In preparation for the 2014 NFL Draft, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top draft-eligible prospects from FBS-level programs. This summer series will run until the start of the college football season.
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 13
2013 NFL Draft picks: One -- WR Terrance Williams (3rd round, Dallas Cowboys)
In the eight years before Art Briles arrived in Waco (2000-07), Baylor produced zero winning seasons and just six NFL Draft picks. But since 2009, Baylor has been to three consecutive bowl games and produced 13 draft picks, including five first rounders (OT Jason Smith, DT Phil Taylor, OG Danny Watkins, QB Robert Griffin, WR Kendall Wright).
Baylor returns just five offensive starters in 2013 and will have to replace their two most productive players from a year ago (QB Nick Florence and WR Terrance Williams). But with running back Lache Seastrunk and offensive guard Cyril Richardson returning to Floyd Casey Stadium this fall, the Bears might be able to add to their first round count.
Top Baylor prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft
1. OG Cyril Richardson (6-5, 335, 5.27)
Arguably the best senior interior line prospect in the nation, Richardson's combination of power and athleticism makes him a legitimate contender to sneak into that first round next April. After starting a handful of games at guard as a freshman, he was RGIII's left tackle in 2011 before moving back inside to guard last season where he was voted the top lineman in the conference by Big 12 coaches. Richardson has the natural frame, girth and wingspan to engulf defenders and plow run lanes with his body strength. He carries his weight well for blocker in the 330-340 pound range, using his light feet to pull, seal and get to the second level to spring big runs. Richardson needs to show the same grit and determination on every snap, but when he flashes his aggressive nature, he can control rushers and take them out of the play. He needs to improve his hand quickness and placement off the snap and can be slow with his eyes to react initially, but he recovers well and uses angles with his wide base to latch-and-drive. Richardson will be blocking for a new quarterback and a healthy stable of running backs led by Lache Seastrunk in 2013 so he'll have every opportunity to cement his NFL value as a top-40 draft pick.
2. RB Lache Seastrunk (5-9, 210, 4.50)*
Since Art Briles took over the head job, the Baylor offense has developed into one of the most explosive, not only in the Big 12, but in the entire country. And while quarterbacks Robert Griffin and Nick Florence have received most of the headlines, Briles' offense has produced three 1,000-yard rushers the past three seasons, including Seastrunk last year. A five-star high school recruit, he began his college career at Oregon before deciding to transfer to Baylor and his home state of Texas, sitting out the 2011 season. Seastrunk started six games last year and led the team in rushing with 1,012 yards (7.7 yards per rush average) despite finishing with 48 less carries than Glasco Martin. He is a silky runner between the tackles with active feet and explosive lateral burst to juke defenders and easily redirect his momentum to avoid contact. Seastrunk is balanced with a low center of gravity and finishes with toughness, but he has very average bulk on his frame and won't drag tacklers or win with power. He needs to prove he can be a three-down player by improving his focus as pass-catcher and consistency when left alone to pass protect. But above all, Seastrunk needs to improve his run instincts and shed the bad habit of unnecessarily going east-west or even backwards to try for the home run instead of taking what is there. He is an exciting, jitterbug athlete and if he can consistently stay under control at all levels of the field, Seastrunk will be a welcome addition to any offense in the NFL.
3. SS Ahmad Dixon (6-0, 205, 4.49)
Born and raised in Waco, Dixon had a roller-coaster recruitment that included commitments to Texas and Tennessee before he finally decided to stay home and attend Baylor. He has started the past two seasons at the team's nickel “Bear” position, which is a hybrid linebacker/safety role, but will move to safety for his senior year in 2013. Dixon is an excellent size/speed athlete with the fluidity and natural speed to cover the entire field, making plays behind the line of scrimmage and in the deep half of the field. He is a physical striker and enjoys throwing his body around in run support. Dixon works hard to shed blocks to make open-field stops and is a violent tackler, but needs to consistently wrap up and not just hit his target with body shots. He is confident in coverage to jump routes and aggressively go after the ball, but his cover awareness is still a work-in-progress, too often a step late to the play against the pass. As Dixon switches positions in 2013, it wouldn't be surprising if he emerges as one of the conference's top safeties and one of the better senior prospects at his position.
4. MLB Bryce Hager (6-1, 235, 4.63)*
After playing mostly special teams as a freshman, Hager earned the starting job at middle linebacker in 2012 and didn't disappoint, leading the Big 12 with 124 total tackles. Watching him on film, Hager showed much better closing speed than expected with the range to make plays at both sidelines. His athletic skill-set allowed him to be used in versatile ways to attack the run, blitz or drop in coverage. Hager finished with 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks but those stats don't fully illustrate his impact behind the line of scrimmage, routinely pressuring the pocket and forcing the issue. He uses his eyes well to quickly diagnose and use his peripheral vision to avoid blocks while finding his way to the ballcarrier. Hager will lose his man in space at times and he isn't the most fluid in his coverage drops, but more often than not, he puts himself in correct positioning to make a play with his smarts from the neck up. Hager steadily improved throughout 2012 and if he continues to get better over the next few seasons in Waco, Hager could be the best linebacker pro prospect out of Baylor in more than a decade.
5. WR Tevin Reese (5-10, 172, 4.47)
In regards to the NFL Draft, Baylor might be best known in recent memory for producing RGIII, but the Bears program has also churned out several talented receivers, most recently Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams. And in 2013, Reese will hope to put his name in that same company as an early round NFL prospect. A high school teammate of Lache Seastrunk, Reese is one of the better deep threats in college football, using his build-up speed and route acceleration to create separation and stretch the field. He doesn't look like much with a lean build and limited growth potential, which hurts his ability to break tackles and do much after initial contact. Reese is a mobile target and “movement” receiver, a player that Briles will often put in motion or use on various screens to get him the ball in space, but scouts will look for him to be more consistent in 2013, specifically with his hands and blocking ability. While doubtful that he'll be able to join Wright and Williams as a top-75 NFL draft pick, a productive senior season will go a long way to helping Reese next spring as he transitions to the next level.
Other Baylor prospects worth watching:
QB Bryce Petty (6-2, 230, 4.75)*
Petty has only 14 career pass attempts and it will be tough to fill the shoes of RGIII and Nick Florence, but the coaching staff expects big things from him in 2013
RB Glasco Martin (6-0, 220, 4.54)
The “other” ballcarrier in the Baylor backfield, Martin led the team last season with 15 rushing scores and wins with his swift feet and finishing attitude
WR Levi Norwood (6-1, 187, 4.52)*
With Terrance Williams and Lanear Sampson out of college eligibility, look for Norwood to team with Reese as Baylor's 1-2 punch at wide receiver
TE Jordan Najvar (6-5, 260, 4.78)
Although the tight end position isn't a central part of the Baylor offense, Najvar, a transfer from Stanford, has flashed some NFL talent, but needs to show more consistency
OT Spencer Drango (6-5, 315, 5.10)*
Only a redshirt sophomore, Drango was unchained last season and started all 13 games at left tackle, flashing an intriguing blend of athleticism and strength for a 20-year old