Despite its storied life in the College Football World; the Big 10 has been coming up short to some of the other major conferences in terms of producing NFL talent in recent years. While the conference is certainly not devoid of NFL talent, it lacks the depth that SEC, PAC 12 and Big 12 offers at key positions for the NFL. However, here is the best at each position the Big 10 has to offer the NFL Draft in 2014.
1st String – Devin Gardner (Michigan): Despite not starting until the middle of the year, Devin Gardner displayed his immense talent to play the quarterback position. While he still needs experience, he has displayed the arm strength and the athleticism to succeed in the NFL. He needs to put on weight as he is listed under 220 pounds, but he is on the rise as a prospect.
2nd String -Braxton Miller (Ohio State): Despite being viewed as a strict running or option quarterback, Braxton is more intriguing of a prospect than most may believe. Aside from the fact that he is one of the fastest things on the field in the NCAA, Miller has displayed natural arm strength and accuracy when mechanics are executed well. He needs to become more consistent in his delivery and footwork in the pocket, as well as learn the nuances of the game, but there is no doubt that Miller has mouth watering upside in todayâ€™s â€œDual Threatâ€ NFL.
1st String -James White (Wisconsin): Despite being Montee Ballâ€™s backup the past two years, James White happens to be the much more complete prospect. While he may not have the phenomenal vision that Ball used to frustrate Big 10 defenses during his tenure in Madison, White is a much better athlete. He uses his acceleration to hit the hole at full speed and wins at the line of scrimmage. His speed, agility and lack of touches make him a Top 10 Running Back in a deep class for next year.
1st String – Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska): Abdullah is a similar to James White in terms of what he brings to the table. He is a shiftier back with above average power and solid vision. He accelerates to full speed at the line of scrimmage and usually will not give up on runs. He has limited tread on his tires as he only started one year and still split carries with Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead.
2nd String – Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin): Gordon is another fantastic runner from Wisconsin. Â He is much bigger at 6â€™1â€ than the previously stated backs, but you wouldnâ€™t know from the way he moves. He is a fluid runner in the open field who uses good speed and balance. If he is featured a bit more this year, he could be at the top of this depth chart.
1st String - CJ Fierdorowicz (Iowa): CJ is not the dynamic Vernon Davis or Jimmy Graham type at the Tight End position, but he is a true throwback to what the position used to be. He is a great blocker and underneath receiver. While he may not take over a game like some of the other 2014 Tight End prospects, he is incredibly reliable.
2nd String – Jacob Pedersen (Wisconsin): To compliment CJâ€™s blocking ability; Pedersen brings more to the table as a receiver. He accelerates wellÂ from the line and is able to create separation downfield. He has solid speed that helps him after the catch but needs to add weight in order to be more effective as a blocker.
1st String – Allen Robinson (Penn State): Like a lot of the receivers in this class, Robinson is a long bodied pass catcher at 6â€™3â€. He has room on his frame to put on more weight, which will be important at the next level. While he usually fails to beat press coverage and create separation against it, he does a good job of using strength to come down with contested catches. He makes some great catches but needs consistent focus down to down. He has the upside to be a very good possession receiver in the NFL
1st String - Jarred Abbrederis (Wisonsin): Abbrederis possesses good size at 6â€™1â€ but wins more with his agility and acceleration off the ball. He beats press very welland is able to create separation downfield, often taking advantage of the play action game that Wisconsin so often uses. But he still has upside as an outside receiver who may be more effective in the slot.
Slot Receiver – Venric Mark (Northwestern): Though Venric makes his mark (sorry) as a Running Back at Northwestern, he lacks the size (5â€™7â€, 170 lbs.) to be a featured runner at the next level. However, it would be a shame to see his open field ability go to waste. He is a threat whenever he touches the ball be it as a runner, receiver or returner. Getting him the ball underneath could key an offense and make him an asset come draft day.
2nd String -Â Kenny Bell (Nebraska): Bell has the misfortune of playing on a team where the quarterbackâ€¦. Needs improvement. However, Bell is a tenacious player on the field and brings it every game. He has good speed and solid route running abilities, brings a lot as a deep threat.
1st String – Taylor Lewan (Michigan): Lewan is one of the top players at his position for next year and arguably a top 10 or 15 player for next year. He is a phenomenal athlete with good quickness and bullying strength at 6â€™7â€ and 308 lbs. He makes his name as a pass blocker but is also quite good at getting to the second level in the running game. He needs to improve his technique as a run blocker, but he is very close to being a top prospect.
2nd String – Jeremy Siriles (Nebraska): Siriles is a solid run blocker as he fits the offense in Nebraska very well. May be suited better to play right tackle. Hopeful with Taylor Martinezâ€™s improvement, the passing game may open up a bit more and Siriles will get more pass protection opportunities. Has upside as a pass blocker due to athleticism.
