The Big 12 Conference is known for showcasing some prolific offenses on the football field.
Two Big 12 quarterbacks, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, finished first and second in the nation in passing yards during the 2017 season. Four Big 12 quarterbacks finished in the top 25 of that statistical category.
The dark side of that trend, of course, is an inevitable criticism of the conference for not playing real defense. Some pundits, such as FOX Sports’ Jason McIntyre, have compared the Big 12 to “arena league football” for its perceived lack of defense.
And McIntyre isn’t the only one who has been critical of the Big 12 for that very reason within the last week. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock took his turn on Friday.
Mayock, during a conference call, gave the Big 12 its fair share of credit for producing an entertaining style of football that provides for creativity on offense and “great television.” He didn’t have that same sentiment when it came to the defenses across the league, which he said often makes the conference “really hard to watch” in terms of evaluating players.
Mike Mayock gives critique of the Big 12
Mike Mayock just skewered the entire Big 12 (except for the #Longhorns) for being "really hard to watch" and insinuating that NFL decision-makers believe it doesn't develop future NFL players as well as the other conferences. pic.twitter.com/OdshdyQH7Y
— Alex Dunlap (@AlexDunlapNFL) April 20, 2018
Mayock said in his critique that if anything, defensive players will often receive an worse evaluation than they deserve when receivers continually “run down the field unimpeded by safeties that are playing quarter coverage and are beat by five yards.”
Mayock was quick to note that Oklahoma State scored 38 points in the first half against Oklahoma, whose defense was far from being 100 percent sound in 2017, while only scoring 10 points in regulation vs. Texas several weeks prior. The Longhorns boasted one of the more formidable defenses in the Big 12 last season — highlighted by safety DeShon Elliot and safety Malik Jefferson, among others.
Alas, to say that the Big 12 is absolutely void of any respectable defense would be far from the truth. TCU finished the 2017 season ranked No. 19 in total defense, and ended the regular season on a seven game streak of not allowing a second-half touchdown. But until the Horned Frogs’ ranking in that department is the norm rather than the exception within the Big 12, it’s unlikely that the critics will ever go away entirely.
The NFL Draft will take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas from April 26-28. It will become clear then as to just how high or low NFL GMs are on the Big 12 players in the 2018 draft class.