Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Recapping Big Ten NFL draft decisions
By Adam Rittenberg
The Jan. 15 deadline to for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft has come and gone, and five Big Ten players opted to make the jump.
Here's a quick recap:
Michigan State RB Edwin Baker: Baker's departure was the biggest surprise in the group, as his production dropped off in 2011. Then again, he plays a position that has a short NFL shelf-life, and with Le'Veon Bell back in the fold for 2012, his opportunities at Michigan State could have been limited. It would have been interesting to see Baker and Bell compete for carries in what likely will be a more run-based offense. Baker will have to impress a lot of folks in pre-draft events to move up the boards.
Wisconsin C Peter Konz: After receiving a strong draft evaluation, Konz opted to leave Madison. He had an excellent season at center and has the ability to play multiple positions at the next level. Konz should hear his name called on the second day of the draft, if not sooner. Although it wouldn't have shocked me if Konz decided to return to a place he loves, it's hard to fault him for leaving.
Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus: An All-America season in 2011 made Mercilus' decision rather easy. The fact that Illinois made a coaching change and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning departed for North Carolina further cemented Mercilus' choice. His draft stock skyrocketed after he led the nation in sacks (16) and ranked second in tackles for loss (22.5). It'll be interesting to see if Mercilus is selected in the first round, as some are projecting.
Iowa LT Riley Reiff: Although we didn't hear much about Reiff during the season, his stock seemed to remain very high. He's widely projected as a top-10 or top-15 draft choice, making his decision to leave Iowa rather easy. He's big, strong and smart and should be one of the top two or three tackles on the board come April.
Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy: Another unsurprising choice, as Worthy entered the season projected as a first-round pick and didn't do much to hurt his stock. While there have been some concerns about him taking off a play or two, his explosiveness and ability to dominate for stretches make him a very appealing prospect. A strong pre-draft season should cement Worthy as a first-round pick.
Wisconsin RB Montee Ball: This came as a shock to many, as Ball had a breakthrough season, earning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist. He also plays a position that sees plenty of draft declarations. But a third-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee kept Ball in Madison. He plans to add a bit of weight and try to improve his stock as a senior. Ball understands he's taking a risk by returning, but his drive to better himself as a college player is admirable.
Purdue DT Kawann Short: A team spokesman confirmed to ESPN.com that Short will be back at Purdue in 2012. He'll enter the season as one of the league's top defensive linemen.
Penn State DT Jordan Hill: Hill sought a draft evaluation after a nice season alongside Big Ten defensive player of the year Devon Still. He opted to return to Penn State, where he'll once again work with line coach Larry Johnson and attempt to follow Still's footsteps in 2012.
Michigan State CB Johnny Adams: Adams also received an assessment from the advisory board before announcing on Twitter last week that he'll be back in East Lansing. This seems like the right move, as Adams can improve his stock on a defense filled with playmakers.
Michigan QB Denard Robinson: Few thought Robinson would make the jump, and after getting his draft evaluation, "Shoelace" wisely opted to remain at Michigan.
Michigan CB J.T. Floyd: Coach Brady Hoke said before the Sugar Bowl that he fully expected Floyd to return. Despite a nice junior season, Floyd also made the right call and will be back with Michigan for 2012.
Ohio State DL John Simon: Despite NFL potential, Simon will be back for his senior season at Ohio State. Simon projects as one of the Big Ten's top defensive linemen in 2012. He can play both line positions and exhibits tremendous strength.
Penn State LB Gerald Hodges: Hodges said before the TicketCity Bowl that he'll be back at Penn State for the 2012 campaign, although he sought input from the advisory board. He'll be part of what could be the Big Ten's top linebacking corps as Michael Mauti returns from injury.