1st String – Michael Schofield (Michigan): The other piece of the Wolverines bookend tackle duo, Schofield is another greatly size tackle at 6â€™6â€ and 305 pounds. He uses his strength to bulldoze in the run game. He has ability as a pass blocker, but must use his hands better in order to win at the point of attack.
2nd String – Ryan Groy (Wisconsin): Another year, another Wisconsin linemen. Groy was one of the keys in a great running game last year and displays strength, quickness and good hands in the running game. Footwork must improve in pass protection, but he is a solid prospect.
1st String – Spencer Long (Nebraska): Long is Nebraskaâ€™s top prospect heading into next year and for good reason.Â The 6â€™3â€ guard is a powerful anchor on the Nebraska line and has a solid all around game. He uses his strength well to move defenders in the run game but does not display elite athleticism as some would like. He pass blocking is solid as well, he just needs to be consistent in mechanics because his game breaks down as his mechanics do.
1st String – Andrew Norwell (Ohio State): Norwell is a big man at 6â€™5â€ and 320 pounds. He uses that size very well as he holds down the Ohio State line. While is not overly athletic in terms of being a mover, he uses his size and strength very well to key the phenomenal run game in Columbus.
2nd String – John Urschel (Penn State): The surprisingly successful 2012 campaign was spearheaded by a very balanced, very efficient offense. Urschel was a big component in that. While he is not a well sized (6â€™3â€ 304) as Norwell, he shows the ability to hold down in the running and passing game. Solid, but unspectacular. While he does not have huge upside, he projects to being a mid level starter.
2nd String – Andrew Rodriguez (Nebraska): Rodriguez is another mover along the Nebraska line. He checks in at a healthy 6â€™5, 330 lbs. He is a big man who relies on his size to maul his way through defenders to create running lanes. He needs to improve quickness to be more effective in the passing game, but that size is impressive and can be used well.
1st String – Corey Linsely (Ohio State): Linsely is undersized at 6â€™2â€ and under 300 pounds. However, his lack of size is made up for his fleet footedness. He is a good mover in the open field. He uses his quickness well in order to win in the running game. He needs to bulk up in order to be more effective, but Linsely has good upside.
2nd String – Cole Pensick (Nebraska): Pensick is a marginal prospect, solid run blocker but lacks elite measurables (6â€™2â€, 278) to be a starting center in the NFL. Big 10 lacks eligible talent at this position.
4-3 Base Defense
1st String – Tyler Scott (Northwestern): Scott is probably the best pass rusher in the Big 10. He has good size at 6â€™4â€ 265 but it better suits him as an outside linebacker. He uses strength and a high motor in order to get into the backfield. He needs to add bulk as he gets pushed around in the run game a bit. Bt he could be an effective player at the next level.
1st String – Tyler Dippel (Wisconsin): Dippel is used as a rotational pass rusherÂ in Madison and does a pretty good job once he gets on the field. While he is not an elite run defender, he will find his niche in the NFL as a rotational pass rusher.
2nd string – Jason Ankrah (Nebraska): Ankrah is a good athlete for the Cornhuskers. He has great length at 6â€™4â€. He may better be suited for a role on a 3-4 team as a situational pass rusher. He can move into the backfield pretty quickly but must improve awareness so he can make plays on the ball carrier consistently.
2nd String – Marcus Rush (Michigan State): The Big 10 is not home to elite pass rushers like one may find in the SEC or Pac-12. However, guys like Marcus Rush exemplify the kind of players that are abundant on these teams. Â He is quick off the ball and has a very high motor. However, he plays very solid run defense. This is not the kind of player that is a day 1 or 2 selection in the Draft but a rotational guy coming on in day 3.
1st String – Raâ€™Shede Hageman (Minnesota): Hageman is one of many potential first round defensive picks in the Big 10. Hageman is an athletic freak to say the least. 6â€™6â€, 310 lbs, 36 inch vertical, 465 pound bench press, and clocked a faster 10 yard dash time than any defensive tackles from the 2013 combine. While those numbers donâ€™t equate to a good player, he is a violent player on the field and has upside as either a 1-tech or 3-tech tackle.
1st String – Daâ€™Quan Jones (Penn State): At 6â€™3â€, 318 pounds, Jones shows more upside as a run stuffer than a pass rusher. While that is not a bad thing by any means, it just shows his lack of versatility. He is able to track down the ball very well and clog up the middle, but you wonâ€™t find him in the backfield constantly.
