Jaylan Ford, LB
The elephant in the room heading into the offseason for Texas in terms of defensive players with draft decisions looming concerns the recently-anointed Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and breakout junior linebacker Jaylan Ford.
After having a breakout regular season where he became one of the biggest difference makers at linebacker that Texas had in the last decade or two, Ford suddenly has some NFL options entering the 2023 offseason.
That begs the question as to whether Ford will cash out while his draft stock is as high as it’s ever been at the moment, or if he’ll return to college for at least one more year. Ford could have two years of NCAA eligibility remaining if he were to stick it out on the Forty Acres and exercise the COVID-19 redshirt season.
Yet, I think the best and most realistic path forward for Ford will be to return to Texas for one more season in 2023. If he continues to blossom into the impact linebacker he proved to be during the 2022 regular season heading into next year, it’s definitely not out of the question that Ford could be a day-two pick in the 2024 draft.
Last but not least, it would also be nice to see Ford lead this defense to earn a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game next season. If Ford does return to college for one more year, he would probably be a captain candidate and one of the vocal leaders on and off the field for this defensive unit.