The Big 12 appeared to have a down year on the field in 2017. The number of NFL combine invitees produced compared to other Power 5 conferences confirms that.
The raw numbers mislead a bit. Other major conferences have 12 or 14 teams. Still, the per school numbers don’t flatter the Big 12 much more. The conference produced just 1.8 Combine invitees per school, less than half the total (3.64 per school) from the fourth place Big Ten.
Pac 12: 3.92
These numbers do fluctuate year-to-year. For an inexact comparison, here are the players per conference drafted from 2016. First three rounds in parentheses. The Big Ten produced more talent. The ACC produced less.
SEC: 3.64 (1.64)
B10: 3.36 (1.64)
B12: 2.60 (0.90)
Much of the fluctuation has to do with a conference’s schools at the top performing. Looking at the invitees from individual schools, it’s not hard to see why the Big 12 produced so little NFL talent. Texas produced just one combine-worthy player.
That one school functioning or not functioning can make a world of difference. Ohio State had 12 players drafted in 2016’s “historic draft class.” Five Buckeyes were in the Top 20. All were chosen in the first four rounds. That has made the Big Ten look quite good.
The school sent 14 players to the 2016 NFL Draft Combine. Compare that to Texas.
D’Onta Foreman was the only invitee and may be the only Texas player drafted in 2017. The Longhorns produced just one player for the 2016 NFL Draft. Texas was skunked completely in 2014. Their last Top 30 pick was in 2013.
Texas’ malaise producing NFL talent is masking a milder one at the Big 12’s other great power Oklahoma. The Sooners have only produced one first round pick since 2011. The story of the Big 12 struggling is what’s happening at the top. What’s happening at the top is not developing elite talent.