It’s been a month since the NFL Draft and OTA’s are underway for the 14 players drafted out of the Big 12 this year. Among those drafted are Oklahoma standouts Joe Mixon (2nd round), Dede Westbrook (4th round) and Samaje Perine (4th round). With these stars looking to emerge in the pros this year, what effect could it have on the conference they just left?
There are many factors that go into the decisions of high school football players when choosing where to attend and play for four years, but the success of former players plays a big part in analyzing the conferences. Although it is important how players and teams do while in college against their opponents, the success after college might be more important. For most college football players, the goal is getting to the NFL and becoming a star. If a certain conference has produced more NFL players or your favorite NFL players, that conference will have an advantage to recruiting you.
For the Big 12, the need to have those three Oklahoma stars succeed in the NFL is even more necessary now. The 14 players drafted from this conference is down from 26 drafted the year before, which is alarming enough. The small number is even more frightening for the conference considering the SEC had 21 players drafted just in the first two rounds alone. It is hard for the Big 12 to make an argument about being competitive with the SEC when it doesn’t have players going to the pros.
Although the Big 12 isn’t having as many players drafted, if the former Big 12 players can be successful and become stars on their respective teams then it can make up for the lack of players being drafted. The hope for Big 12 teams is being able to market the success of former players to recruits as a possibility for them.
Similar to success of former players, the conference can benefit just as much if not more from current stars outperforming their counterparts. This year the Big 12 needs major production from arguably the best QB/WR duo in the country in Mason Rudolph and James Washington from Oklahoma State. For a young high school player looking at different teams over the next year, to see Rudolph be a Heisman candidate and Washington win a Biletnikoff award; it can be a motivation to either be the next player of the caliber in the Big 12 or a desire to play against the best and compete.
Furthermore, if and when both of those Cowboys get drafted, the impact in the NFL will be a necessary tool for the Big 12 and teams within it to draw the best high school players around the country away from other Power 5 conferences and into the Big 12.