BBD Staff Writer: Joseph Curtis
The Big 12 Conference has been a big producer of elite talent for years. The conference has had at least one player selected in the top five picks every year since 2009, and have accounted for 36 percent of top-five selections (9 of 25) in that five-year span.
The Big 12 has also produced draft depth in addition to elite talent. 22 Big 12 players were selected in the 2013 NFL draft, which tied for fourth with the Big Ten Conference.
Let’s take a look at some of the sleeper prospects of the Big 12 who could help make up that depth in the 2014 NFL draft.
Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
More known for their offense in recent years, the Baylor defense has produced only two draft picks since 2008.
Despite being on a defense that ranked 119th and allowed more than 500 yards per game last season, Ahmad Dixon may have what it takes to be an NFL draft pick.
At 6’ and 205 pounds, Dixon is a bit of a ‘tweener who has seen playing time at both cornerback and safety. He has reportedly run a 4.39-second 40-yard dash according to Baylor’s official athletics website, giving him good speed to go with his frame.
After playing the nickelback/”Bear” position last season, he will be transitioning back to a starting safety role for his senior season, according to Baylor’s post-spring depth chart. The move to safety will be good for Dixon’s draft stock. He struggled in one-on-one coverage situations last season, but played best when in deep zones and the play was in front of him. Playing safety rather than nickelback will put him in less one-on-one situations and allow him to keep the play in front of him.
Despite accumulating 191 tackles during the past two seasons, Dixon’s tackling technique needs to be fixed. He frequently throws his body at the ball carrier rather than wrapping up, which can result in missed tackles.
Currently, Dixon is a likely late-round selection, but with a good transition to safety and some improvements he could find himself taken in the middle rounds.
Cornelius Lucas, OT, Kansas State
A mountain of a man, Cornelius Lucas anchored the blind side of the Wildcats’ offensive line last season.
Calling Lucas a mountain isn’t too much of an exaggeration, as he is listed at 6’9” and 328 pounds with a good, stocky build.
His size is what stands out most about him. In the passing game, he uses his long arms to get his hands inside on the defender.
Unfortunately, due to his lack of lateral agility, his size is his main defense in the pass game. Sometimes, it looks like he just throws his body at the defender. He consistently seems slow to the outside and could easily be beat by a speed rusher or if a rusher changed direction on him.
However, the run game is a different story. Lucas shows good footwork and is strong at the point of attack. He regularly got to the second level and created running lanes. He does need to improve his drive blocking and to consistently finish his blocks.
Lucas seems very raw, so there is a lot of room to grow during his senior season. Still, he likely projects only a right tackle in the NFL as a similar player to Minnesota Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt. He’s likely an early Day 3 pick, but should he improve in pass protection, he could hear his name called on Day 2.
Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma
Despite being one of the top fullbacks in the nation, Trey Millard may be the most underappreciated athlete in college football. Listed at 6’2″ and 259 points with an interesting mix of size and athleticism, Millard can play a variety of roles in the NFL. While mostly utilized as a fullback, he could be an H-back or even a power back at the next level.
Despite his versatility, he only touched the ball 63 times last season. Of those 63 touches, he averaged 6.0 yards per carry and 11.2 yards per reception with four receiving touchdowns.
Millard won’t break many long runs, but he can be an effective goal line or short-yardage runner. He runs with great power, easily runs through arm tackles and always falls forward.
He is also a fantastic receiver out of the backfield. Used mostly as a check-down receiver over the past few seasons, Millard has solid hands for a running back and does a lot of damage after the catch.
As a blocker, he does a good job of getting to the second level and sealing off the lane in the run game. His pass blocking leaves something to be desired as he is slow to pick up blitzers and doesn’t always get solid blocks on them.
Overall, Millard will likely be the first fullback off the board and go somewhere in the middle rounds in May. He should be considered as more than a fullback though, as an H-back or possibly a running back in a Peyton Hillis-type role. Hopefully, he’ll see more touches this season and showcase his running ability this season.
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Tags: Ahmad Dixon, Ashton Dorsey, Baylor, Big 12, Calvin Barnett, Casey Pachall, Cornelius Lucas, Eric Ward, Jace Amaro, Kansas State, Mason Walters, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Prospects to Watch, Sleepers, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, Tracy Moore, Trey Millard