Big 12: Bryant Westbrook
This year, the Big 12 could have as many as five first-round picks, and five players from the league are in New York for the draft.
So, let's take a look back. Since the first NFL draft of the Big 12 era, who has the most first-rounders?
- 2010: S Earl Thomas, 14th overall, Seattle Seahawks
- 2009: DE Brian Orakpo, 13th overall, Washington Redskins
- 2007: S Michael Griffin, 19th overall, Tennessee Titans
- 2007: CB Aaron Ross, 20th overall, New York Giants
- 2006: QB Vince Young, third overall, Tennessee Titans
- 2006: CB Michael Huff, seventh overall, Oakland Raiders
- 2005: RB Cedric Benson, fourth overall, Chicago Bears
- 2005: LB Derrick Johnson, 15th overall, Kansas City Chiefs
- 2004: WR Roy Williams, seventh overall, Detroit Lions
- 2004: DT Marcus Tubbs, 23rd overall, Seattle Seahawks
- 2002: OL Mike Williams, fourth overall, Buffalo Bills
- 2002: CB Quentin Jammer, fifth overall, San Diego Chargers
- 2001: OL Leonard Davis, second overall, Arizona Cardinals
- 2001: DT Casey Hampton, 19th overall, Pittsburgh Steelers
- 1999: RB Ricky Williams, fifth overall, New Orleans Saints
- 1997: CB Bryant Westbrook, fifth overall, Detroit Lions
- 2010: QB Sam Bradford, first overall, St. Louis Rams
- 2010: DT Gerald McCoy, third overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 2010: OT Trent Williams, fourth overall, Washington Redskins
- 2010: TE Jermaine Gresham, 21st overall, Cincinnati Bengals
- 2007: RB Adrian Peterson, seventh overall, Minnesota Vikings
- 2006: OL Davin Joseph, 23rd overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 2005: OL Jammal Brown, 13th overall, New Orleans Saints
- 2005: WR Mark Clayton, 22nd overall, Baltimore Ravens
- 2004: DT Tommie Harris, 14th overall, Chicago Bears
- 2003: CB Andre Woolfolk, 28th overall, Tennessee Titans
- 2002: S Roy Williams, eighth overall, Dallas Cowboys
- 2001: Stockar McDougle, 20th overall, Detroit Lions
- 2010: OL Russell Okung, sixth overall, Seattle Seahawks
- 2010: WR Dez Bryant, 24th overall, Dallas Cowboys
- 2009: TE Brandon Pettigrew, 20th overall, Detroit Lions
- 2004: WR Rashaun Woods, 31st overall, San Francisco 49ers
- 2003: DE Kevin Williams, ninth overall, Minnesota Vikings
- 1998: CB R.W. McQuarters, 28th overall, San Francisco 49ers
- 2010: LB Sean Weatherspoon, 19th overall, Atlanta Falcons
- 2009: WR Jeremy Maclin, 19th overall, Philadelphia Eagles
- 2009: DT Ziggy Hood, 32nd overall, Pittsburgh Steelers
- 2001: DE Justin Smith, fourth overall, Cincinnati Bengals
- 2009: QB Josh Freeman, 17th overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 2003: CB Terence Newman, fifth overall, Dallas Cowboys
- 1997: DB Chris Canty, 29th overall, New England Patriots
- 2003: DT Ty Warren, 13th overall, New England Patriots
- 2003: DB Sammy Davis, 30th overall, San Diego Chargers
- 2009: WR Michael Crabtree, 10th overall, San Francisco 49ers
- 2008: CB Aqib Talib, 20th overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 2009: OL Jason Smith, 2nd overall, St. Louis Rams
A few thoughts and observations:
- I doubt many would be surprised that this list is also a reasonably accurate reflection of overall success since the Big 12's inception in 1996. Obviously, Texas and Oklahoma have dominated. Since 2000, Texas has the nation's fourth-most first-rounders. Oklahoma is No. 6. Their success has paralleled that, along with recruiting rankings.
- In that same breath, it's impossible to look at this list and not once again be impressed with what Mike Leach did. He obviously has the reputation as an overachiever, but looking big picture, he was able to do it with one first-round pick. Nobody beat Texas and Oklahoma more and Leach helped put together what is still the Big 12's longest bowl streak.
