NFL Draft News & Analysis

Top 25 Big 12 2023 NFL Draft prospects: Kansas State's Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Baylor's Siaki Ika headline the group

Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah (91) rushes the passer against TCU Horned Frogs offensive tackle Obinna Eze (55) during the third quarter at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Anudike-Uzomah had six sacks in the game. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

It may be somewhat shocking to know that the Big 12 has been shut of the first round of the NFL draft in each of the past two years. If I were a betting man, I’d put a LOT of money on that changing in 2023.

As things stand, the Big 12 is tied for the second-most top-25 prospects on the PFF draft board of any conference (four). And that may not be all by the season’s end. Here are the top Big 12 players I’ll be watching closely this fall.

Check out even more in-depth prospect coverage in PFF's 2022 College Football Preview Magazine.

1. EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State (Junior)

Burst and bend are traits 1a and 1b when it comes to importance at the edge position. Anudike-Uzomah has both for days. He can challenge the upfield shoulder of any tackle in America and seamlessly dip underneath outstretched hands to win the edge. He’s the kind of rusher that’s always going to convert his pressures into more sacks and more forced fumbles than others.

Unsurprisingly, he totaled 13 sacks (sixth-most in FBS) and six forced fumbles a season ago (most in FBS). It’s scary to think where his ceiling could push to given how advanced he was as a sophomore last year.

2. DI Siaki Ika, Baylor (RS Junior)

Just ask the Ole Miss offensive line how tough it is to block Ika. The 350-pounder racked up a ridiculous eight pressures in Baylor’s Sugar Bowl win over the Rebels last season. Not only can he play through opponents at his size, but also around them.

In his first season with the Bears after transferring from LSU, Ika racked up 33 total pressures and earned an 85.7 pass-rushing grade. He’s precisely the kind of nose tackle every NFL defense is looking for to create havoc. Nose tackles don’t often go in the first round, but Ika has a chance.

3. WR Quentin Johnston, TCU (Junior)

The stat sheet doesn’t come anywhere close to telling the whole story about Johnston’s skill set. He set career highs last year with 33 catches and 604 yards, which sounds fairly run-of-the-mill by prospect standards. Flip on the tape, and you’ll be amazed at what the 6-foot-4, 212-pound receiver is capable of physically. Johnston explodes off the line of scrimmage for a taller receiver and can outstride most cornerbacks at top speed. That has helped him average 19.8 yards per reception for his career.

The TCU receiver is strong as an ox for his size and refuses to go down after the catch. He’s broken 26 tackles on 55 receptions. If he maintains that broken tackle rate, it will be the highest ever for a prospect in the PFF era. Johnston just needs a quarterback who can get him the ball and let him shine. 

4. RB Bijan Robinson, Texas (Junior)

If NFL teams are still willing to draft running backs in the first round, Bijan Robinson will be taken there. That’s the caliber of running back prospect we are talking about. He checks in at 24th on the PFF draft board, which is the highest we’ve put a running back since Saquon Barkley in 2018. That's because Robinson is capable of being so much more than just a ball carrier. He’s a space player who is as good as it gets with the ball in his hands. On 221 touches last season, he broke 87 tackles. He's a special dude. 

5. IOL Cooper Beebe, Kansas State (RS Junior)

Beebe looks primed to follow in the footsteps of Cody Whitehair and Dalton Risner as the next Kansas State tackle turned quality starter on the interior. After flipping from the right side to the left in 2021, Beebe broke out with an 85.4 overall grade. On 367 pass-blocking snaps, he allowed only 10 pressures — including no sacks. His real work comes in the run game, though, where the 6-foot-4, 322-pounder can generate some serious push up front. 

6. OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma (Junior)

Harrison is the kind of easy-mover at 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds who gets NFL evaluators excited when it comes to pro potential. He is just not to the level of physicality those evaluators would want. His middling 74.4 run-blocking grade last year is indicative of that. While that’s completely fine for a true sophomore, Harrison has to fix it before he declares. That being said, he has a potential three years to do so. Odds are he will, and when that happens, he could be a plus pass protector at the next level.

