- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Big Ten hasn't produced a top-10 pick in the NFL draft since Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long and Ohio State defensive lineman Vernon Gholston went at No. 1 and No. 6, respectively, in 2008 (sorry, Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh doesn't count, played his entire career in Big 12).
The league's highest picks in the past four drafts have been Penn State's Aaron Maybin (No. 11 to Buffalo in 2009), Michigan's Brandon Graham (No. 13 to Philadelphia in 2010), Wisconsin's J.J. Watt (No. 11 to Houston in 2011) and Iowa's Riley Reiff last week (No. 23 to Detroit). Although the Big Ten's overall first-round numbers haven't been bad, and the league had 41 total players selected last week, its highest total since 2006, the lack of premier prospects is a bit of a concern.
But the top-10 drought could end in 2013, according to ESPN's Todd McShay.
My apologies for posting this a bit late, but McShay came out with his first mock draft for 2013, which he describes as an "extremely initial" version that "won't mean much by the time the summer is over."
Here's where he sees Big Ten players being selected next April.
No. 2: Wisconsin OT Ricky Wagner
No. 14: Michigan State DE William Gholston (underclassman)
No. 15: Michigan State CB Johnny Adams
No. 21: Purdue DT Kawann Short
No. 24: Illinois DE Michael Buchanan
No. 28: Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins (underclassman)
It's an interesting list, albeit an early one. Wagner certainly will be a player to watch as he enters his third year as a starter for the Badgers. He has been a good player, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in 2011, but whether he can take several steps to become one of the nation's best offensive linemen remains to be seen.
Gholston seems like a strong candidate to leave Michigan State after this season, where he'll be a top contender for Big Ten defensive player of the year honors. Hankins drew rave reviews from his teammates and coaches this spring, and can be a disruptive force with his size.
One player who doesn't appear is Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who many project to play wide receiver in the NFL. It'll be very interesting to see where "Shoelace" ends up next April.
3dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman
3dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
4dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy