It feels like yesterday we were preparing for the college football season over the summer. The halfway point of the regular season has come too quickly, but with it comes a mass amount of film on draft-eligible players. As players’ stock rises, maintains or falls, so will these lists. But with half of the season now in the rearview mirror, we are starting to get a clearer picture of the best prospects at each position.
In the Big 12, it’s no secret that offensive skill players will be plentiful. However, there are some hidden gems on the defensive side that evaluators should be getting excited about. Without any further ado, here is the Big 12 All Draft-Eligible Team at the midway point of the season.
Quarterback – Will Grier, West Virginia: Grier is currently in a battle to be considered among the top quarterback options in the 2019 NFL Draft. Despite a bit of up and down play so far this season, his best moments have mostly out-shined the low points. A smooth operator and processor in the pocket, Grier can throw with touch or drive the ball up the seam. With Kyler Murray heading for professional baseball, Grier is the only draft-eligible quarterback from the Big 12 with a chance at making an NFL roster next season.
Running Back – David Montgomery, Iowa State: Montgomery has struggled to find the end zone so far this season, but the bruising running back will still be considered among the best prospects at his position. His combination of frame, contact balance, and vision give him a clear NFL role right away. With Rodney Anderson sidelined with an injury, Montgomery might just have a say in RB1 for the entire draft class.
Running Back – Justice Hill, Oklahoma State: A but undersized, Hill is an incredible player in space who possess excellent contact balance for a player of his stature. He is tough for linebackers to read because of his natural lateral ability and second level vision. While he doesn’t project as a three down workhorse, he will fit nicely into any running back rotation at the next level. To read more on Hill, check out Trevor Sikkema breaking down his traits over 5 plays.
Wide Receiver – Denzel Mims, Baylor: Woof. This was probably the most difficult position to pinpoint two players at in the conference. I recently wrote a piece on how Denzel Mims is realizing his potential this season, which combined with his athletic profile make up a prototype NFL WR1. His ceiling is currently one of the highest at the position in the entire draft class.
Wide Receiver – Marquise Brown, Oklahoma: “Hollywood” Brown has been putting on a show this season as Kyler Murray’s top target. Brown’s speed and fluidity has allowed him to separate in his route running as well as be dynamic with the ball in his hands. Now being talked about as a potential round one selection, Brown’s only major weakness is his slight build.
This hotly contested position also features future NFL talent like Collin Johnson, Jalen Hurd, T.J. Vasher, Antoine Wesley, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, and others. But in this case, Brown’s game has just been too strong this season.
Tight End – Andrew Beck, Texas: It has been a career season for Beck so far, already matching his career production at the halfway point of the season. Beck always had the athleticism, and has finally found the opportunity to showcase his solid hands. A sound run blocker, Beck offers enough versatility to warrant serious consideration from NFL franchises.
Offensive Line – Dalton Risner, Kansas State: Risner is a stout wall in pass protection, with consistent pass sets and the strength to ride rushers around the arc. His mobility and upper body power allow him to move within structure and finish off blocks. Additionally, Risner can be a dominant puller who will widen running lanes at the point of attack. His complete profile and consistent play put Risner near the top of the offensive tackle crop in the entire draft.
Offensive Line – Yodny Cajuste, West Virginia: Cajuste has played as well as any collegiate offensive tackle this season, with fast processing and a strong anchor. Cajuste can be dominant in the run game, dominating double teams and combo blocks, as well as consistently clearing space on down blocks. Cajuste, like Risner, is in the running for one of the top spots in the offensive tackle class.
Offensive Line – Scott Frantz, Kansas State: Frantz holds down the left side for Kansas State, and has a ton of power in his upper body. He is a violent player, with a strong initial punch and heavy feet that can knock defensive lineman off-balance with consistency. Frantz isn’t necessarily a top-round NFL draft pick, but he is a potential developmental piece or candidate to move inside because of his athleticism and strength.
