The class of Baylor Bears that finished their time in Waco in 2013 will be remember for setting a standard never before seen at the Baptist University on the banks of the Brazos River. It is the first class in Baylor history to go to 4-straight bowl games, culminating in the Bears first Big 12 championship and BCS bowl appearance.
The next step for a few of these players is the professional ranks. With the NFL draft kicking off this Thursday night in New York, which Bears could hear their name called over the airwaves? Below are the six players that participated in the 2014 NFL Combine earlier this spring, and thoughts about where and to whom they could be drafted.
Strong Safety - 6'0", 212 pounds
A true Strong Safety, Dixon lacks the coverage skills to be a higher rated safety. But for a team looking for an intimidator in the backfield, there aren't many better in the draft. Dixon is a hitter, and a fearless one at that. With good straight-line speed, he can get to the ball in a hurry. He won't make many great plays on the ball, but watch out if you catch it around him. He is a sure tackler and takes good angles. Much better going toward the line of scrimmage, and has the potential to be excellent in run support.
Dixon does struggle when asked to turn and run with a receiver down the field, and might take some unnecessary penalties due to his aggression. His profile as a pure strong safety limits his value, as more and more NFL teams are interchanging their two back-end guys asking them to be able to play both roles.
Where could he go – Third Round
The Bengals, Eagles and 49ers all run a defense with a specific safety role that calls for an intimidator in the back-end. Jacksonville could also be an interesting landing spot, though they might spend earlier picks on improving their offense.
Cornerback – 5'11", 194 pounds
Goodson is a newcomer to football, having only played 19 games of college football in three seasons. Both of his first two years were ended after four games due to injury, however, he broke out last year, playing in 11 games and earning Honorable Mention All-Big 12. Goodson has excellent size for the cornerback position, and is a good athlete. He has good speed to go along with his larger size (4.52 forty yard dash at combine), and is a riser on most draft boards.
Played his first two years of college at Gonzaga as a point guard for the basketball team, and thus has good agility and displays tremendous athleticism. He is still learning how to be a corner, and needs coaching up in terms of press coverage and overall technique. He is also a bit older, as he is going to be 25 years old as a rookie.
Where could he go – Fourth round
With the success of the Seattle Seahawks, expect taller corner backs to be taken a bit higher than they normally would. Goodson has been rising on draft boards since a solid combine and pro-day showed his athleticism. The Atlanta Falcons are in desperate need for cornerback help and pick early in the 4th round. Also keep an eye out on the Jets and Dophins later in the 4th round.
Tight End – 6'6", 256 pounds
Prototypical size for the tight end position in the NFL, Najvar is a solid blocker with decent enough hands to not be pigeon-holed as a blocking tight end. He lined up all over the field for the Bears, in the backfield, inline and split out wide, showing off a versatile game.
However, he has average speed at best, and does look a little stiff in his movements. Not the greatest athlete, and had very little production at the college level. Also does not display enough strength to block well enough at the NFL level, at least at this point of his development. Good at a bunch of things, but not great or elite at any one thing.
Where could he go – 7th Round / Undrafted
Najvar will go near the end of the 7th round, or even better, fall to undrafted so that he can choose a good fit for his skills. However, the Cowboys, Panthers, Redskins and Chargers could be in the market for tight end depth at the end of the draft.
Wide Receiver – 5'10", 163 pounds
One of the finest athletes in the draft, Reese explodes off of the line of scrimmage and has tremendous leaping ability. He had the best vertical jump (41 inches), broad jump (132 inches) and 3-cone drill (6.63 seconds) at the combine from wide receivers. Reese is an incredibly quick and explosive runner, who runs faster in pads than his 40-time indicates (just 4.46 seconds). He struggled with drops his first few years at Baylor, but is a natural pass catcher who catches the ball very easily now.
Reese is a pure vertical threat with excellent big-play ability (19.4 yards per catch over last three season). However, he desperately needs to gain weight, and at only 163 pound is rail thin. He has below average hand size (8 5/8 inches) and is easily outmuscled if jammed at the line or in a crowd.
A slot receiver in size, but a deep threat in game, Reese is a developmental project, one that will have to gain weight or strength to survive the rigorous NFL game. He will need to work in the slot to get a release, but can he learn to work over the middle against NFL defenses?
Where could he go – 6th / 7th Round
There are several teams that could use the pure speed of Reese late in the draft. Jacksonville is devoid of offensive weapons, and could use a player with an elite skill. The Carolina Panthers also could be looking to add a late round wide receiver, as their receiving corps is rather weak right now. And finally, two AFC West teams who value speed late are San Diego and Oakland.
Guard – 6'5", 329 pounds
Outstanding size, girth and overall strength for an interior lineman, Richardson was one of the most productive guards in college football the past 2 years. He started off as a tackle for the Bears, but shifted inside to take advantage of his raw strength. The two-time All-American, Richardson profiles as a very good run-blocker, though he played in an up-tempo offense with zone blocking tendencies. Fits best in a power-blocking scheme, and could even slide out to right tackle if he can shed some of his bad weight and improve his lateral quickness.
He has average arm-length for an offensive lineman, and doesn't have the best body in the world. Richardson also can get in trouble with his feet, and his waist bend, which allows quicker lineman to beat him.
Where could he go – Fourth / Fifth Round
The Denver Broncos could be looking at their third Baylor offensive lineman in the draft in the past few years, as they need a guard. Kansas City or New England could also be a fit in the fourth round, as well as the San Francisco 49ers, who run the type of offense that Richardson could thrive in.
Running Back – 5'9", 201 pounds
One of the niftiest running backs in the draft this year, Seastrunk displays tremendously quick feet and very good acceleration. He is deceptively fast, and improved greatly at finishing through contact during his one year as the primary ball-carrier. Runs with a low pad level and has very good lower body strength. Had the best vertical jump (41.5 inches) and broad jump (134.0 inches) at the combine, which show his explosive athleticism.
A zone-runner at the college level, there are questions about what kind of running game he can be successful in. He will take chances behind the line of scrimmage, and could be too much of a vertical runner, something that has not translated very well to the NFL game unless you have elite speed. One of the 5-best running backs in the draft this year, but RB's as a hole are devalued more than at any time.
Where could he go - Fourth round
Tennessee is a logical fit, as they waived Chris Johnson. Seastrunk could slide into a change of pace roll, and be that speed back. The New York Giants could also make sense, with David Wilson a question mark due to his neck injury last year.