7. CB Noah Daniels, TCU (Sixth-Year Senior)

Daniels' tape is first-round caliber. His injury history is not. He’s had a Jason Verrett-esque college career in that he has been healthy for only 510 snaps across five seasons. However, he's allowed only 18 catches 38 targets for 293 yards with nine pass breakups in that span. He’s one freaky man cornerback, but not many NFL teams will be willing to draft him early with his injury history.

8. RB Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State (Junior)

Saying someone is fun to watch has no correlation to how good they’ll be in the NFL, but my word is that Deuce Vaughn is fun to watch. The fact that a 5-foot-6, 176-pound man is even capable of playing college football is already an anomaly. Vaughn being one of the best running backs in the country just makes it all the more ridiculous.

As a sophomore last season, he ran for 1,409 yards on 234 carries with 18 scores and 50 broken tackles. Those broken tackle numbers don’t even accurately reflect how difficult he is to bring down because he’d make defenders miss so badly in space we couldn’t even call them tackle attempts. I don’t usually pound the table for undersized running backs in the NFL, but Vaughn is the exception.

9. CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (RS Junior)

Sticking with exceptions to rules, TVT is not a prototype cornerback by any means. At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, he’s not ticking any size or length boxes. He is, however, shutting down the rest of the Big 12. Over the past two seasons, TVT has allowed only 40 catches on 96 targets for 581 yards with two picks and 18 pass breakups. And that’s all come from an outside alignment. You won’t find a cornerback with better change-of-direction ability in the class.

10. EDGE Will McDonald, Iowa State (RS Senior)

McDonald was a semi-surprising returner after a breakout campaign in 2021 that saw him rack up 45 pressures and 13 sacks. He did it all in an Iowa State defense that isn’t always the most conducive to pass-rushing success, too. He’s got an ideal edge frame, although he could stand to add some muscle to improve his play versus the run, a facet in which he earned a 47.3 grade last season.

11. LB DeMarvion Overshown, Texas (RS Senior)

Overshown is a former safety with that kind of athleticism. At 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds, he’s a unique body type for the linebacker position. He’ll be drafted on that alone, but if he wants to be taken with an early pick, he has to improve as a tackler. He’s missed 22.5% of his career tackle attempts and been over 20% for all three seasons he’s played.

12. EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech (RS Senior)

If you are looking for a breakout defensive candidate in the Big 12, Wilson is a solid pick. The Texas Tech defensive end is a handful for opposing tackles at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds. The flashes of greatness were sprinkled in throughout his tape last season — most notably against Kansas State when he racked up eight pressures on 27 pass-rushing snaps. The consistency wasn’t there, though, as he finished with only a 72.7 grade on the season.

13. DI Jalen Redmond, Oklahoma (RS Senior)

Redmond is a twitched-up 6-foot-3, 298-pound defensive tackle. He’s got future three-technique written all over him with the way he gets off the line of scrimmage. As it stands, he still relies too much on his athletic advantage as a penetrator and didn’t have enough answers on tape to be a dominant force. If that changes in 2022, he’ll skyrocket up this list. 

14. OT Connor Galvin, Baylor (RS Senior)

Galvin is a long and lean offensive tackle who was one of the top pass protectors in college football last season. On 410 pass-blocking snaps, he allowed a grand total of three pressures. That is not a typo. While some of that was aided by Baylor’s offense, Galvin still held his own against top competition.

15. CB Charles Woods, West Virginia (RS Senior)

After transferring from Illinois State to West Virginia, Woods had himself a tremendous first season at the FBS level. He wasn’t even a starter at the beginning of the season, but once he took over against TCU midway through the year, he proved that to be foolish. Woods allowed only five catches on 13 targets for 86 yards with two picks and three pass breakups on the year.

