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Monday, April 29, 2013
Big Ten's worst NFL draft? It's possible

By Adam Rittenberg

Travis Frederick
As the 31st pick, Travis Frederick was the first Big Ten player to be drafted.
The gap between the Big Ten and the SEC not only is widening on the field, but on the NFL draft boards.

While the SEC produced a record 63 picks in the 2013 NFL draft -- eight more than any conference in any draft in the modern era and 32 more than the next-best conference (ACC) in this year's draft -- the Big Ten endured a mostly forgettable three days at New York's Radio City Music Hall. Before going any further, this post isn't meant to knock the Big Ten players who heard their names called Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They worked years for this moment and deserve to celebrate their accomplishments. Congrats to all.

But for the Big Ten as a whole, this draft was a total dud. Was it the league's worst draft ever? If it isn't, it's certainly in the conversation.

The Big Ten produced only 22 draft picks, its lowest total since 1994, when it had 21 (and 11 teams, not 12). In 1994, the Big Ten had the No. 1 overall pick (Ohio State DT Dan Wilkinson), four first-round selections and eight selections in the first three rounds.

You have to wonder how much the Big Ten's damaged national reputation is impacting its draft hopefuls. The SEC's rise has made that conference the first place NFL general managers and player personnel directors look for talent. Although Big Ten players might be comparable to their SEC counterparts in many ways, their competition level might be looked at as a drawback in the final evaluations.

This year, the Big Ten tied with the Big 12 for fourth among leagues in producing picks, but the Big Ten produced fewer selections in the first three rounds (7) than any of the power conferences. Last year, the Big Ten finished with 41 draft picks, just one behind the SEC for the top spot.

Other items of note (tip of the cap to ESPN Stats & Information and the Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises for several of these):
Perhaps the best draft news for the Big Ten is that future member Rutgers had seven players selected, tied for the sixth highest total.

Before some initial thoughts on the draft, here's the Big Ten breakdown by round and by team:

First round (1): Wisconsin C Travis Frederick to Dallas (No. 31 overall)

Second round (4): Purdue DT Kawann Short to Carolina (No. 44 overall); Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell to Pittsburgh (No. 48 overall); Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins to New York Giants (No. 49 overall); Wisconsin RB Montee Ball to Denver (No. 58 overall)

Third round (2): Illinois G Hugh Thornton to Indianapolis (No. 86 overall); Penn State DT Jordan Hill to Seattle (No. 87 overall)

Fourth round (5): Illinois DT Akeem Spence to Tampa Bay (No. 100 overall); Michigan State TE Dion Sims to Miami (No. 106 overall); Penn State LB Gerald Hodges to Minnesota (No. 120 overall); Michigan State DE William Gholston to Tampa Bay (No. 126 overall)

Fifth round (4): Michigan RB Denard Robinson to Jacksonville (No. 135 overall); Illinois CB Terry Hawthorne to Pittsburgh (No. 150 overall); Iowa CB Micah Hyde to Green Bay (No. 159 overall); Wisconsin OT Ricky Wagner to Baltimore (No. 168)

Sixth round (2): Michigan G William Campbell to New York Jets (No. 178 overall); Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead to Cincinnati (No. 190 overall)

Seventh round (4): Penn State LB Michael Mauti to Minnesota (No. 213 overall); Illinois DE Michael Buchanan to New England (No. 226 overall); Ohio State OT Reid Fragel to Cincinnati (No. 240 overall); Nebraska S Daimion Stafford to Tennessee (No. 248 overall)

By team

Illinois: 4
Wisconsin: 3
Penn State: 3
Michigan State: 3
Ohio State: 3
Michigan: 2
Nebraska: 2
Purdue: 1
Iowa: 1

Former Penn State wide receiver Justin Brown, who last summer transferred to Oklahoma, was a sixth round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Former Michigan running back Michael Cox, who finished his career at Massachusetts, went to the New York Giants in the seventh round -- one spot above Mr. Irrelevant.

And, finally, some thoughts on the picks, the draft and the Big Ten ...