Big Ten: Mario Williams

The Big Ten failed to produce a top-10 NFL draft pick for the third consecutive year, but the league still had a sizable presence in the first round of the draft. Emphasis on size.

Six Big Ten players heard their names called Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall, the league's largest first-round contingent since 2007, when it also had six selections. All six players played line in the Big Ten, including five on the defensive front.

New Big Ten member Nebraska also had a first-round pick in cornerback Prince Amukamara, who went No. 19 overall to the New York Giants, whose fans actually seemed pleased to land one of the nation's top defensive backs. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has now coached a defender drafted in the top-20 in each of the past five seasons.

Let's take a quick look at the Big Ten's first-round picks.

J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin, 6-5, 290
Pick:
No. 11 overall
Team:
Houston
Video analysis: Todd McShay
Quotable: "I know Mario Williams is a great defensive end. I can't wait to play on the same defensive line as him because he makes everyone around him look good. Hopefully I am there to take some blocks off him, as well. Wade Phillips has a great defense. I am ready to get to work." -- J.J. Watt
My quick take: As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of Watt, whose evolution from MAC tight end to Wisconsin All-American to first-round pick is extraordinary. He can play either line position and benefits from entering a group that already has a star in Williams. He should flourish in a 3-4 defense, and while he might not record ridiculous sack totals, he helps a team in so many ways.

Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue, 6-4, 267
Pick:
No. 16
Team: Washington
Video analysis: Todd McShay
Quotable: "He's big enough, he’s strong enough, he’s played in the three-point stance before. He can go inside, outside. He’s used to playing with his hand down, so it’s a big plus for us." -- Redskins coach Mike Shanahan
My quick take: Like Watt, Kerrigan should fit in nicely with a 3-4 defense with the Redskins. He brings a tireless work ethic and no drama to a team that has been very dysfunctional in recent years. A Big Ten coach told me Kerrigan and Watt were the league's only two players who required double teams throughout games, so while some knock Kerrigan's speed and athleticism, this guy will make plays for the Redskins.

Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois, 6-2, 298
Pick:
No. 18
Team:
San Diego Quotable: "We were looking for a guy who has an edge. He plays with a lot of passion. He's physical. He's one of those guys we thought could knock people back off the ball. We wanted to get a little more physical up front. We want to bring a little more presence to our front at the end position." -- Chargers director of player personnel Jimmy Raye
My quick take: The Chargers had to be thrilled that Liuget was still available at No. 18. Some forecasted him as a top 10 pick and almost everyone, including Illinois teammate Jeff Allen, thought he wouldn't slip below St. Louis at No. 14. Liuget was the Big Ten's most disruptive interior lineman and fills a need for the Chargers on the interior line. San Diego gets a player who is blossoming and reaching his potential. A very nice pick.

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa, 6-2, 281
Pick:
No. 20
Team: Tampa Bay
Video analysis: Todd McShay
Quotable: “He said he’s going to guide me the right way through this whole thing. It’s nice to have someone helping you that way." -- Clayborn on new teammate Gerald McCoy
My quick take: If Clayborn had entered the draft a year ago, there's no way he would have fallen to No. 20. And if he can reclaim the form he displayed in 2009, Tampa Bay will be thrilled with its newest addition. Clayborn can be a beast on the edge and should feed off McCoy on the inside. There are some concerns about Clayborn's Erb's Palsy, which limits his right arm, but the Iowa star showed impressive strength throughout his college career.

Gabe Carimi, LT, Wisconsin, 6-7, 314
Pick:
No. 29
Team: Chicago
Video analysis: Todd McShay
Quotable: "I converted about 100 Packers fans to Bears fans. I cannot wait to play for [Bears offensive line coach] Mike Tice." -- Carimi, a native of Cottage Grove, Wis.
My quick take: I'm not just writing this because I'm a Bears fan, but this is a huge get for a team that desperately needs new blood along the offensive line. The Bears surrendered a league-high 56 sacks in 2010, and while it will take more than Carimi to ensure Jay Cutler's long-term safety, the Wisconsin star is an excellent start. Few thought Carimi would be available at No. 29, including the Bears, who tried to trade up to get him. Carimi proved himself against several of the nation's top defensive linemen, including both Kerrigan and Clayborn (and Watt in practice). Some viewed his Combine comments as cocky, but he's well prepared for what to expect in the NFL.

Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State, 6-5, 294
Pick:
No. 31
Team:
Pittsburgh
Video analysis
: Todd McShay
Quotable: "I know he's watching. I'm going to try to do everything to make him proud of me and live his legacy on." -- Cameron Heyward, on his late father, Craig, who starred for the University of Pittsburgh before moving on to the NFL
My quick take:
Heyward is a big-game performer who joins a team that plays quite a few big games. He starred as a junior against both USC and Penn State and saved his best for his last game, the 2011 Allstate Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. Heyward won't be under a ton of pressure to be a star right away as Pittsburgh boasts a solid defensive front. He's extremely strong and gives the Steelers a big body who can play both outside or inside if needed.

SPONSORED HEADLINES