A conference expected (preseason) to produce the top overall pick in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft in Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, as the season has progressed, much has changed for the Big 12. With the least amount of players drafted among each of the Power Five conferences the last handful of years, the level of high-impact talent set to enter the pro ranks from the Big 12 next spring remains minimal. A group of 10 nationally recognized programs that recruit and compete alongside the blue bloods of the CFB landscape, counting the prospects primed to come off the board prior to day three can be done on one hand as we look toward the end of the CFB season and the forthcoming showcase and pre-draft circuit.
With Rattler—whose future on the gridiron looks to come beyond the facilities in Norman—now off of draft boards, just four Big 12 athletes find themselves on our TDN100. As one of football’s headlining group of teams, the drastic lack of top-tier talent from each of the conference's programs has become ever apparent in consideration to the pool of prospects primed to enter the NFL ranks. And while Oklahoma has represented the cream of the crop in the conference, producing some of the NFL’s most star-studded talents over the last couple of years in Kyler Murray, CeeDee Lamb, Jalen Hurts, Marquise Brown, and Baker Mayfield, a look back to years past has seen Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech) and Robert Griffin III (Baylor) enter the NFL as high-end talents set to take over the professional scene—to an extent, both did. Plus, future draft selections in Caleb Williams (Oklahoma), Marvin Mims (Oklahoma), and Bijan Robinson (Texas) are future elites to watch, but in 2022, the Big 12 has become a barren wasteland of day-one and day-two talent.
In a year expected to have one of the deepest eligible talent pools in recent memory due to an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA, a conference highlighted as one of the nation’s elite outside of the SEC has been unimpressive with pro-eligible talent. And while the masses have been groomed to believe the conferences that ultimately make up the ‘Power Five’ trumps all, the 2022 class of prospects set to come out of the Big 12 should begin to turn the spotlight on other programs with minimal national recognition who deserve much more attention.
With three Oklahoma front-seven defenders in Perrion Winfrey (No. 62), Nik Bonitto (No. 65), and Isaiah Thomas (No. 97) joining Texas LB DeMarvion Overshown (No. 73) in our TDN100, it’s really a gag to believe the Big 12 as a whole is an elite football conference. It isn’t, it hasn’t been in recent memory, and the recent additions of UCF, BYU, Cincinnati, and Houston, tell you all you need to know on the current status of the family of programs. It’s in desperate need of a facelift, talent, and sought-after prestige outside of Oklahoma. A conference known for its high-scoring affairs and recent Heisman trophy winners, anointing the Big 12 as a ‘Power Five’ member due to its booster money and television deals simply aren’t good enough; the product within the lines should matter.
While elite prep talent could soon begin to venture off to ‘Group of Five schools’ with NIL incentives in mind as program trailblazers (similar to College Basketball), the CFB landscape will continue to diversify. With impact athletes on both sides of the ball littered across the country, a look into one of the nation’s most spotlighted conferences has seen an eye-popping lack of talent this fall set to explore a future on Sundays.