MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 04: Tavon Austin #1 of the West Virginia Mountaineers scores a27-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter against the Clemson Tigers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 4, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Big 12 remains a passing conference, as almost all of its top prospects (like West Virginia WR Tavon Martin) are either offensive playmakers, pass rushers or defensive backs.
I want to take a break from the scouting reports and take a step back to see who, in my opinion of course, are the best players from the Big 12 eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Before we get into my top 10, let's take a look at the recent success the Big 12 has had in the NFL Draft: Brian Orakpo, Sam Bradford, Earl Thomas, Trent Williams, Russell Okung, Gerald McCoy, Dez Bryant, Von Miller, DeMarco Murray, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Broyles.
Really we could do an entire book on all of the talented players to come out of the Big 12 and this year will be no different.
#1: Jackson Jeffcoat*
Jackson Jeffcoat is NFL ready right now and he is only a junior. The Plano native has the size to play in a 4-3 or 3-4, but at 6-4 and 250 pounds, I believe he would be most dominant as a 3-4 pass rushing outside linebacker. NFL teams are willing to pay for their pass rushers, and Jeffcoat could easily be a top-five pick in 2013.
Pass rushers with long arms (DeMarcus Ware, Jason Pierre-Paul, Aldon Smith, Quinton Coples, Chandler Jones) are the rage now in the NFL. Jeffcoat is versatile enough to play in either the 4-3 or 3-4 defense at the next level in the NFL, but I would love to see him go to a 3-4 team because he reminds me a lot of DeMarcus Ware.
#2: Alex Okafor
Okafor and Jeffcoat represent possibly the best defensive end tandem in the nation. The 6-4 260 Okafor is scheme versatile like Jeffcoat, but I believe that he is more suited to play in the 4-3. Okafor should go somewhere within the the top 15 or so picks.
I believe that while Jackson Jeffcoat is the more explosive player with better pass rushing moves, Okafor has the thicker build. If Okafor learns more pass rushing moves and adds more weight, he will become dangerous in the NFL no matter what defense he plays in.
#3: Landry Jones
In my opinion, Jones really took a step backwards last year. In his sophomore season, Jones threw for 4,718 yards, 38 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Last year as a junior, Jones threw for 4,463 yards, 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Now he did lose DeMarco Murray to the NFL Draft and wide receiver Ryan Broyles to a torn ACL, but Jones regressed too much after starting off brilliantly at Oklahoma. He is a good quarterback prospect with a strong arm, but he needs to show some improvement in his decision making if he wants to hear his name called in the first round next April.
#4: Tavon Austin
While Austin may be undersized at 5-9 and 176 pounds, he is explosive and dangerous with the football in his hands. We have seen DeSean Jackson and Percy Harvin be successful in the NFL, so we need to start leaving size at the door. Austin is a big time threat as a returner, wide receiver and out of the backfield as a runner. His versatility and speed should get him drafted very early next April. If a team is looking for the next Darren Sproles, Austin may be their guy.
#5: Tony Jefferson*
I am putting Jefferson a little high on my list because I believe that down the road we could be looking at a dynamic safety with playmaking ability. Jefferson needs to stay in school another year because 2012 will only be his first full season as the starting safety for Oklahoma. If Jefferson did enter the draft, he would still be one of the most athletic defensive players in the entire draft. However, with the importance of the safety position increasing in the NFL, it Jefferson could end up on the draft board next April.
#6: Geno Smith
The 6-3 226 pound Smith has a strong and accurate arm. His mobility allows him to make plays with his legs, which is similar to Cam Newton and RG3. NFL teams will be looking for the next Cam Newton type of quarterback, so it should boost Geno Smith into at least the early second round, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him be a first-round draft pick next April.
#7: Kenny Stills*
Stills is only a junior, so he could decide to stay at Oklahoma for another season to refine his skills. He has good size (6-0, 190) a is a great athlete. He continues to develop as a route runner, but his hands and circus play ability are what set him apart. Stills looks very smooth out there, and he has a knack for making huge plays. He is a first-round talent, but it's up to him if he wants to go back to school.
#8: Kenny Vaccaro
Texas continues to produce good defensive talent and Kenny Vaccaro is another Longhorn ready to make his mark in the NFL. Vaccaro is a interchangeable safety who can play either free or strong, but he is continuing to improve his overall game. A team in the market for a good safety, and there are many of them, could take Vaccaro anywhere from the first to second round.
The one area that he needs to improve on is his turnover ability. He doesn't have great hands, and he will drop some potential interceptions, but he makes up for that with his excellent instincts. I would love to have a safety with ball-hawking ability, but if they have elite decision making and instincts, that does make up for the lack of play-making ability.
While Terrance Williams is a very good prospect, I still need to see more from him at Baylor without RG3 throwing him the football. In my opinion, Kendall Wright was a better prospect, but Williams does have an intriguing combination of size (6-1, 205) and athleticism. If Williams produces in 2012 without RG3, he could become the first senior wide receiver drafted in 2013.
#10: Arthur Brown
Kansas State really hasn't been known for their football team recently, but they are starting to make a comeback. Arthur Brown is a 6-1 and 228 pound linebacker who was a highly recruited linebacker coming out of high school. He chose to go to Miami, but he ended up transferring to Kansas State.
He sat out the entire 2010 season, but he dominated the Big 12 when he finally got on the field in 2011. While he is undersized, he is a sideline to sideline type of linebacker who possesses great instincts and he will definitely rack up the tackles. Brown has the potential to become a workhorse type of linebacker in the NFL.
If I left some players out, don't take it the wrong way. These lists change all the time, but as of right now I believe these are the best ten football players in the Big 12 who are eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft.