College football prospects worth keeping an eye on.
The Big 10 tied for the second most first round picks (seven) in the 2019 NFL Draft and had the second most picks overall (40). Even after such a successful draft for the conference, the Big 10 is poised to have quite a few top prospects again this year. The conference is loaded with potential first rounders on both sides of the ball, with many coming along the defensive line. PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES: SEC Preview | ACC Preview
Shea Patterson, Michigan: Shea Patterson’s debut season at Michigan had many intrigued to see how the former Ole Miss quarterback would grow under Jim Harbaugh. The 6’2” passer has a strong arm and is a good athlete. Patterson has a high ceiling and could seriously boost his stock this year.
Second Team: Nate Stanley, Iowa
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin: Jonathan Taylor is one of the most exciting players in the country and a contender for top running back prospect if he keeps up his incredibly level of play. He started off his college career with two straight seasons rushing over 1,900 yards (over 2,100 in 2018) and has scored 29 touchdowns in that time. The 230 pound runner is strong and agile but will need to prove third down ability to really sell teams on his NFL potential.
J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State: Dobbins burst onto the scene as a freshman, rushing for over 1,400 yards on less than 200 carries. Then as Ohio State went pass heavy last year with Dwayne Haskins, Dobbins efficiency took a big hit. Regardless he still scored 10 touchdowns and eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark. Dobbins is a tough, balanced runner with good initial burst and quickness. He is also a proven asset on passing downs.
Second Team: Reggie Corbin, Illinois and Raheem Blackshear, Rutgers
Tyler Johnson, Minnesota: The Golden Gophers have benefited from big plays by Tyler Johnson in the last two years. The 6’2” receiver has scored 19 touchdowns in that time using his toughness, solid hands and technical route running savvy. He is also a hard runner after the catch and teams will love his drive to create offense on his own.
Donovan Peoples-Jones: If Shea Patterson has a good year, Donovan Peoples-Jones will be a big part of it. The 6’2” receiver scored eight touchdowns last year on only 47 catches and added another score on a punt return. Peoples-Jones is an excellent athlete and playmaker for his size and an expanded passing offense should showcase that.
Second Team: K.J. Hill, Ohio State and KJ Hammler, Penn State
Brycen Hopkins: While attention is often (rightfully) paid to Rondale Moore on the Purdue offense, Brycen Hopkins was a big time playmaker for the Boilermakers last year. The 6’4” tight end averaged over 17 yards per catch, a substantial number for any pass catcher, let alone a tight end. Hopkins is an athletic mismatch nightmare and he should see more targets this year.
Second Team: Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin
Tristian Wirfs, Iowa: One of the best offensive linemen in the country, Tristian Wirfs has everything the NFL would want from an offensive tackle. The 6’5”, 322 pound tackle topped Bruce Feldman’s “Freak List” and he’s as much of a grinder as he is a workout warrior. Teams will love the combo of athleticism and brute nastiness on the field.
Alaric Jackson, Iowa: On the other side of the Iowa line is another future NFL badass. While Jackson may not be the athlete his teammate is, he possesses solid enough movement skills and is a well rounded, technically sound player. He will be playing in the shadow of his teammate all season, but he still has an excellent chance of being touted as prospect in the spring.
Second Team: Luke Campbell, Michigan State and Jon Runyan, Michigan
Ben Bredeson, Michigan: At 6’5”, 320 pounds, Ben Bredeson has a tackle build. His length and strength serve him well inside the offensive line but pad level has a tendency to get him in trouble. He is a highly experienced with 33 starts at left guard under his belt. Teams will love his size and experience at the position.
Kevin Jarvis, Michigan State: Kevin Jarvis had a phenomenal freshman campaign for MSU in 2017 that garnered All-Conference recognition but his sophomore season was hampered by injuries. While he was healthy, Jarvis was a key factor in the Spartan offense and his combination of power and technique was an asset. Jarvis will need to stay healthy this year and he can vie for NFL consideration.
Second Team: Steven Gonzalez, Penn State and Michael Onwenu, Michigan
Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin: Jonathan Taylor’s rushing domination is made possible in part because of Tyler Biadasz’ steadiness on the inside of the Wisconsin offensive line. The 6’3” blocker is a consistent, technical player with great strength and a high motor. Easily a top interior offensive line prospect this year.
