The NFL Draft is when young men’s lives change. There’s happiness, sadness, smiles and tears. It all depends on where you land, how you get there, and what the projections were. For all the positives for Big 12 players, like Baker Mayfield going No. 1 to the Cleveland Browns (or is that a positive?), there are players who end up disappointed. It’s an age-old story: leave college early, enter the draft, and end up being selected lower than you were predicted to, or not even get drafted at all. Here are some Big 12 players who might have made a mistake by leaving their respective programs one year too early.
Byron Pringle, Kansas State
The Kansas State wide receiver had an inconsistent junior season. He excelled in the punt/kick return game, but only had 30 catches at the wide receiver spot. Sure the quarterback position was in flux for much of the season, but he didn’t exactly stand out when given the opportunity to. Pringle left K-State for understandable reasons. At 24, he was the oldest player on Kansas State’s roster and he has a 2-year old son in Tampa he wants to see more and be able to support. But at the same time, if he gets cut after camp, he won’t have much of a way to support himself, nevermind a family. If Pringle goes on to make the roster, he’s looking at around $465,000 per year, and as an undrafted free agent, he has a decent chance to survive rookie minicamp and make it to the preseason and training camp with a shot to make the regular-season 53-man roster. But it’s still a big “if”. Also, that contract is broken down by week and is not guaranteed (like most NFL contracts).
Also note: There is no guaranteed money for Pringle. Comparatively, a 7th-round pick receives $40,000 and 6th-round picks can guarantee $100,000. Once again, these numbers aren’t going to change your life forever (it can go fast), but at least it’s guaranteed money in your pocket. Pringle has none. Also, teams naturally have more stake, and as a result give more opportunities, to players who they actually drafted versus the undrafted free agents.
Another year in college would have given Pringle one more fall with a more established QB, either Delton or Thompson, to improve his consistency and numbers at the college level and potentially land himself a late-round pick.
Granted he’s in a good spot with the Chiefs, who went heavy on defense in the NFL Draft, but this could not have been what Pringle planned on when he decided to turn pro.
Holton Hill, Texas
The Texas cornerback fell out of favor with the Longhorns staff and made the questionable decision to bolt early. Hill only played in nine games last season as he dealt with a suspension by head coach Tom Herman. Rather than own up to his personal mistakes and issues, he elected to try his hand in the NFL Draft, which backfired horribly when he went undrafted. All of the monetary reasons cited for Hill can be seen above for Byron Pringle.
Todd Orlando is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football and Hill could have humbly returned and been given the opportunity to prove himself thanks to his immense talent. Unfortunately, he heads to the Vikings as an undrafted free agent, and Minnesota already has one of the best defenses in the NFL. It doesn’t mean he can’t make the roster, but it’s certainly not going to be easy.
Du’Vonta Lampkin, Oklahoma
We interviewed Lampkin a few weeks ago, and while he seemed like a nice young man, I did not understand why he bolted the Sooners so quickly. He had played in a total of 15 games over his career at Oklahoma. He had a nice breakout junior season with 22 tackles, 4.5 for loss, and 1 sack, but was far from lighting the world on fire. Another season dominating the defensive line at OU and he would’ve been a much more sought-after commodity. Instead, he starts his career as an undrafted free agent and is just fighting with everyone else to make the 53-man roster. At 6’4”, 335 pounds, he has the ideal size for his position, but he was not a finished product and one more season in Norman would’ve done him a lot of good.
The Ravens are a nice landing spot with solid defensive pedigree that should help him improve, but will that happen fast enough for Baltimore to keep him around this fall?
DeShon Elliott, Texas
Elliott was drafted, but he was a 6th-round pick by the Ravens. Similar to Hill, another year learning from Todd Orlando would’ve done the safety some good. Plus, he would’ve been pushed by an incredible group of freshmen in the secondary that were part of the 2018 Class for Texas. I realize some players on the roster did not see eye-to-eye with the new staff, but while Elliott showed flashes of being one of the best players in the Big 12, he was not always consistent.
Now sure he got drafted, but instead of say, $100,000 in guaranteed money (which is what the NFL is all about), he could have upped that number to well north of $500,000 by just being selected in the third round of next year’s draft. Elliott could have easily improved his stock by a couple of rounds had he stuck around for another season in Austin. This move seemed awfully short-sighted.