Big Ten: Ed McCaffrey

Your Big Ten NFL draft roundup

April, 26, 2010
The 2010 NFL draft is in the books, so let's take a look at the 34 Big Ten players who heard their names called in New York. When the full list of undrafted free agents comes out, I'll post it later in the week.

  • No Big Ten players selected

Here are the selections according to Big Ten team:

Illinois: 3
Indiana: 3
Iowa: 6
Michigan: 3
Michigan State: 1
Minnesota: 2
Northwestern: 3
Ohio State: 4
Penn State: 6
Purdue: 1
Wisconsin: 2

Quick thoughts:
  • Three of the biggest draft steals from the Big Ten were pass-catchers in 2009: Illinois wideout Arrelious Benn, Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker and Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki. Benn had first-round skills but a fourth-round college résumé. Decker most often was compared to former Broncos wideout Ed McCaffrey, and if healthy, he could do big things in Denver. If Moeaki stays healthy, the Chiefs might have found the next Tony Gonzalez. Kirk Ferentz puts Moeaki right up there with Dallas Clark in Iowa's top tight ends.
  • Love the Colts' pick of Angerer, who could be a very good pro in a great situation in Indy. With Angerer and Indiana's Fisher going to Indianapolis, the Colts now have drafted 26 Big Ten players under Bill Polian.
  • Northwestern's Kafka also goes to a very good situation in Philly, as the Eagles love to pass the ball and will run some shotgun.
  • Penn State's Lee, Purdue's Neal, Wisconsin's Schofield and Northwestern's Wootton and McManis could all be steals for their teams. Health has been an issue for Lee, Schofield, Wootton and McManis, so they need to find ways to get on the field and stay there.
  • It was interesting how one Big Ten left tackle, Indiana's Saffold, rose up the draft boards late in the process, while another, Iowa's Bulaga, dropped.
  • Ohio State had four players drafted, but this has to be the Buckeyes' weakest draft class in recent memory. I thought Gibson would go in the second or third round, but Worthington, Coleman and Spitler barely made the cut. Did Jim Tressel deserve Big Ten Coach of the Year over Ferentz? The case looks stronger now.
  • Draft snubs included Michigan State wide receiver Blair White, Michigan cornerback Donovan Warren, Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark and Purdue quarterback Joey Elliott. Warren was the only Big Ten junior not to get drafted. His decision to leave looked reasonable at the time, but he clearly could have used another year in Ann Arbor. All four players have reportedly signed free-agent deals.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

MINNEAPOLIS -- Eric Decker looks for a place to sit down and chat, so he enters Minnesota's football offices and pokes his head in the team meeting room.

  Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire
  Eric Decker led the Big Ten with 84 receptions in 2008.

Hearing the booming voice of a coach going over film with a group of players, Decker quickly ducks out.

"We shouldn't go in there," he said.

If Decker were like most Big Ten football players, he'd be in there, going over routes and formations.

After all, he's Minnesota's best player, a team captain and one of the top wide receivers in America. An hour earlier, Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster sat in the same meeting room and told reporters that Decker, a senior this fall, should be on the short list for the 2009 Biletnikoff Award. Decker was a finalist last fall, when he led the Big Ten with 84 receptions -- 15 more than any other player -- and also topped the list in receiving yards (1,074).

At this moment, however, Decker is an outsider in the Gopher football offices. For the second straight spring, he's playing for Minnesota's nationally ranked baseball team, which is off to a 13-6 start after a solid road trip through Texas.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Decker is more concerned with tracking down fly balls in center field than footballs thrown by Minnesota starting quarterback Adam Weber. The Gophers football team opens spring practice Tuesday afternoon, but Decker will work out with the baseball squad later that night.

"I'll probably come in early, catch the end of [football] practice, see how guys are doing, see how the offense is going," Decker said.

His focus is on baseball, but Decker tries to stay involved with football as much as he can, especially since the Gophers are installing a new offense with new coordinator Jedd Fisch. He still serves as a football captain, and when Minnesota votes on its 2009 captains after spring ball, he hopes to retain the position.

It's a heavy burden, but Decker wouldn't have things any other way.

"It's been hard to balance it, but it's been good," he said. "It's been everything I've wanted."

(Read full post)

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

 Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire
 Eric Decker is a weapon for the Gophers with and without the ball.

Eric Decker's mom probably doesn't love the line, but among football guys, it's one of the highest compliments a player can receive.

Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster could easily gush about Decker's receiving statistics. The junior leads the nation in receiving yards (696) and ranks second in receptions (50) on a much-improved Golden Gophers team. But Brewster would much rather talk about Decker's blocking ability and willingness to take on contact, two qualities many wide receivers lack, even the best ones.

"The biggest thing is he is one tough hombre, man," Brewster said. "He is a tough sucker."

When informed of Brewster's quote after Tuesday's practice, Decker laughed.

"Especially coming from him, with his mentality and his attitude, definitely a compliment," he said.

Decker might be the nation's best receiver no one's heard about. He ranked fourth in the Big Ten in receiving average last year, behind NFL draft picks Mario Manningham, Devin Thomas and James Hardy, despite playing for a team that finished 1-11.