Offensive Line – Lucas Niang, TCU: Niang has come on strong this season, using his massive frame to dominate smaller defensive lineman. A mauler in the running game, Niang has special traits but will need refinement and experience in order to play tackle in the NFL. The Junior is a candidate to return to school next fall, but if he were to declare expect an NFL team to bet on his potential.
Offensive Line – Adam Holtorf, Kansas State: At the center spot, Holtorf has a nice combination of thickness and strength in his lower half while still being able to move laterally with ease. Another fast processing offensive lineman for the Wildcats, Holtorf plays with proper leverage and positioning. Holtorf has a future as an NFL interior offensive lineman because of his experience and motor.
EDGE – Ben Banogu, TCU: The preseason Big 12 defensive player of the year, Banogu is off to a slower start than anticipated this season. Still, he has the most potential of any pass rusher in the conference with his first step and motor. If he’s able to develop usable counters, Banogu will be a draftable talent.
EDGE – Jordan Brailford, Oklahoma State: Brailford has had excellent production to start the season, with two separate 3-sack performances. His strength and active hands have made him nearly unblockable as a pass rusher for opposing tackles. While he is getting home without having elite bend, Brailford’s technique is refined enough to warrant NFL looks.
Defensive Tackle – Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma: Gallimore is a nightmare for offensive lineman to block solo, as he is a natural shedder with active hands and a compact frame. His thick, strong base allows him to be effective against double teams and hold his ground at the point of attack. Coming on strong this season, expect Gallimore’s draft profile to continue to rise.
Defensive Tackle – Charles Omenihu, Texas: Built like a Greek God, Omenihu uses his length to keep offensive lineman at bay. As a result, he’s a versatile piece along the defensive line who offers ability against both the run and the pass. I noted early on in the process that I expected his game to reach another level this season, and so far Omenihu is making me look like a smart man. Kansas’ Daniel Wise provides stiff competition for this spot, but Omenihu’s ceiling is just too intriguing at this juncture.
Linebacker – Dakota Allen, Texas Tech: The leader of the Red Raider defense, Allen has been bringing some extra pop with his tackles this season. Mostly complete in his linebacker skill set, Allen has range that fits the modern role in the NFL. With ideal size and athleticism, Allen is one of the top linebacker prospects in the draft class.
Linebacker – Ty Summers, TCU: Summers has gotten off to a bit of a slow start this season, but is a natural athlete and instinctive player. His traditional style of play and versatility to play all three linebacker spots should make him a talented situational or rotational piece at the next level.
Linebacker – Joe Dineen Jr., Kansas: A vacuum cleaner of a linebacker, Dineen tackles everything in sight with his lower body power and proper technique. Though a solid athlete, his coverage skills are still developing. If Dineen continues to progress in that regard, his production could get him taken near the middle rounds.
Cornerback – Kris Boyd, Texas: While Greedy Williams is seemingly the clear cut favorite for CB1 in the draft class, Boyd makes a legit case for next in line. He’s long, athletic, fluid, and aggressive. He has all of the makings of a lockdown cornerback at the next level who can fit into a variety of schemes.
Cornerback – Duke Shelley, Kansas State: Projecting as a sticky nickel corner at the next level, the undersized Shelley moves and reacts well in space. His feistiness is something coveted by NFL teams at his position, as he’s is active in run support. Expect Shelley to be on NFL teams draft boards come Spring.
Safety – Brandon Jones, Texas: Jones is one of the freakiest athletes at the safety position in the class. Her versatility makes him valuable as he can play near the line of scrimmage or as a high safety. I recently noted that he’s been the key cog in Texas’ defensive resurgence because of his tackling technique, ability to blitz, cover, and pursue.
Safety – Jah’Shawn Johnson, Texas Tech: While Johnson has only appeared in one game due to injury, his tape from last season keeps him on this list. His closing speed and sideline to sideline range project him as a natural free safety at the next level. Few prospects are able to play behind the line of scrimmage and maintain their deep responsibilities as well as Johnson, and that skill set will be sought after by NFL franchises.