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Tramel's ScissorTales: NFL Draft magnifies Big 12 football talent decline and SEC's rise

Berry Tramel

No Big 12 football player was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft last week. That’s quite uncommon. 

The Big 12 ranked dead last among the Power 5 Conferences in players drafted. That’s quite common. 

And both of those dubious distinctions have got to change if the Big 12 wants to climb the college football ladder

It’s clear that the Big 12 has not recovered talent-wise from the realignment of 2010-11, which reduced the league from 12 to 10 members and branded the conference as shaky. 

In the decade of play since Nebraska jumped to the Big Ten and Colorado joined the Pac-12, the Big 12 is 0-4 in playoff games, all losses by OU. That includes the four-team format of the last seven years and the two-team format of 2011-13. 

More:Tramel's ScissorTales: Zaven Collins gets quite a ride from Cardinal owner Michael Bidwill

The playoff record for other leagues during that decade: Southeastern Conference 13-6, Atlantic Coast 7-5, Big Ten 3-4, Pac-12 1-2 and Independents (Notre Dame) 0-3. 

The playoff record by conference for the 11 seasons of the 2000s before the Big 12 splintered: SEC 6-0, Big 12 2-5, Pac-12 1-2, Big Ten 1-2, Big East 1-1, ACC 0-1. 

The Big 12’s status has fallen because of its post-season performance, and its post-season performance has fallen because of talent. 

The numbers are irrefutable.

In the eight NFL Drafts that would have been affected by Big 12 realignment, the conference has averaged 2.14 players per school picked each year, from a low of 14 total (14!) in 2017 to highs of 26 in 2019 and 2016. 

In the six drafts from 2008-13, the Big 12 averaged 2.51 draftees per school per year, including 30 in 2011, when the league consisted of 12 members. 

Meanwhile, the draft picks from the SEC have soared since Big 12 realignment. 

The SEC averaged 3.47 draftees per school each year from 2008-13. Since then, the SEC has averaged 4.04 draftees per school. The SEC had a record 65 picks in the 2021 draft last week, after totals of 63 in 2020 and 64 in 2019. 

The ACC’s increase with the Big 12’s fall is not as pronounced: 2.61 from 2008-13, 2.69 since. 

The Pac-12's is virtually unchanged: 2.77/2.75. 

The Big Ten has risen some, from 2.49 to 2.78. 

But the biggest differences are the SEC’s rise and the Big 12’s fall. The SEC was getting more talent than was the Big 12 before realignment, about one draft pick per school per year. But in the last eight years, that discrepancy has almost doubled. 

We can look at this by program. 

OU’s numbers haven’t changed much. The NFL has drafted 38 Sooners over the last eight years. The previous eight years, the NFL drafted 40 Sooners. Only slightly down. 

More:Tramel's ScissorTales: Oklahoma State football's NFL Draft history more than Barry Sanders

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy talks to the team following the Oklahoma State Cowboys Spring game at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oka., Saturday, April 24, 2021.

OSU’s talent also is largely unchanged. The NFL has drafted 14 Cowboys the last eight years. The previous eight years, the NFL drafted 12 Cowboys. 

Texas: Here’s a big difference. The NFL has drafted 23 Longhorns the last eight years. The eight years before that, 38 ‘Horns were drafted. 

Texas Tech: 12 from 2014-21, eight from 2006-13. 

Kansas State: 10 from 2014-21, 11 from 2006-13. 

Baylor: 19 from 2014-21, 15 from 2006-13. 

Kansas: five from 2014-21, seven from 2006-13. 

Iowa State: four from 2014-21, seven from 2006-13. 

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We can look at the new Big 12 members and the former Big 12 members. 

Texas Christian: 20 Horned Frogs have been drafted in the last eight years, which is essentially recruits brought in under the Big 12 banner. The eight years before that, when TCU was (mostly) in the Mountain West? Nineteen. Think about that. TCU’s talent, at least when using the NFL Draft metric, hasn’t substantially changed with admission to the Big 12. 

West Virginia: The NFL has drafted 20 Mountaineers the last eight years. WVU had 17 draft picks the previous eight years, with players recruited to the Big East. 

Texas A&M: The Aggies have increased their talent, as expected, with 29 drafted the previous eight years (SEC brand) and 19 the eight years before that (Big 12). 

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are the anti-A&M. The NFL has drafted 14 Nebraska players the last eight years (Big Ten brand) but drafted 28 Cornhuskers the eight years before that (Big 12). 