Second Team: Cesar Ruiz, Michigan
Chase Young, Ohio State: Ohio State has put quite a few high profile defenders into the NFL in the last few years, including pass rushers Nick and Joey Bosa. However, Chase Young has a chance to be the best defensive line prospect the Buckeyes have produced. While Young may not be on the Bosa-level of technical prowess (he’s still pretty damn good in that regard), he is a better athlete than either Bosa. Young had 9.5 sacks last year and wreaked havoc on every down. He also massively improved from a Freshman season where he had a reduced role. If he continues on this path of improvement, he will be gunning to be the top prospect in 2020.
A.J. Epenesa, Iowa: The Big 10 is stacked with defensive line talent this year, so Epenesa being mentioned here is absolutely a testament to him as a prospect. Epenesa has an NFL-ready frame at 6’5” and over 270 pounds. He is freakishly quick for his size and plays with a nonstop motor. Epenesa led the Big 10 in sacks last year as a sophomore and chipped in four forced fumbles. He is a one man wrecking machine and it will be exciting to see what he does next.
Second Team: Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State and Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
Interior Defensive Linemen
Raequan Williams, Michigan State: The Spartans have a lot of talent on their defense but it starts with Raequan Williams disrupting offenses from the inside. The 300 pound tackle is quick with a high motor. He is an excellent run defender who can push the pocket on passing downs.
Lorenzo Neal, Purdue: Neal has been held back by injuries in his career, but the senior tackle has flashed dominance when he is on the field. At nearly 320 pounds, Neal is a space eater who can clog up running lanes. Teams will love his anchor and toughness. He will just need to turn in a healthy season.
Second Team: Robert Landers, Ohio State and Robert Windsor, Penn State
Paddy Fisher, Northwestern: Paddy Fisher has only been in Evanston for two years but has made a massive impact. He is a tackling machine who has forced nine fumbles in two years. He is a smart, heavy hitting linebacker who doesn’t get lost on passing downs. He is not a top tier athlete, but teams will love his football IQ and physical nature.
Markus Bailey, Purdue: Most people know Bailey from his dominant 2018 performance in an upset win against Ohio State where the hybrid linebacker was all over the field and had a crucial pick six. Bailey is a speedy player who uses his quickness as his dominant trait. Bailey will need to play with a bit more physicality to project as a full-time NFL linebacker but he has intriguing tools.
Joe Bachie Jr., Michigan State: Joe Bachie Jr. is an old school linebacker. He plays like his hair is on fire and loves coming downhill to make big hits. He has no problem working through traffic to find ball carriers and ruin their day. Bachie Jr. projects as a two-down linebacker who lacks athleticism to be a major factor on passing downs. However improvement of zone awareness could offset this.
Second Team: Mohammed Barry, Nebraska and Blake Gallagher, Northwestern and Malik Harrison, Ohio State
Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State: Ohio State has been churning out top cornerback prospects and Okudah is the next in line. The six foot defender was not wildly productive last year but showed fantastic athletic ability, consistently mirrored wide receivers in coverage and was able to limit receptions on the small amount of targets he received. Okudah is poised for a breakout year.
Lavert Hill, Michigan: A bit underdersized, Lavert Hill plays big football. He is a tough, physical corner with good quickness and playmaking ability. While he may project more as a slot cornerback, teams will love his complete game.
Second Team: Josiah Scott, Michigan State and Dicaprio Bootle, Nebraska
Jordan Fuller, Ohio State: Leading the Buckeyes in tackles last year, Jordan Fuller is poised to be one of the top safeties in the country this year. He is a terrific athlete who can play in zone, or in man coverage as a slot defender. Despite the numbers, Fuller can improve as a tackler and hopefully have more on the ball production in 2019.
David Dowell, Michigan State: David Dowell is a classic Michigan State defensive back. He is not a great athlete, but he is intelligent, physical and disciplined. Dowell is a leader on the Spartan defense and should have an excellent senior season.
Second Team: Antoine Brooks Jr., Maryland and Shaun Wade, Ohio State
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