- Texas' consistency sticks out, too. Since just 2001, Texas has had two first-rounders in six different seasons. If you've got two first-rounders on your team, you're probably going to be pretty good. The Longhorns, if you haven't noticed, have been. Those two first-rounders in six seasons are more or as many as half the league has in the history of the Big 12. What else you should note? Texas is unlikely to have a first rounder this year, and after Aaron Williams is drafted, Sam Acho probably will be the next to go, which won't be until the third or fourth round.
- Oklahoma State and Missouri's rise over the past three seasons has paid off in the NFL draft. Missouri had three first-rounders in the last two seasons and figures to add two more this year after having just one in the 12-year history of the league before 2009. That's quite a streak, and even more proof of what Gary Pinkel has built at Missouri. One more piece of evidence? Despite losing those two first-rounders, Missouri should be back in the preseason polls next year after losing two of its top players. That's definitely something new in Columbia. The Cowboys figure to add more soon with Justin Blackmon at least. As long as Pinkel and Gundy are at the helm for their respective programs, expect them to continue to rise.
- Don't be surprised by Texas A&M's swoon following R.C. Slocum's departure. From 1990-1998, the Aggies won nine games every season but one. From 1990-96, the Aggies had eight first-round picks. Since 1998? Two seasons with at least nine wins and just two first-round picks.
- More evidence you can't underestimate the importance of having first-round picks? None for Baylor in the history of the Big 12 before Art Briles. In just three years, Briles may have three if the Bears add two more this year with Phil Taylor and Danny Watkins. Taylor and Watkins both came from unlikely sources. Taylor was a Penn State transfer and Watkins a juco transfer that formerly worked as a fireman in Canada.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Spring practice has sparked an outpouring of letters and e-mails about the events taking place across the Big 12. Here are some of the more notable missives I received this week.
Jonny from Chicago writes: Hey, Tim. Are any Big 12 schools known for the type of NFL positions prospects they have produced over the years. For instance, Penn State is commonly referred to as "Linebacker U" and USC has the nickname of "Tailback U". Any in the Big 12 you can think of?
Tim Griffin: Good question. There aren't any as notable as the ones you mentioned, but here are a few of the most notable trends I could find when I thought about the Big 12 and the NFL draft.
Colorado: Wide receivers. The Buffaloes have had four first-round selections since 1991, although none since 1997. Included in the list are Rae Carruth, Charles Johnson, Michael Westbrook and Mike Pritchard.
Texas: Defensive backs. This is the conference's most consistent factory at any position. The Longhorns have six first-round selections at the position since 1991 -- Stanley Richard, Bryant Westbrook, Quentin Jammer, Michael Huff, Michael Griffin and Aaron Ross. It's almost like a machine turning out No. 1 picks under defensive backs coach Duane Akina.
Nebraska: Defensive ends. The Cornhuskers have had six defensive ends picked in the first two rounds of the NFL draft since 1997. That's included key producers like Grant Wistrom, Adam Carriker, Mike Rucker, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Chris Kelsay.
Oklahoma: It's more quantity for the Sooners than top-round quality, with nine defensive backs picked since Bob Stoops took over. That list has included only two first-round selections -- Roy Williams and Andre Woolfolk.
Steve from Overland Park, Kan., writes: Tim, if you were starting an NFL team and you could have your choice of any Big 12 player who is on a college roster this spring, who would you pick.
Tim Griffin: Given the choice, I think Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford would look awfully good on my team. I like his size and arm a little better than Colt McCoy, and I also think Bradford will hold up better in the NFL. Among others I would strongly consider include Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant, Texas defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle and Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor.
G from Gering, Neb., writes: Will you be attending any of Nebraska's spring practices this year? And what are you specifically looking for?
Tim Griffin: G, I'm headed up there to watch on Saturday morning if I don't get snowed out along the way. I know most coaches have vanilla workouts when the media is around. But I'll be curious if Zac Lee's arm is really as good as I've heard. I'm also going to be looking at Nebraska's receivers as they replace the sizable hole created by the departure of Nate Swift and Todd Peterson. And I'll be curious to see what kind of attitude the Cornhuskers have on defense. They need to be more aggressive in terms of creating turnovers. And if I know Bo Pelini, he's probably coaching that into them from their first spring practice.
Jason from Fort Collins, Colo., writes: Tim: In an offensive conference like the Big 12, who do you see as having the top defenses for this upcoming season?
Tim Griffin: I would expect the conference's top two defenses to be Oklahoma and Texas, who I also think will have the conference's two best teams.
I like Oklahoma's just a little bit more because of the return of players like McCoy, Jeremy Beal, Travis Lewis and Dominique Franks. If the Sooners can find a couple of safeties, they'll be one of the best in the country.