2nd String -Â Bruce Gaston (Purdue): Gaston paired with Kawann Short last year to create a mammoth duo in the middle of the Purdue Line. Gaston does a good job at creating interior pressure and getting a hand in the run game. While he is not going to fill the box score with sacks, he does a good job at pushing the pocket around.
2nd String – Beau Allen (Wisconsin): Allen is valuable asset due to his 6â€™3, 335 pound frame. He does a good job of using his weight to push guards around and flustering the quarterback, he wonâ€™t consistently penetrate through, but he is a blue collar football player who brings it on every play.
1st String -Â Chris Borland (Wisconsin): Borland is undoubtedly the leader of the Badgersâ€™ defense. While he lacks elite size at 5â€™11â€ 248, but he is a strong athlete and very intelligent. He is a force in the running game and has the athletic potential to be a great coverage linebacker.
2nd String – Max Bullough (Michigan State): Bullough, like Bordland, is the heart of his defense. He is an instinctualÂ and naturally flows to the ball. He will consistently make plays in the run game and behind the line of scrimmage. While he is not the best pass defender, he is quite sound in that area.
1st string – Ryan Shazier (Ohio State): Shazier is another athletic freak and the best way to describe him is a much better version of Alec Ogletree. He is fast; 4.4 40, fast, and he shows it on the field. He flies around, constantly making plays against the run and the pass and occasionally can blitz off the edge. A perfect role for him at the next level would be a Kam Chancellor, Linebacker/Safety hybridâ€¦ He is that athletically gifted and he has the mental part of the game down as well. Very exciting player.
1st String – Jonathan Brown (Illinois): Brown is a great read and react player. He seems to know where the ball is going and meet the runner in the hole down to down.. While he is good at filling a gap, he needs to be better at stopping the play. He will over-pursue or fail to wrap up which leads to the lay being extended. However his pre-snap intelligence is important.
2nd String – Denicos Allen (Michigan State): Allen is not a complete linebacker, but he is a solid blitzer. He reads the snap count very well and is able to jump the snap effectively and use active hands to fight off blocks and make plays in the backfield.
2nd String – Jake Ryan (Michigan): Ryan would be higher up if it were not for an ACL injury this summer. He is a quarterback of the defense who can break down a play very quickly and flow to the ball. He shows awareness in all facets of defense, but it is to be seen how he recovers from injury.
1st String -Â Brad Roby (Ohio State): Roby is an athlete at corner, having allegedly run sub 4.3 40s. Once again, that doesnâ€™t matter unless it shows up on tape, and it does. He is arguably the best corner in this class and could have been the first corner selected last year had he opted out of his red shirt junior season. He is fluid with great range and can make plays on the ball in zone or man coverage. While he lacks physicality to be a major factor in the run game or press, he still tries to stick his nose in. Despite those shortcomings, he is the top pure cover corner for 2014.
1st String – Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State): Dennard is much more physical than Roby. While he doesnâ€™t have the elite coverage ability, he is a smart player with very good ball skills. To compliment, he is a willing and able tackler, something that is rare and valued in a corner today.
2nd String – Ricardo Allen (Purdue): Allen is smaller at 5â€™9, but no one should tell him that. He plays much bigger than he is and loves to get in the face of a receiever. While his ability lends him to being a better zone corner, he is fast enough to keep up with players in man, but his size may be his downfall against larger receivers. He has great ball skills as well and is always a threat off the return.
2nd String -Â Adrian Amos (Penn State): While he is not the best athlete at corner, everything he does on the field is sound. He has solid range and solid man coverage ability. He makes his name as a hitter though. While he goes for the occasion knockout, he will wrap up and secure the tackle a lot. However, if a player receives the ball in his range, they should count their blessings, because they will end up in the dirt.
1st String -Â Isaiah Lewis (Michigan State): Lewis is 5â€™10â€, 210 pounds which is not the size you want from a safety. However, he shows good ability in the box as a phenomenal run supporter. His deep range is limited but if he is just sitting over the intermediate middle, he can step up and be the intimidator for a defense.
2nd String- Ibraheim Campbell (Northwestern): Few people hit like Ibraheim: He is a rocket, flying all over the field, taking down the ball carrier with violence. He shows ability in coverage but he is truly a force to be reckoned with as a tackler.
1st String – CJ Barnett (Ohio State): Barnett is a solid tackler but has very good range over the top. He closes on the ball well and is able to make a play on it. While he needs to take better angles in coverage and in the run game, he flashes a solid game.
2nd String – Kurtis Drummond (Michigan State): Drummond has good size at 6â€™1â€ but needs to add weight to his 200-pound frame.Â Drummond does a good job of coming over the top in coverage and showed good range in his sophomore season, but needs to become a more sound tackler to improve his stock.
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