The Best NFL Draft Prospect for Every Texas FBS Team

UTEP Athletics

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We awoke this morning with a Super Bowl hangover, our eyes groggy from Kansas City's overtime win and now blinking at the long shadow of the offseason. Two weeks to reset before we get excited about grown men sprinting in spandex at the Scouting Combine.The biggest NFL event of the offseason, however, is the Draft, which will be held in Detroit, Michigan, from April 25-27. Here's our pick for a player from each Texas FBS school who will hear his name called first over the weekend. 

Baylor - DL Gabe Hall

Hall has the size of a future NFL star on the defensive edge at 6-foot-6-inches, 292 pounds, but a dip in production in 2023 leaves him a tweener Draft pick. On Baylor's 2021 Big 12 Championship team, he finished second with six sacks. Then, he followed it up with an honorable mention All-Big 12 showing in 2022. Last season, he managed just 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks as Baylor limped to a 3–9 record. However, some of the dip can be explained by devolving talent around him and Baylor's opponents featuring run-heavy packages.

It's also difficult to project his NFL position. He has the length to be an edge defender but lacks the explosion. He could be an interior presence but must add weight. A solid Pro Day showing could launch him firmly onto NFL Draft boards. Of note, he balled out at the Senior Bowl. 

Houston - OT Patrick Paul

Paul became the Houston quarterback's best friend in his time with the program. Over the past two seasons, he allowed two sacks in 1,034 opportunities. The 6-foot-7-inch, 310-pound left tackle was a three-time First Team All-Conference selection and twice named team captain. Now, he's about to join his brother, the NFL's Chris Paul, and a guard for the Washington Commanders, in the NFL.

Paul's projected as a high-second round selection and the No.9-rated offensive tackle on ESPN Draft Expert Mel Kiper's Big Board

Rice - WR Luke McCaffrey

There's not a player in the state with more NFL ties than McCaffrey. His father, Ed, is a three-time Super Bowl champion wide receiver. His oldest brother, Max, bounced around the league for three seasons and is now an offensive assistant with the Miami Dolphins. Oh, and his other brother, Christian, is a two-time All-Pro running back for the San Francisco 49ers.

Luke's morphed into a fine football player himself after transferring to Rice and converting from quarterback to wide receiver. He became quarterback JT Daniels's go-to guy in 2023. McCaffrey compiled 71 receptions for 992 yards with 13 touchdowns. Then next closest wide receiver caught 26 passes for 380 yards and three scores. Concerns about his top-end speed may prevent him from going in the first two days of the NFL Draft, but McCaffrey's versatility can carve himself a long-term role on an NFL roster.

SMU - DT DeVere Levelston

On a team full of transfers, Levelston was part of SMU's bridge from the Sonny Dykes to Rhett Lashlee era. His junior season in 2021 was the most productive, notching 10.5 tackles for loss and finishing second in the American Athletic Conference with 6.5 sacks. Levelston was more of a rotational player last season on a stacked defensive line, but his 6-foot-5-inch frame has plenty of room to add weight to transition to the NFL. The Desoto alum looks to become the eighth active player from the DFW powerhouse in the league. 

Texas A&M - LB Edgerrin Cooper 

Since the turn of the 21st century, Texas A&M's had one linebacker go in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft (Von Miller went No. 2-overall in 2011). Cooper has a chance to be the second after he turned in an All-American season as a junior in 2023. Cooper was a beast - he led the Aggies in tackles, racking up 17 tackles for loss and eight sacks. 

Cooper is currently ranked as the No.1 off-ball linebacker on ESPN Draft expert Mel Kiper's Big Board. The Athletic's Dane Brugler has him going midway through the second round in his latest Mock Draft. Cooper has intriguing athleticism for his size (6'3", 230) and can be used as a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end.

Texas - DT T'Vondre Sweat

The Longhorns are the hardest batch to select the best prospect from because there are many worthy (no pun intended) candidates. Jonathon Brooks is the highest-rated RB in the Draft, but his ACL injury likely slides him out of the first round. Xavier Worthy's size and Adonai Mitchell's route-running prevent the dynamic receivers from day one lock status. Ja'Tavion Sanders has to contend with Georgia's generational Brock Bowers for TE1 honors.

That leaves Texas's dominant defensive tackle duo, Byron Murphy II and T'Vondre Sweat, to duke it out for best prospect. Murphy rocketed up NFL Draft boards as a junior.The Athletic's Dane Brugler recently mocked him 16th overall, the highest of any Longhorn. But Sweat was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year alongside Murphy, and I predict his size (6-foot-4-inches, 362 pounds over Murphy's 6'1", 308) vaults him to the higher selection.

Texas State - LB Brian Holloway

Holloway couldn't have ended his Texas State career in a better way. He had two pick-sixes on the same football field he began his career at, SMU's Ford Stadium, as Texas State demolished Rice 45-21 in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl. Holloway earned All-Sun Belt Second Team honors in 2023, leading the Bobcats with 104 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and four interceptions.

Holloway lacks ideal size for the NFL (6'0", 225 pounds), and it may be an uphill battle to get drafted. 

Texas Tech - DT Jaylon Hutchings

Hutchings formed a dynamic interior defensive line tandem with fellow super-senior Tony Bradford Jr. over the past two seasons. He led the Red Raiders with 7.5 tackles for loss and finished tied-2nd on the team with 3.5 sacks, earning honorable mention All-Big 12. 

Hutchings' height (6'0") could hold some teams back from drafting him, but he could launch himself into mid-to-late round consideration with a solid Pro Day. He was a former running back at Forney High School who should raise some eyebrows in agility drills. 

TCU - CB Josh Newton

Newton's the perfect example of how the transfer portal's benefitted college athletes. After four seasons at Louisiana Monroe, Newton transferred to TCU for two standout seasons that have now landed him firmly on NFL Draft boards. The two-time All-BIg 12 selection paired well with Trevius Hodges-Tomlinson on TCU's National Championship run and returned in 2023 to lead the team with nine pass breakups. 

The Dallas Morning News projected Newton as a second round pick. He displays excellent press-man ability and a willingness to stick his nose in the run game. He's the No.10-ranked cornerback on Mel Kiper's Big Board

UTEP - LB Tyrice Knight

Perhaps the best linebacker not enough people are talking about, Knight finished fourth nationally with 140 total tackles and led the FBS with 84 solo stops. He's got the size (6'2", 235) and production to warrant an NFL Draft selection. His run fits are what stand out on tape, but he'll need to show improvement in pass coverage once he gets to the league. 

His Draft stock could rocket based on his performance in front of NFL coaches at the Reese's Senior Bowl. 

UTSA - WR Joshua Cephus

Cephus was always a playmaker on loaded UTSA offenses alongside wide receivers Zakhari Franklin and De'Corian Clark. But with Franklin transferring and Clark sidelined by injury in 2023, Cephus proved he could be a No.1 wide receiver. The senior led UTSA with 89 receptions for 1,151 yards and ten touchdowns, all career bests. 

Cephus has an intriguing frame at 6'3" who could vault himself to a mid-round Draft pick with a good week at the East/West Shrine Bowl. 

Teams Waiting for 2025 - Sam Houston and North Texas

A Correction was made on April 24, 2024: Houston's Patrick Paul allowed two sacks in 1,034 opportunities over the last two seasons, not one sack as originally printed. DCTF regrets this error.

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