And linebackers Austin Box and Ryan Reynolds and defensive end Auston English could be among the best players in the conference at their best position if they can come back from injuries. Their return will only boost the production of Brent Venables' unit.
I also like Texas if they can find some help for Kindle along the defensive front. I expect some of the younger players in the secondary to challenge existing starters for playing time.
And I think Nebraska can be very good as the Cornhuskers work for the second season under Pelini. They need for Barry Turner to come back healthy at defensive end. And it will be interesting to see if Jared Crick is as good as I'm hearing at defensive tackle next to Ndamukong Suh.
Not coincedentially, those three teams should be among the best in the Big 12 this year. I think the teams with the best defenses will have a huge advantage in a conference like the Big 12 where the offenses will be so potent.
N. Hodgin from Alpharetta, Ga., writes: Tim, Where did Patrick Witt transfer to?
Tim Griffin: It still is undetermined, although I hear he's considering UCLA, Stanford, Duke and Yale.
Obviously, the question for him will be whether he wants to play immediately, which he could do if he went to an FCS school. Recent Big 12 transfers like Rhett Bomar and Bobby Reid were able to do that.
If Witt wants to play at another FBS school, he'll have to sit out a year.
His family has hinted to several Nebraska newspapers that he might move and give up his football career.
But I frankly don't see that happening. I would look for him to end up at another FBS school, getting a year to learn the offense before playing again 2010.
Zeyad from Tulsa writes: Oklahoma has a good chance at going undefeated this year as long as they get by Texas. But with the Sooners' soft schedule and their recent letdowns in big games do you think there's a chance they will get voted out of the national championship game if they finish undefeated? Especially if it would end up being a rematch of last season?
Tim Griffin: Zeyad, I think that any team that goes undefeated in the Big 12 is going to have a great shot at playing for the national championship. And I would also argue about Oklahoma having a soft schedule. The Sooners will be playing bowl teams like BYU and Tulsa and also have a trip to Miami among their nonconference games. That's in addition to playing all of the schools in the Big 12 South along with road games at projected Big 12 North title contenders Kansas and Nebraska and a potential Big 12 championship game. The Sooners won't have to apologize for that schedule.
Thanks again for all of the e-mails and letters and please keep them coming. We'll check back again next week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Colorado and Colorado State meet in a rare Sunday night battle in Denver. To celebrate, here are some Way Backs from previous Big 12 history for today.
Aug. 31, 1995 -- No. 2 Nebraska 64, Oklahoma State 21 (Stillwater, Okla.): The Cornhuskers ruined the debut of Bob Simmons as Oklahoma State's coach by erupting for 671 yards of total offense and a 50-7 lead early in the third quarter before coach Tom Osborne cleared his bench. Lawrence Phillips rushed for 153 yards and three TDs and Tommie Frazier passed for two TDs and rushed for another to key Nebraska's attack.
Aug. 31, 1996 -- No. 21 Kansas State 21, Texas Tech 14 (Manhattan, Kan.): Mario Smith turned in two huge plays to lead the Wildcats to the victory in the inaugural Big 12 game. Smith recovered a fumbled snap for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter and delivered a withering hit on WR Donnie Hart on a fourth-down pass that sealed the triumph.
Aug. 31, 1996 -- No. 8 Texas 40, Missouri 10 (Austin, Texas): In a game delayed by lightning for 45 minutes in the third quarter, the Longhorns put the game away with Bryant Westbrook's 35-yard blocked punt return for a TD and Ricky Williams' second TD run. Williams rushed for 112 yards and QB James Brown passed for two TDs.
Aug 31, 1998 -- No. 2 Florida State 23, No. 14 Texas A&M 14 (East Rutherford, N.J.): After the Aggies had claimed a 14-10 halftime lead on Jay Brooks' 21-yard TD fumble return, Chris Weinke led the Seminoles' comeback in his first collegiate start. His 9-yard TD pass to Peter Warrick late in the third quarter gave FSU the lead for good.
Aug. 31, 2002 -- Louisiana Tech 39, Oklahoma State 36 (Shreveport, La.): Luke McCown rifled a 23-yard TD pass to Erick Franklin with a minute remaining, leading the Bulldogs to a wild comeback. Oklahoma State lead 36-18 with 2:18 left in the third quarter before McCown's late charge that included two TD passes and another TD run. McCown finished the game with 448 passing yards and three TD strikes.