishmael Zamora, WR, Baylor
I think Zamora slips into Day 3. There are character concerns from his time in Baylor (he was suspended for three games after video surfaced of him abusing a dog) and while he’s talented, he doesn’t seem uncommon. Both will drag him down into the fourth or fifth round, in my opinion.