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John E. Hoover: NFL Draft, recruiting stars reveal what has long ailed the Big 12: a lack of elite talent

John E. Hoover: NFL Draft, recruiting stars reveal what has long ailed the Big 12: a lack of elite talent

Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford was the first of four Big 12 Conference players taken with the first four picks in the 2010 draft — and nine first-rounders overall from the conference. That was the last time the Big 12 didn’t finish last among Power 5 leagues in number of NFL Draft picks produced. This year’s total of 14, however, was an all-time low.

Did we not see this coming?

The Big 12 Conference produced 14 NFL Draft picks over the weekend, and the national narrative over the league’s low number sounds like it could be the lead story on the nightly news.

The Big 12 lagged way behind the likes of the Southeastern Conference (53 players drafted), the Atlantic Coast Conference (42), the Pac-12 (36) and the Big Ten (35).

Again, the Big 12 had 14 players drafted.

That’s fewer than were selected out of the American Athletic Conference (15).

But while this makes for good fodder for opinion columns and talk radio within the Big 12 footprint, it’s hardly news.

Just take a look at the Rivals.com prospect rankings from the last four classes.

According to Rivals’ rankings, a grand total of four 5-star prospects have signed with Big 12 schools from the last four recruiting classes.

Four: Running back Joe Mixon with Oklahoma in 2014, linebacker Malik Jefferson with Texas in 2015, and linebacker Eric Fowler with Texas and Caleb Kelly in 2016.

There are zero Rivals 5-star recruits coming into Big 12 schools in 2017, and so far there are zero committed to the Big 12 in 2018.

The SEC corralled 11 Rivals 5-star recruits in the 2017 class alone. The Big Ten got 10, the ACC seven and the Pac-12 five.

The Big 12, again, got four in a four-year span.

(Other recruiting services, like Scout.com, 247Sports and ESPN, compile their own 5-star lists and they all look a little different. So for the sake of this topic, we’ll stick with Rivals, the longest-running of the bunch. Let’s compare apples to apples, and let’s keep them all in one bushel.)

Although this year’s numbers are an alarming and all-time low, it’s not a one-year anomaly. And really, it’s not even a trend anymore. This has been a solid phenomenon for years. Just examine the draft results:

  • In the 2012 draft, after conference realignment had gutted the Big 12 of Colorado and Nebraska in 2011, the Big 12 produced 25 players in the draft. The SEC that year had 47 players selected, the Big Ten 41, the ACC 31 and the Pac-12 had 28.
  • In the 2013 draft, after Missouri and Texas A&M departed for the SEC in 2012, just 22 players from the 10-team Big 12 were selected. Compare that to 64 from the 14-team SEC, 36 from the ACC, 28 from the Pac-12 and 22 from the Big Ten — tied for last with the Big 12.
  • In 2014, the Big 12 had only 18 players drafted, while the SEC had 49, the ACC 43, the Pac-12 34, and the Big Ten 30.
  • In 2015, the Big 12 had just 26 players drafted, while the SEC that year had 53, the ACC 47, the Pac-12 39 and the Big Ten 35.
  • Last year, 51 SEC players were drafted while the Big Ten had 47 and the Pac-12 had 32. The ACC was tied for last with the Big 12 at 26.

So the six year totals of NFL Draft picks since 2012 bear out the Big 12’s impending demise:

The SEC, of course, leads the way with 360 players drafted. The ACC is second with 274 total, the Big Ten third with 257 and the Pac-12 fourth with 197.

The Big 12, which finished last or tied for last every year since conference realignment began, sits dead last, by a lot, at 131 players drafted since the 2012 draft, an average of 2.11 per school.

Even the Pac-12’s pedestrian per-school average of 2.74 during that time dwarfs the Big 12’s. The SEC during that stretch averaged 3.87 draft picks per school.

The last time the Big 12 didn’t finish last among Power 5 conferences in number of draft picks was the 2010 draft, when Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Trent Williams were the top four picks. That year, the Big 12 produced nine first-rounders and 30 total draft picks.

The SEC led the way in 2010 with 49 draftees, the Big Ten had 34, ACC had 31, the Big 12 had 30 and the Pac-10 brought up the rear at 29.

Look at the overall excellence among Big 12 talent that year, and look at the parity behind the SEC.

How times have changed.

The Big 12 is clearly more than just psychologically disadvantaged, as OU president David Boren once said.

It’s physically disadvantaged, too. Just ask any NFL scout.

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Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.

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Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he's now co-host of "Further Review" on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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