The first round of the 2016 NFL draft is in the books. So we decided to poll our Big Ten writers and ask them to do some projecting moving forward: What B1G player will have the best pro career?
Here's what they had to say:
Brian Bennett: Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
I normally wouldn’t think about picking a running back, whose pro careers are often short and whose importance in the pass-heavy NFL has diminished. But Elliott is no ordinary case.
Elliott is being viewed as one of the top running back prospects in recent years, a top-five pick in an era where teams more often than not wait to draft that position. It’s understandable why his stock is so high. Elliott was not only super-productive at Ohio State — more than 1,800 rushing yards in each of the past two seasons, with 41 touchdowns — but he was also an elite blocker. That skill will allow him to stay on the field at all times and increases his value to the Dallas Cowboys. Elliott’s infamous outburst after the Michigan State game was seen as a negative by some, but I always thought it simply showed his competitive fire. He’ll be a star running back at the next level and — health permitting — will do it for a long time.
Mitch Sherman: Michigan State OT Jack Conklin
From walk-on to first-round pick, Conklin has already scaled a hill of astounding heights. And he’s likely far from satisfied after the Titans selected him eighth overall. If you saw him over the past three years for the Spartans, you understand. He’s a mauler and the ultimate tough guy. Conklin is a tackle by nature and might protect Marcus Mariota’s blind side for the next decade. But if he doesn’t fit at left tackle, Conklin can play on the right or even at guard. Who else in this discussion can play three or four positions? Conklin’s ferocious demeanor, his versatility and his size at 6-foot-6 and 308 pounds make the difference for me. No doubt, he does not possess the highest ceiling of the Big Ten’s first-round picks, but Conklin will find a way to prosper in the NFL. None of the other candidates here have traveled as far as Conklin, once an overlooked college prospect who played for his father in high school. And I’m not picking against him to outshine the rest of the group at the next level.
Josh Moyer: Ohio State OT Taylor Decker
If you look at the last three NFL drafts, at offensive tackles selected within the top 16 picks, every single one of those 10 players has started every season since entering the league. So I like the odds of Decker becoming an entrenched starter for the Detroit Lions right away -- and staying the starter. He has that kind of ability that should keep him in the pros for quite some time. He's a former basketball player, so he's incredibly athletic for a 320-pound lineman. He's a three-time Iron Buckeye, so his work ethic isn't an issue. He was a co-captain, so he's got the leadership down. And, maybe most important of all, he can put that all together and dominate. Here's what one AFC regional scout said before the draft: "I hope you kill this guy because I would love for him to fall to us. He's strong and tough. You can beat him up with this or that, but he'll be a longtime starting right tackle in the league for years." Based on all that, it sure sounds as if Decker is as close to a sure thing as you can get.