After former Baylor football head coach Matt Rhule’s (now the head coach of the Carolina Panthers) first season in Waco ended with a 1-11 record, the 2018 NFL Draft saw no Bears picked for the first time since 2008. After a quick turnaround and a 6-6 finish in Rhule’s second season, senior transfer WR Jalen Hurd was picked third in the third round of the 2019 Draft—the lone Bear chosen that season. The 2019 Baylor football squad achieved unprecedented success with an 11-1 regular season record and trips to the Big 12 Championship game and a challenge against No. 5 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Because of the team’s achievements, four Baylor athletes were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, and 10 more were signed to teams as undrafted free agents.
WR Denzel Mims was the first of the Baylor athletes to land an NFL spot as he was pick 27 in the second round (No. 59 overall) for the New York Jets, despite being a projected first round player. In his senior 2019 season, Mims recorded 66 catches for 1,010 yards and 12 TDs, and at the scouting combine, he had a 4.38 40 yard dash and 6.66 3 cone drill. DT James Lynch was the second player from Baylor football in the 2020 Draft, unsurprising as the former junior declared following his Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year, and First-Team All-American accolades. Lynch was chosen by the Minnesota Vikings as pick 24 in the fourth round (No. 130 overall). His record-breaking final year at Baylor saw Lynch notching 41 tackles with 19.5 for a loss of 98 yards, 13.5 sacks for a loss of 82 yards, 5 passes deflected, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 2 kicks blocked. DT Bravvion Roy reunited with Rhule after the former Baylor head coach chose him as pick five in the sixth round (No. 184 overall). Roy was another menacing force on the defensive line throughout all four years in Waco, and especially during his final season where he amassed 61 tackles with 13 for a loss of 46 yards, 5.5 sacks for a loss of 29 yards, 1 forced fumble, and 1 blocked kick. The last of Baylor football in the 2020 NFL Draft (excluding undrafted free agents) was LB Clay Johnston, who was a slightly surprising choice considering he missed the back half of the 2019 season after tearing his ACL. Nonetheless, Johnston was the glue that held the entire defense together and gave hell to every offense he faced. The LA Rams chose Johnston as pick 21 in the seventh round (No. 235 overall). Prior to his injury in the sixth game of the 2019 season, Johnston had collected 58 tackles with 8 for a loss of 27 yards, 2.5 sacks for a loss of 13 yards, 1 interception, and 6 passes deflected.
Along with their four drafted players, the Baylor football team had numerous former athletes sign with teams as undrafted free agents. RB JaMycal Hasty signed with the San Francisco 49ers after his final season with the Bears saw him notch 109 carries for 627 yards and 7 TDs as well as 25 receptions for 184 yards. CB Grayland Arnold—who declared for the draft after his junior year—secured a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Arnold finished the 2019 season with 46 tackles, 2.5 for a loss of 5 yards, 1 sack for a loss of 3 yards, 6 interceptions (second most in the Big 12), 8 passes deflected, and 1 kickoff returned for a TD. CB Jameson Houston joined fellow Bears after inking a contract with the Cleveland Browns. In Houston’s last season, he had 44 tackles, 1 interception, 9 passes deflected, and 1 fumble recovery. S Chris Miller signed with the Seattle Seahawks following an exciting senior season collecting 76 tackles with 2.5 for a loss of 4 yards, 2 passes deflected, and 2 forced fumbles. S Henry Black was the fourth of the secondary to sign with a team, his being the Green Bay Packers. Black notched 62 tackles with 1 for a loss, 1 interception, 5 passes deflected, and 1 forced fumble. Of the defensive linemen besides Lynch, DE James Lockhart signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers after his impressive one starting season with the Bears. He amassed 31 tackles with 8.5 for a loss of 42 yards, 6 sacks for a loss of 31 yards, 1 pass deflected, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. Linebackers Blake Lynch (who played nearly every position on both sides of the ball) and Jordan Williams went with the Minnesota Vikings (joining teammate James Lynch) and Atlanta Falcons, respectively. B. Lynch started at the MIKE position after Johnston went down and impressed every fan and opponent alike. He recorded 68 tackles with 9.5 for a loss of 37 yards, 4.5 sacks for a loss of 29 yards, 2 interceptions, 4 passes deflected, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 blocked kick. Williams also had a breakout season in his final year as he had 89 tackles with 9.5 for a loss of 25 yards, 1.5 sacks for a loss of 8 yards, 3 interceptions, 11 passes deflected, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery. The Jacksonville Jaguars snagged LS (who sometimes played LB) Ross Matiscik, who, in his last season, compiled 13 tackles with 1 for a loss of 1 yard, 1 sack for a loss of 1 yard, and 1 fumble recovery. The final player of Baylor football in the 2020 NFL Draft was OL Sam Tecklenburg, who also signed with the Panthers as a free agent, despite retiring from football after the 2019 season (reuniting Rhule with two of his former athletes). Congratulations to all of the players in their dreams come true!