By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Over 200 athletes had their name called in the 2023 NFL Draft over the weekend, but only one of them came from Baylor football.
Defensive lineman Siaki “Apu” Ika had that honor as he was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the third round (pick No. 98) Friday. There was hope offensive lineman Connor Galvin or defensive back Christian Morgan may have their names called as well, but the Bears were only represented by Ika for all seven rounds.
It’s a tough way to follow up a 2022 NFL Draft that tied a program record with six drafted players, but seven other members of last year’s Baylor squad have put themselves in position to land a roster spot. Here is a brief rundown of those eight athletes that have made some noise.
Defensive lineman Siaki “Apu” Ika – Cleveland Browns – Third Round
Ika has put himself in the best spot to make it through training camps thanks to being picked in the third round by the Browns. He was projected to be as high as a second round pick going into the draft, but he slipped and fell into the hands of Cleveland. His selection marked the 40th Bear to be drafted into the NFL since 2010.
Ika transferred to Baylor from Louisiana State University following the 2020 season. Following Baylor’s annual Pro Day on March 27 this year, Ika said he was grateful to head coach Dave Aranda for helping him propel his career toward the goal of making it to the NFL.
“I’m just grateful that it all worked out the way it did,” Ika said. “I know a lot of people who go through the transfer portal, and that whole process wasn’t as nice to them as it was for me. I’m just grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to come here and succeed.”
Offensive lineman Connor Galvin – Detroit Lions – Free Agent
Galvin was included in some NFL Mock Drafts as a potential seventh-round pick, but his name was never called over the weekend. He was still able to land with the Detroit Lions via a free agent contract.
The Katy native finished his Baylor career with a program-record 50 starts. Galvin also played in 58 career games for the Bears and wrapped up the 2022 season with first-team All-Big 12 awards from the Associated Press, PFN and Phil Steele. PFF ranked Galvin as the second-best tackle in the Big 12 and the 47th best tackle in all of college football.
Detroitsportsnation.com reported that it’ll be hard for Galvin to crack the Lions’ roster just like it will be for all the other undrafted free agents. Dane Brugler of The Athletic said the 6-foot-7-inch tall tackle has many holes in his game but that he offers some upside.
“A five-year starter at Baylor, Galvin was a mainstay at left tackle in offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes’ wide-zone offense,” Brugler said. “He set the school record for career starts (50) and was named the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2021, although he appeared to take a step back in 2022 (see the Oklahoma State tape). Galvin is efficient off the ball to reach his landmarks and position his blocking angles. He looks to get his hands involved, but he will struggle to combat powerful and long-armed rushers who can disrupt his rhythm when his timing isn’t perfect.
“Overall, Galvin doesn’t have desired length or play strength for the NFL level, lowering his margin for error, but his foot quickness and hand technique will be attractive for zone-based schemes. While he might be drafted as a tackle, his best long-term position is inside at guard.”
Tight end Ben Sims – Minnesota Vikings – Free Agent
If tight end Ben Sims’ unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.57 at Baylor’s Pro Day was accurate, it would’ve been the third fastest time at the NFL Combine. This still didn’t garner enough for Sims to get drafted, but like Galvin, he found a free agent deal with an NFL team.
The Minnesota Vikings are giving Sims a shot to prove himself this offseason, but he faces another challenge of trying to make the 53-man roster. CBS Sports reported that Sims will “likely have to display a willingness to compete on special teams” in order to find an initial future with the Vikings.
Sims left Baylor as the program record holder for career touchdown grabs by a tight end (12), as he owns 78 catches for 785 yards across his five years with the Bears.
Defensive back Mark Milton – Carolina Panthers – Free Agent
Defensive back Mark Milton and Ika were the only two Baylor players to sit out of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl between Baylor and the United States Air Force Academy’s football program on Dec. 22, 2022 in Fort Worth.
The reasoning was to not risk injury in hopes of preserving draft stock, and now Milton has his shot to fight for a roster spot with the Carolina Panthers. Carolina picked Milton up as an undrafted free agent as well.
DraftCountdown’s NFL Draft analyst Shane P. Hallam said Milton was his 50th best cornerback of the class and that he has “good size and physicality.”
“[He] flashes some upside,” Hallam said in a tweet. “[He] struggles to turn and run with receivers. [He] will get too grabby and get penalized.”
Milton exited Baylor with 51 games played over five seasons. He had a career-high 46 tackles and his first career interception in the 2022 season. He finished his career in the green and gold with 96 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Defensive back Christian Morgan – Green Bay Packers – Free Agent
Morgan also had little trouble landing with a team following the draft. The Green Bay Packers added Morgan as an undrafted free agent, and Morgan has a chance to pave a path toward a roster spot given the Packers’ need at the safety position.
Yardbarker.com reported that “Morgan will face plenty of competition in training camp, but if he performs well, opportunities could open up for him.”
Morgan spent his entire five years at Baylor and played in 56 games. He amassed 161 tackles, including 7.5 for a loss, and he defended 12 passes to go with seven interceptions. The native of Houston also secured three picks in both 2022 and 2020.
Offensive lineman Jacob Gall – Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts – Minicamp Invite
The road for offensive lineman Jacob Gall starts tougher than the other five athletes named. Gall wasn’t drafted either, but he received minicamp invites from the Atlanta Falcons and the Indianapolis Colts.
Gall now has to fight for a contract along with a roster spot as an already undersized offensive lineman. The 6-2 O-lineman transferred to Baylor from the University at Buffalo after the 2020 season and started the last 27 games for the Bears.
The Cincinnati, Ohio, native predominantly played at center for the green and gold and finished the 2022 season as the 12th-highest rated center in the country according to grades given out by Pro Football Focus.
Wide receiver Gavin Holmes – Philadelphia Eagles – Minicamp Invite
Wideout Gavin Holmes will have to burst onto the scene just like Gall in order to ensure a future in the NFL. Holmes was given a minicamp invite from the Philadelphia Eagles, so he has a chance to showcase his ability to earn a contract and roster spot.
The Justin native hopes to make a statement after a six-year Baylor career. Holmes wrapped up his senior season with 26 catches for 517 yards, adding on four touchdowns in the process. He totaled 927 yards on 72 catches to pair with seven TDs across the six years, as he battled multiple knee injuries to limit his time on the field.
Offensive lineman Khalil Keith – New York Giants – Minicamp Invite
Offensive lineman Khalil Keith was the eighth and final member of the green and gold to secure a minicamp invite from an NFL team, thanks to the New York Giants issuing him an invitation. Keith will now have to offer something the Giants don’t have in order to stick around as an undrafted free agent.
Keith battled an injury in 2022 and returned midway through the year. He mostly logged time at right tackle for the Bears and graded out by PFF as the top pass blocker on Baylor’s roster. He started five of the last six contests in the green and gold.