Colorado: The Buffaloes have been slightly affected by their move to the Pac-12, using the draft. Eleven players picked the last eight years (Pac-12 brand); 15 picked the eight years before that (Big 12). 

Missouri: The Tigers are dead even – 17 draft picks from 2014-21 (SEC), 17 draft picks from 2006-13 (Big 12). 

You can make the case that Texas A&M’s talent rise and Texas’ talent decline is a large part of the expanded SEC/Big 12 gulf. 

Let’s narrow it down to elite talent. First-round draft picks. 

Alabama alone had six in the first round last week. Louisiana State had five in the first round last year. 

OU has had just five first-round draft picks in the last eight years. TCU also has had five during that span. 

More:Tramel's ScissorTales: Why OU football has one of the NFL Draft's most impressive résumés

The rest of the Big 12? Texas Tech two, West Virginia two, Baylor one, OSU one (cornerback Justin Gilbert, 2014) and Texas one (defensive tackle Malcom Brown, 2015; he was the last pick of the first round). 

In the eight drafts from 2006-13, OU and Texas each had seven first-round picks, OSU and Baylor had five each, and Tech, Kansas State and Kansas had one each. And just to keep score, Missouri had six, Nebraska and A&M three each, and Colorado two. 

That’s 41 first-round picks in eight years, recruited to the Big 12. The eight years since then? Only 17. 

The Big 12 must reverse the trend of a talent vacuum, else it is doomed to stay near the bottom of the college football power structure. 

Sorry, LeBron, you asked for it

LeBron James doesn’t much like the NBA’s new play-in format. 

The teams seeded 7-10 in each conference play a mini-tournament to join the regular NBA bracket. Teams seeded seventh and eighth are playing double elimination, teams seeded ninth and 10th play single elimination. The loser of the 7-8 game plays the winner of the 9-10 game for the final spot. 

And seventh place seems quite possible for LeBron’s Lakers, who slipped into a three-way tie for fifth in the Western Conference, with Dallas and Portland, after losing back-to-back games over the weekend to Sacramento and Toronto. 

LeBron returned from a six-week absence (caused by an ankle sprain) for those games. With LeBron resting, the Lakers beat Denver on Monday night to move back into fifth. 

But the play-in tournament could be on the horizon for Los Angeles, considering the regular season ends in 12 days. 

"Whoever came up with that s--- needs to be fired," James said of the play-in format. 

The NBA office in New York was no doubt all abuzz Monday over the LeBron rebuke. 

But LeBron has no one to blame but himself for the advent of the play-in format. It began last season, billed as a tonic for the pandemic-reduced schedule. 

In reality, the play-in format is a way to keep more woebegone teams engaged in the regular season. It gives teams more to play for as a long season winds down and, at least in theory, keeps more teams from tanking. 

It doesn’t always work. The Thunder clearly could have challenged for a spot in the play-in tournament. 

More:OKC Thunder: Tough times aren't new in NBA. Just ask Lakers, Celtics, Sixers, Suns, Knicks

On March 23, the Thunder was 19-24, a winning percentage .441. Currently, 10th-place San Antonio has a winning percentage of .492. So a play-in spot was nowhere close to being assured for the Thunder. But it was possible. 

Instead, the Thunder has sat out center Al Horford and not rushed back injured star point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and the Thunder is 2-20 in its last 22 games. 

The Thunder’s NBA Draft lottery odds have improved, and that’s paramount to the OKC rebuild. 

In recent years, as more and more NBA stars have migrated to each other, forming star-packed teams, mostly on the coasts, more franchises have been left with a talent void. 

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault talks with Theo Maledon (11) during a 123-120 loss to the Suns on Sunday.

The Thunder was on the high side of that divide until last off-season, through quality drafting (early days) and nifty trades (recently). But winter was coming, and Sam Presti went all-in on the rebuild by trading Chris Paul to Phoenix. 

The Thunder has accumulated a stash of draft picks that are the envy of the league and is willing to lose big for awhile. Other franchises are in the same boat. 

The NBA has countered with some anti-lottery maneuvers – the play-in tournament, decreased lottery chances for the teams with the worst records – but nothing to persuade some teams to avoid the draft avenue. 

The best (only?) way for small markets in Middle America to add big-time talent is through the draft. 

If LeBron doesn’t like the play-in format, he has no one to blame but the superstars who have formed NBA cliques on the coasts. 

