Golden: Where was the Big 12 on Day 1 of the NFL draft?
Big 12 shut out in first round round for first time in league history
- Alabama had a record-tying six first-round picks
Note to the Big 12: The NFL draft officially started Thursday, even though your league didn't show up until a day later.
The smallest Power Five conference made the wrong kind of history in the first round with zero players selected for the first time in the league’s 25-year history. Not a peep from the conference that once gave us Opening Night stars such as Ricky Williams, Adrian Peterson, Vince Young, Sam Bradford, Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Von Miller, Robert Griffin III and Ndamukong Suh, to name a few.
Nary a whimper from the conference that saved the 2020 season with its gutsy announcement that it would be playing tackle football despite pullouts from the Big Ten and Pac-12 due to COVID-19 concerns.
Then the first round of the draft happened.
Or didn't happen, in the Big 12's case.
This was the worst opt-out since Roberto Duran quit against Sugar Ray Leonard.
How many Big 12 players were picked in the NFL Draft?
In fairness, it’s not as if the Big 12 didn’t want to be represented on the league’s biggest night of the spring because players such as Texas tackle Sam Cosmi, UT edge rusher Joseph Ossai, Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma edge rusher Ronnie Perkins and TCU safety Trevon Moehrig — all of whom went Friday — saw their names listed as late first-round picks in several mock drafts leading into this weekend.
The Longhorns went a sixth consecutive draft without a first-round pick and haven’t heard the name of one of their own called on the first day since the Patriots took defensive tackle Malcom Brown at No. 32 in 2015. Cosmi and Ossai went to Washington and Cincinnati at Nos. 51 and 69, respectively, if you're scoring from home.
One could chalk up the dry first-round harvest to the Big 12 having the fewest teams (10) among Power Fives. The SEC, Big Ten and ACC 14 normally have 14 each — Notre Dame became the ACC’s 15th team last fall to help its COVID-challenged schedule — while the Pac-12 actually matches its name with the number of schools in its conference.
That really doesn't fly. Talent is talent, and there should never be a year when a Power Five conference doesn't produce at least one first-rounder.
Just 10 years ago, five of the first six picks were Big 12 players, including Bradford and Suh with the top two. During a run from 2009 through 2013, at least one Big 12 player went in the top five in each draft.
Big 12's absence at NFL Draft won't go unnoticed
The league’s noticeable absence in Round 1 of 2021 will be remembered. Meanwhile, it was business as usual for the SEC, which had 12 players selected Thursday, including four of the top eight, much to the chagrin of the Dallas Cowboys, who helplessly watched with their 10th overall pick as the two most coveted cornerbacks on their board — South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn and Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II — went eighth and ninth to the Panthers and Broncos, respectively.
For the sixth consecutive season, the SEC stood above all the others with the most first rounders, and as usual, the Crimson Tide were driving this first-round bus with six players taken, tying the 2004 Miami Hurricanes for the most in draft history.
Over that span, the SEC has housed 66 of the 192 first-round picks, or 34%, a staggering number given all the talented players playing ball in this country.
Anticipating another Bama bonanza, the head honchos at ESPN/ABC had already set up a Zoom with head coach Nick Saban, and Saint Nick did his thing, beaming for the cameras in a tone that had the perfect mix of joy, confidence and arrogance.
“I feel like a proud papa,” he said, not only underscoring the Tide’s longtime place atop college football, both on the field and in the war room, but also sending a message to thousands of middle school football players and their parents that the road to the NFL is much smoother if they can just make it to Tuscaloosa.
It was the best recruiting pitch of the night, a legendary coach in front of the bright lights reminding America that his school rules the best conference in all of college football.
Big 12 still catching up to SEC
So what of the Big 12?
It isn’t trending well in these parts. Over the past nine drafts, the league has had the fewest players selected overall among Power Five schools, including 2013, when it was tied with the Big Ten with 22 picks.
It was a huge drop-off from last year, when the league’s virtual draft produced five first-round picks from the Big 12, led by Oklahoma wideout CeeDee Lamb, who went with the 17th pick to Dallas.
The numbers game doesn’t favor the Big 12 and won’t for a while, though a peek at current rosters reveals potential for some future first-round picks. Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler, Texas running back Bijan Robinson and Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar have the talent to make it to the first round in coming years.
The league will continue to fight an uphill battle because the SEC isn't slowing down anytime soon. The simplest solution is to win a national championship. Simple but not easy. That type of instant credibility can move mountains, but it hasn't happened in this league since the 2005 Longhorns knocked off Southern Cal.
In case you’re wondering, that Texas roster had five players who went on to be drafted in the first round.