The Big 12 experienced a renaissance of sorts last season, sending eight teams to bowl games, including Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff.
The conference had a lagging national perception because of its struggles in previous seasons. Those impressions still dog the conference and its alumni as they move on to play at the next level.
The NFL Network has counted down the top 100 players in the league. The vote is a consensus of active players in the league.
The negative perception of the conference compared to other major leagues appears to be a reflection of Big 12 players as they continue their professional careers. The Big 12 ranks last among Power 5 conferences, with six players on the NFL 100 list.
The Southeastern Conference leads all conferences with 23 players. The Big Ten ranks second at 21. The ACC follows with 16 and the Pac-12 has 14.
Among Group of 5 conferences, the Mid-American produced 5 players on the list. Others in order include: Mountain West (4), American Athletic Conference (4), independents (2) and Conference USA (1). Four players come from outside the FBS.
Here’s a list of players from Big 12 schools on the NFL’s Top 100:
- Seattle and former Texas S Earl Thomas, 42nd
- Denver and former Kansas S Aqib Talib, 53rd
- Washington and former Oklahoma T Trent Williams, 57th
- Oakland and former West Virginia DE Bruce Irvin, 85th
- Denver and former Kansas S Chris Harris Jr., 86th
- Philadelphia and former Oklahoma T Lane Johnson, 95th
The Big 12 could have stronger numbers if players from schools who were earlier in the conference were included.
Former Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (No. 61) and former Texas A&M defensive end Von Miller (No. 9) both played their entire college careers in the Big 12. No. 40 Tyreek Hill spent part of his career at Oklahoma State before transferring to Western Alabama.
However, Irvin never played in the Big 12.
The Big 12’s numbers are down significantly from last season when 11 players made the list. It still ranked last among Power 5 conferences, though.
But seven of those players were not ranked this season. Their demise is because of injuries, free agency and struggling 2017 seasons.
Comparison of 2018 to 2017 rankings:
- Seattle S Earl Thomas (Texas) — 42nd in 2018, 30th in 2017
- Denver CB Aqib Talib (Kansas) — 53rd in 2018, 37th in 2017
- Washington T Trent Williams (Oklahoma) — 57th in 2018, 47th in 2017
- Denver CB Chris Harris Jr. (Kansas) — 86th in 2018, 63rd in 2017
- Free agent RB DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma) — Unranked in 2018, 33rd in 2017
- Oakland WR Jordy Nelson (Kansas State) — Unranked in 2018, 48th in 2017
- Tampa Bay DT Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma) — Unranked in 2018, 52nd in 2017
- Free agent WR Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State) — Unranked in 2018, 60th in 2017
- Tennessee LB Brian Orakpo (Texas) — Unranked in 2018, 78th in 2017
- Oakland G Kelechi Osemele (Iowa State) — Unranked in 2018, 95th in 2017
- Free agent RB Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma) — Unranked in 2018, 98th in 2017
Both Kansas and Oklahoma made the list of schools with at least two players on the list.
Top 100 players on NFL Network list, by school:
- Ohio State – 8
- Alabama, Georgia, LSU – 5
- California, Florida State, Stanford – 4
- Pittsburgh, USC – 3
- Boston College, Central Michigan, Clemson, Fresno State, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Miami (Fla.), Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wisconsin – 2.
- Arizona, Auburn, Boise State, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Colorado, East Carolina, Eastern Illinois, Houston, Miami (Ohio), Middle Tennessee, Minnesota State, Nebraska, N.C. State, North Dakota State, Penn State, Purdue, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Toledo, UCF, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Washington, Western Alabama, West Virginia – 1.
The Big 12 needs improvement in future years. Maybe the development of 2018 draftees such as Baker Mayfield, Connor Williams, James Washington and Mason Rudolph will help crash that ceiling for the conference.