Just in the last couple of years, superstars via free agency or forced trades have landed LeBron and Anthony with the Lakers; Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in the same LA building with the Clippers; and Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden in New York with the Netropolitans. 

The Clippers and Nets don’t have to worry about the play-in tournament. But the Lakers do. They will draw little sympathy.  

Mailbag: Baseball shutouts 

Baseball statistics still grab some fans. At least for now. 

P.J.: “There seems to be a lot of shutouts in the Major Leagues this year. Are we on record pace? There was an article last week talking about the poor hitting and good pitching, but no mention of shutouts.” 

Tramel: You got my curiosity up. This season, through Sunday, there have been 73 shutouts. One every 5.6 games played. That seems fairly frequent. And it is. That's the most in recent years, surpassing 2014, when a shutout occurred once every 6.88 games. That was the most shutout-heavy year for awhile. But this is nothing like the old days. In 1968, the pitching-rich season, there was a shutout every 4.81 games. 

P.J.: “That is something we could build upon. The game existed on the basis of statistics.  We could track everything and anything in baseball by some statistics. Many times, you, the writers would give them to us or at other times we would use statistics to win an argument or just to keep our Strat-O-Matric baseball games current and accurate. Steroids have ruined all that and the game of baseball itself. Baseball statistics are no longer relevant; 61 home runs will always be the season record, and the beauty of it was that it was accomplished in 1961. Yes, video games are partly to blame, but you can’t pin it on them. They don’t seem to be hurting basketball or soccer. Sorry, I’ll get off the soap box before I start on why statistics are going to kill football.” 

Tramel: I don’t think analytics will harm football. The stats of football don’t mean much to fans. There are few benchmarks that matter to the masses – 1,000 yards rushing, that’s about it.  

Ealy, four Cowboys sign as free agents 

Undrafted free agents can make it in the National Football League. But it’s not easy. 

At least four Cowboys and one Sooner are taking that road into pro football. 

OU offensive tackle Adrian Ealy, OSU receiver Dillon Stoner, OSU defensive lineman Cameron Murray and OSU linebackers Amen Ogbongbemiga and Calvin Bundage were undrafted last week and signed free-agent contracts. 

Ealy signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore also signed undrafted offensive tackle Foster Sarell of Stanford, so that’s not a good sign for Ealy. 

Stoner signed with the Las Vegas Raiders, who did not draft a receiver and so far have not signed another receiver. So that’s a positive sign for Stoner.  

Murray signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona drafted Duke defensive end Victor Dimukeje in the sixth round. It’s unclear how that could impede Murray. 

Bundage signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh also signed Kentucky linebacker Jamar Watson and drafted Texas A&M linebacker Buddy Johnson in the fourth round. So Bundage has some hurdles. 

Ogbongbemiga signed with the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers drafted Iowa linebacker Nick Niemann in the sixth round. All things being equal, a team likely will keep a draft pick over a non-draftee. But the later in the draft, the less job security for the draftee. 

Can Ealy become the next James Allen or Tony Jefferson, undrafted Sooners who forged quality NFL careers? Can one of the four Cowboys become the next Lane Taylor or Dan Bailey, undrafted Cowboys who made it in the pros? 

The odds are long but not impossible. 

Good eats: White Dog Hill 

White Dog is one of the most unique restaurants in Oklahoma. Sitting on White Dog Hill, a bluff just off Interstate 40 east of Clinton, the restaurant offers a spectacular view of western Oklahoma and high-class food in a cool atmosphere. 

White Dog and the accompanying Beany Bar were constructed in 1925 as the Clinton Country Club, with a nine-hole golf course complete with sand greens. The restaurant now inhabits the split-level clubhouse, and the Beany Bar, sitting just off the clubhouse, was the caretaker’s cottage. 

The country club closed in the 1950s and the property deteriorated, with some dubious and notorious stops along the way, history which is provided at White Dog. 

The renovation began in 2000, when Nelson King relocated from California, saw the vision for White Dog and began renovations. He hired a friend, Jacqueline Davies-Thunderbull, as chef. The restaurant opened in 2007 and has been a fine-dining success most ever since. 

White Dog is famous for its cheese boards – exotic cheeses and bread – and its entrees include steaks, seafood and a chicken mushroom stroganoff, which is what I had when we went pre-pandemic. 

Entrees range from $14 to $37.95, and cheese board options are available from $18 to $29. 

White Dog is open Wednesday through Saturdays, 5:30-9:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended; White Dog is booked solid some weekends. Call 580-323-6922. 

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.