By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor
Baylor football had six players hear their name called during the NFL Draft and another five earn a shot with a team as soon as it ended. However, some Bears are more poised to make an impact than others.
11. Drew Estrada to Houston Texans (undrafted)
Baylor doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to turning out wide receivers and Drew Estrada isn’t in a great position to break that trend. While the Houston Texans have holes all across the roster, Estrada has a ton of competition in the receiver room. From proven veterans such as Brandon Cooks and Chris Conley to fellow rookie John Metchie III, there’s not much room for Estrada to make the depth chart, let alone see the field. However, he could earn a practice squad spot and work his way up from there over time.
10. Jairon McVea to Los Angeles Rams (undrafted)
Jairon McVea will forever be loved by Baylor fans for the play he made to secure the Big 12 Championship, but one play doesn’t necessarily earn you a spot on a Super Bowl winning defense. McVea will definitely have his work cut out for him in terms of making the 53-man roster or practice squad, but could possibly start off by making an impact on special teams while trying to move his way up the safety depth chart.
9. Raleigh Texada to Green Bay Packers (undrafted)
Raleigh Texada was a reliable cornerback for Baylor and now finds himself with the Green Bay Packers. While the Packers defense struggled at times last season due to injuries to key guys, they now seemed poised to be one of the top defenses in the league after re-signing their key players and drafting linebacker Quay Walker and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt. With the core of their secondary returning, it’s hard to imagine we’ll see much of Texada Island if at all next season, but his reliable tackling could make the Packers want to keep him around in some form.
8. Xavier Newman-Johnson to Tennessee Titans (undrafted)
Offensive lineman are always in demand as they are such an integral part to a successful offense and the Tennessee Titans seem to be in the midst of trying to improve theirs. A run-heavy team like the Titans is a promising fit for Xavier Newman-Johnson as it’s the same philosophy Baylor applied last season. Also, the ability to play either guard position could be enticing enough for head coach Mark Vrabel to find a spot for him on the roster even if it’s just to stash him away in case a starter gets injured.
7. Kalon Barnes to Carolina Panthers (Round: 7 Pick: 242)
Kalon Barnes turned a lot of heads at the combine with his impressive 4.23-second time in the 40-yard dash at the combine and was reunited with Matt Rhule after the Carolina Panthers selected him. However, even with all the speed and athleticism he showed at the combine, he still lacks the coverage skills necessary to be a regular on Sundays. On the bright side, the Panthers defense is filled with young guys, so there will probably be plenty of competition to shake up the order. And as long as Barnes keeps that speed, the Panthers will find a way to keep him with the organization and help build the other aspects of his game.
6. Tyquan Thornton to New England Patriots (Round: 2 Pick: 50)
Like I stated earlier, Baylor doesn’t have a great history of turning out good NFL receivers, but unlike Estrada, Tyquan Thornton has a much better shot of breaking that trend thanks to his speed. The New England Patriots traded up in the draft to nab him in the second round, proving they want him, which means he has a huge shot at earning some immediate playing time. While the Patriots did acquire DeVante Parker and already have Kendrick Bourne and Jacobi Meyers, Thornton’s speed may be too enticing for Bill Belichick to not have him out there in some capacity even if it’s just a jet sweep.
5. Trestan Ebner to Chicago Bears (Round: 6 Pick: 203)
Trestan Ebner gets to continue being a Bear by going to the Chicago Bears who lack talent on the offensive side of the ball, which is the type of situation that typically bodes well for a rookie. However, the Bears do have David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert who will be the primary running backs this upcoming season, limiting the amount of touches available for Ebner. While his pass catching ability will earn him some reps as a third down back, Ebner will spend majority of his time as a returner on special teams which is something the Bears are known for.
4. Terrel Bernard to Buffalo Bills (Round: 3 Pick: 89)
Terrel Bernard was an anchor for Baylor’s stout defense and now finds himself a part of another great defense with the Buffalo Bills. Bernard most likely won’t start this season or even have the same leadership type role he did with Baylor, but will definitely see some time as a rotational player and the experience he’ll get playing behind Von Miller, Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano will be invaluable.
3. Abram Smith to New Orleans Saints (undrafted)
While Abram Smith didn’t hear his name called during the draft, the future’s still bright for the linebacker turned running back. The New Orleans Saints have a history of getting nice production out of their undrafted rookie signings such as Marquez Callaway who became a key weapon for the Saints last season with Michael Thomas sidelined due to injury. The stage is set for a similar outcome with Smith who already has a great shot at earning the third spot on the depth chart behind Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram during training camp.
Most NFL offenses have evolved into a running back by committee mindset. Pair that with Kamara likely missing part of the season with a suspension and Ingram entering his twelfth season at the age of 32, Smith has a path to being a featured back. Smith’s power running style would also complement the shiftiness of Kamara once he comes back into the fold, similar to Smith’s role next to Ebner.
2. JT Woods to Los Angeles Chargers (Round: 3 Pick: 79)
The Heartbreak Kid is headed to Los Angeles, joining an already star-studded Chargers defense featuring Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa. JT Woods is in the perfect spot for his ball-hawking skills to be on full display playing alongside fellow safety Derwin James Jr. Not to mention, the high-scoring offense of the Chargers could see multiple opponents having to play from behind. Quarterbacks heaving the ball down the field to try and get back into the game, while trying to avoid the pressure that duo Mack and Bosa will provide, will give Woods plenty of chances to break some hearts.
1. Jalen Pitre to Houston Texans (Round: 2 Pick: 37)
Jalen Pitre is in the best possible landing spot out of all the Bears and will instantly make an impact for the Houston Texans who were one of the worst defenses a year ago. Pitre’s versatility will allow him plenty of opportunities to get on the field and show what he’s capable of. His instincts, awareness, ability to blitz and knack for getting his hands on the ball will be on full display from day one. Also playing for your hometown team doesn’t hurt either.