16. C Steve Avila, TCU (RS Senior)

Avila is one athletic 334-pounder. In his second season as a starter, he put up an 81.3 overall grade, faring equally well in both run blocking and pass blocking. He has the size for all three interior positions and has even played 113 snaps at right tackle in his career. Avila is an ascending prospect who could push even higher on this list after 2022.

17. EDGE Dylan Horton, TCU (RS Senior)

Horton spent his first two seasons at New Mexico before transferring to TCU and playing with the Horned Frogs for the past two years. He came to the Lobos as a 6-foot-4, 202-pound safety, and now he’s listed as a 268-pound defensive end. And it ain’t fat, either. Horton is seriously twitched-up for a man that size, with many of his wins coming via pure athleticism.

18. TE Jahleel Billingsley, Texas (Senior)

Billingsley was the most difficult player to slot on this list. That’s because the once-promising 230-pound undersized tight end has seemingly made a full position switch after transferring to Texas. He’s down to 219 pounds, which is no longer a tight end in any NFL offense. We’ll have to see how it plays out for him first, but it’s not a very encouraging sign for his draft prospects.

19. WR Jordan Whittington, Texas (RS Junior)

For Whittington, it’s simply about staying on the field. His 600 career receiving yards in three seasons are dreadful by draft prospect standards, but it’s because he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. His 2.27 career yards per route average is very respectable and far more indicative of what he brings to the table. He’s an extremely well-built 6-foot-1, 209 pounds and turns into a running back with the ball in his hands. He’s broken 10 tackles on 49 career catches.

20. WR Marvin Mims, Oklahoma (Junior)

Mims was the Sooners' de facto top receiver last season, but it was a very heavy rotation at the position. The fact that Mims played only 277 passing snaps out of a possible 459 should tell you he isn’t yet at the caliber of previous first-round Oklahoma receivers. Mims is still a home-run hitter from the slot, as he averaged 22.0 yards per catch last season.

21. EDGE Garmon Randolph, Baylor (RS Junior)

I’m probably more excited to watch Randolph’s development as a prospect this season than anyone outside of the top 10 on this list. That’s because Randolph has unique movement skills for a 6-foot-7, 247-pounder. It just looked like the game was moving too fast for him last year, evidenced by his middling 65.0 overall grade. If he can fix that, though, he can be a real difference-maker.

22. CB Woodi Washington, Oklahoma (RS Junior)

Washington is a physical cornerback despite not necessarily looking the part at 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds. He loves to compete at the line of scrimmage and when the ball is in the air. On 75 targets into his coverage the past two seasons, Washington has four picks and 10 pass breakups. He’s looking to have a bounce-back year with new head coach Brent Venables after an undisclosed injury sidelined him for seven games last season. 

23. EDGE Tyler Lacy, Oklahoma State (RS Senior)

Lacy is listed here as an edge defender, but the NFL may very well see the 6-foot-4, 285-pounder and have visions of him rushing from the interior. Some of his best pass-rushing reps last season came from such an alignment. In his third season as a starter, Lacy racked up a career-high 37 pressures and posted a 77.5 overall grade. 

24. RB Eric Gray, Oklahoma (Senior)

Gray spent his first two seasons at Tennessee before transferring to Oklahoma last year. He’s got a compact, NFL build at 5-foot-10, 211 pounds. His best attribute is his acceleration at that size, as his best runs come when slicing through a crease on the outside. Last season, he broke 27 tackles on 78 attempts for the Sooners. 

25. EDGE Reggie Grimes, Oklahoma (Junior)

One of only seven true juniors on this list, Grimes has a good chance to end up much higher by the time he declares for the draft. That’s because he managed only 414 snaps the past two seasons while parked behind Nik Bonitto and Isaiah Thomas in the Sooners' pecking order. Those guys are off to the NFL now, and it’s Grimes’ time to shine.

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