5-Things: Draft Day Thoughts

The 2016 NFL Draft is over, and 6 Baylor Bears heard their names called, including 1 first rounder, and one player who never even played football for the Bears.

1. Six Baylor Bears heard their names called during the 3-day event known as the NFL draft.  Corey Coleman, Xavien Howard, Andrew Billings, Spencer Drango, Jimmy Landes and Rico Gathers.  With several more Bears signing undrafted free agent contracts (Jay Lee, Blake Muir, Jonathan Broxton, Jamal Plamer, Grant Campbell among them), the Bears will have more than 10 former players stepping onto NFL practice fields for the first time.  

The even was led off by Corey Coleman, who was the first wide receiver off the board at the 15th pick via the Cleveland Browns.  Coleman will be joining former Baylor legend Robert Griffin III, as well as fellow draftee Spencer Drango, in Cleveland.  With Josh Gordon in the reinstatement process, the Browns have a distinct Baylor feel to them, especially on offense.  

2. The news was also good for junior cornerback Xavien Howard, who continued to climb up draft boards after a semi-surprising early entree into the draft.  Howard was chosen 38th overall by the Miami Dolphins, who coveted his height and speed at the corner position. Jimmy Landes also rose unexpectedly in the draft, with most (including himself) thinking he was destined to be a free agent.  Landes was chosen by the Lions in the 6th round and is just the 4th long snapper to be drafted in the modern era.  

Two-time All-American Spencer Drango will join Coleman in Cleveland, as the Browns selected him 168th overall in the 5th round.  Drango will probably be looked at as a guard at the next level. 

Rico Gathers also was drafted earlier than most expected, as the Dallas Cowboys used their last pick of the night, a 6th rounder, to select the former All-Big 12 basketball star.  Gathers football journey is just beginning, but it was an important first step. The Cowboys do not have an immediate need at tight end, but you can see the depth chart clearing up over the next year or two.  

3. The news wasn't all good for the Bears though, as junior nose tackle and Co-Big 12 Defensive player of the year, Andrew Billings was one of the big fallers of the draft, finally hearing his name called in the 4th round as the 122nd overall selection. Billings was expected to go late in the first round, but rumors of knee issues and his ability to play a high percentage of snaps for a defense were put into question.  With one of the deeper defensive line classes in the last few years, several marquee defensive tackles tumbled to day two and three.  Billings might have been hit the worst though.  The second guessing of his decision to leave Baylor early have already begun, but there is little sense in looking back.  Billings made the choice he did, and while it can be guessed, it is the right decision. It has to be, for that young man and his family. While the weekend didn't go as planned for Billings, he was drafted into a good defensive organization, and one with a need at defensive tackle.  Billings might have had to wait a little longer than almost everyone anticipated to hear his name, his true value will be defined by his play on the field from here on out.  Yes, the fall cost him money, but that money can be more than made up with in a 2nd contract.  

4. One other Bear had a rough weekend, but not for unknown reasons.  Shawn Oakman did not hear his name called this weekend. As of this writing this, he had not signed a free agent contract either. This is neither surprising or difficult to predict.  With questions about his ability at the next level making him a Day 3 prospect in many eyes, the recent sexual assault allegations made him undraftable. With his dismissal from Penn State already raising a red flag, no team will take a chance on Oakman until his legal issues are cleared up (if they are).  His future is on hold while the legal system works, right or wrong.  If innocent, a team will take a chance on Oakman. If guilty, Oakman's NFL career will be the least of his worries. 

5. Overall, the Bears had the 7th most NFL draftees, and led the Big 12 and all Texas Schools. The Bears are the top team in Texas the past 7 years, with 22 draftees (second place is Texas A&M with 18). Getting drafted is a big deal, but it is just a small part of the master plan for most of these football players.  The way a team will utilize these new players and how they develop them is even more important than draft position. We see it every year.  With football, scheme and fit are so important.  Robert Griffin is a great example of that, as a player who was the rookie of the year and a sensation before falling out of favor with a new coaching staff.  One year, he is a hero. Two years later, he rides the bench.  Fit and scheme are so important success.  How will Coleman work as a down the field threat with Griffin throwing him the ball?  Will Drango be able to slide over to guard and make a name for himself?  Will Billings develop and take the next step in his growth as a bench or rotation player?  Will Gathers learn to be a football player?  

Unfortunately, it is doubtful that all of these 6 players will be what their drafting team wants them to be. Some might get cut before the season starts, or end up on practice squads for a few years before washing out. That is the game of football at the highest level, and when one group washes out, another group is ready to take their chances at the wheel. 

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