After missing spring practice to play for Minnesota's baseball team, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior has continued to produce at a high rate. He's on pace for 100 receptions this season, making nine or more catches in three of the Gophers' six games this year.

(Read full post)

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

If you're short and slow like me, you're probably deeply envious of guys like Eric Decker. An athletic achievement for us is getting through 18 holes without Advil, or shoveling snow without pulling a muscle. Then there's Decker, a junior wide receiver for Minnesota who last season racked up 909 receiving yards and nine touchdowns as one of the only bright spots on a 1-11 team. After being peppered with requests from Golden Gophers baseball coaches to play for their team, Decker decided, eh, what the heck. He wound up starting 42 games in left field, hitting .329 with 28 RBI. At last month's Major League Baseball draft, the Milwaukee Brewers selected Decker in the 39th round. He had no plans to sign and didn't, wanting to gauge his skills on the gridiron this fall and help Minnesota back to respectability. NFL scouts will be watching. So will the rest of the Big Ten.

Obviously jealous of über-athletes like Decker, I wanted to dislike the guy. But after chatting with him this week, I just can't do it. Here's the first part of our discussion.

A lot of guys rule out playing two sports before college, and once they get there, it's usually totally out of the question. Did playing baseball go more smoothly than you thought it would, playing in the spring and now getting back into football?

Eric Decker: Baseball went real well and I enjoyed it. I knew I had a little catching up to do when I got here in the summer. It took me a few weeks to get back in shape and get my weight back where I wanted it to be. Now things are off and rolling. I feel good where I'm at, and I'm definitely comfortable with the progress I've made the last three months.

Can you pull it off again?

ED: Definitely. My baseball experience I really enjoyed. It's kind of a different environment, different atmosphere. Going into baseball season, I expected to hopefully help the team out in certain roles. I got the opportunity to get a starting role and hit No. 2 in the batting order. I surprised myself, just how well things went.

Can you use your football skills in the outfield?

ED: Some of that stuff transitions over. Just baserunning a little bit, hand-eye coordination. But some things, the mentality or the attitude you have between both sports is so different. In baseball, you can't get fired up or get that emotional rush, where in football you let it bust, let it all roll out. In baseball, if you have that built up, that's when you struggle at the plate. It was something that was tough for me to handle in the first three weeks of baseball.

Baseball is a lot looser atmosphere, isn't it?

ED: It's so laid-back. Those guys definitely helped me get into that baseball mind-set. I was definitely struggling. I couldn't hit the curveball right away, and I was like, 'God, what the hell's going on. I don't know if this is for me.' And they were like, 'Hey, just relax, go up and do what you do.' It definitely helped.

How surprised were you when you got drafted?

ED: It's real exciting. It's quite an honor, just being my first year and stuff. Being drafted was also something I didn't really look into much because I told people I wasn't going to sign if they drafted me. They're calling you, 'When would you sign? How much you want?' I was like, 'You know what, don't even think about drafting me because I'm not going to sign.' Milwaukee took me and I was really grateful, but at the same time I was like, 'I told you what I was going to do, but thank you, I guess.'

Do anticipate having to choose one sport at some point, or is it pretty open-ended in terms of what you do after college?

ED: Definitely open-ended. I want another year to see where I'm at with both levels, see where I have more potential in what field. When that time comes, I'll decide. I love both sports and I'm definitely honored to be able to participate in both. When that time comes, I'll hopefully make the right decision.

Your football and baseball coaches have compared you to Ed McCaffrey and Kirk Gibson. Which one of those do like better?

ED: Growing up, I always was an Ed McCaffrey fan. Being a slot receiver and being fast and tough -- he'd catch the ball over the middle -- he was someone I always idolized. I know I'm not going to run by anybody or run a 4.3, so definitely doing the dirty work inside at the receiver position was something I looked at him for. Kirk Gibson, he's just a tough, nasty dude who was a great ballplayer. I didn't really watch him much, but everything about him definitely is what I'm trying to be.

Did you expect to be elected a team captain, or was that a surprise?

ED: It was a little surprising. I didn't get the opportunity to go to spring practice because I was playing baseball, but it's definitely an honor and a privilege. It's something I was looking forward to, something I wanted to reach. And we have a pretty young offense where, being a junior, I knew I was a leader.

So you weren't even with the team and you get elected. That's got to be a great feeling.

ED: It was really cool because coach (Tim) Brewster called me. I think it was toward the end of May, before guys took off to go home for a couple weeks in the summer, and I was still playing baseball at the time. I didn't know what was going on. I thought maybe it was just an end-of-spring-practice thing, this is what the summer's going to look like and stuff, but they elected captains and I was one of them, so that was really surprising.

Does that role become even more important after the year you guys had in 2007?

ED: Definitely. People look at the leadership of the team and what you can do to overcome what happened last year. I'm real excited and optimistic about this upcoming year because there were a bunch of games where we were a couple plays away from winning. Doing the right things will definitely get us over that hump. Hopefully winning some of those nonconference games will boost our confidence.