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Four Questions for Baylor Fans this NFL Draft

NFL Combine Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Draft begins today at 7pm CT, and Baylor has seven players with a good chance of hearing their name called over the next few nights. Here’s everything you need to know as you follow along with the picks!

Will Baylor get their first 1st Round pick since 2016?

Since the NFL-AFL merger, Baylor has had eleven players drafted in the first round, with Corey Coleman (15th overall) the most recent.

If anyone can break the dry spell and get selected in the first round this year, it’s Jalen Pitre.

Most evaluators have Pitre within the 30-40 best players in the draft, placing him at the cusp between a first or second round pick. His most likely landing spots are the Jets (35th pick) or Giants (36th pick), but there’s a good chance that he goes higher.

ESPN Analytics Draft Simulator gives a 30% chance of a team selecting Pitre in the first round, and Pete Prisco of CBS predicts the Eagles will pick him up at 18. If he does go in the first round, he’ll be Baylor’s earliest drafted defensive back since Gary Green in 1977 (10th overall).

Regardless of whether he’s selected today or tomorrow, Pitre is going to make a team very happy.

How much does the NFL value speed?

Three of the fastest players in this year’s draft wear green and gold: Kalon Barnes, Tyquan Thornton, and JT Woods.

Kalon Barnes wowed the sports world when he ran a 4.23 in the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine, and teams have literally “line[d] up to meet [Barnes] for visits, private workouts, and virtual meetings” (ProFootballNetwork).

Predictions for Barnes are all over the place. Pro Football Focus has him going in the fifth round, but the NFL classifies him as a seventh round / priority free agent prospect. I wouldn’t be surprised if a team takes a chance on Barnes late in the fourth.

Running just behind Boogie in the Combine was Tyquan Thornton with a 4.28 40. Most evaluators grade Thornton as a day-three pick (fourth through seventh round) with an overall ranking between 160 and 190.

All it takes is one team that needs a new speedy receiver for Thornton to have his named called on day two, and there’s a lot of buzz that Green Bay is exactly that team. Keep an eye on their 92nd pick in the third round.

Last, but certainly not least among Baylor’s speedsters, is JT Woods. Woods had the 10th best 40 at the combine and the best vertical among all safeties. Despite not getting as much social media attention as Barnes and Thornton, Woods is a consensus fourth or fifth round pick.

ESPN Analytics Draft Simulator gives Woods a 15% chance of being drafted on day two and a 50% chance of being drafted in the fourth or fifth round. The numbers say his most likely landing spots are the Eagles (124), Cowboys (129), Steelers (138), or Jets (146), so naturally he’s only visited with other teams.

If Pitre, Barnes, and Woods are all drafted, it will be the first time that Baylor has three defensive backs drafted since 1987 when Ron Francis (39th overall), Thomas Everett (94th overall), and Johnny Thomas (192nd overall) were selected.

Will Bernard be the earliest drafted linebacker of the last 30 years?

Baylor has had some good linebackers selected in the seventh round of the draft over the last few years: William Bradley-King in 2021, Clay Johnston in 2020, and Bryce Hager in 2015. Before Hager, the last LBs drafted were LaCurtis Jones in 1996 (fourth round) and James Francis in 1990 (first round).

Terrel Bernard has a chance to be the earliest LB drafted since Francis. Pro Football Focus ranks Bernard as a fourth round pick (129th overall), and the NFL and CBS project Bernard as a fifth rounder.

Most mock drafts have Bernard somewhere in those two rounds, though Cam Mellor over at Pro Football Network has the Packers grabbing Bernard at 53 in round two. I think that’s a tad optimistic, but Bernard has almost everything an NFL team could want. “If you don’t like Bernard, then you don’t like smart team leaders who can run. It’s that simple.” — Scout for NFC team (posted to Bernard’s NFL Draft profile).

Will both of Baylor’s RBs get drafted?

The last time Baylor had two running backs drafted in the same year was 1984 when Alfred Anderson and Allen Rice both joined the Minnesota Vikings. Could we see a repeat this year with the leaders of Baylor’s elite rushing offense, Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner?

Projections for Smith range from the fifth round (NFL) to the seventh round (Pro Football Focus), but one thing is consistent — recognition of his unquestionable toughness and physicality. Fans of whichever team gets him will love watching his tape.

Ebner is generally considered a seventh rounder or undrafted free agent special teams contributor, but some teams have shown an elevated interest in the versatile back. Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network reports that the Ravens, Saints, and Eagles conducted private workouts with Ebner. Worth watching: the Eagles have two picks in the seventh round, and the Ravens have one.

Go make some money!

Baylor has a lot of players beyond those listed above who are hoping to begin their professional career in the NFL next season. While unlikely to be drafted, let’s root for them all to join a team as free agents!