Big Ten winners and losers: NFL underclassman draft deadline

Joey Bosa is one of nine Ohio State underclassmen going pro, which might force the Buckeyes to take a step back in 2016. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

After weeks of question marks, the list of Big Ten underclassmen declaring early for the NFL draft is now finalized.

Players had until Jan. 15 to submit their paperwork to the NFL -- and then had until Jan. 18 to withdraw their names. Some underclassmen had a very straight-forward decision; others made choices that defied conventional wisdom. Some Big Ten teams saw several key players return; others saw several depart.

So, who are the big winners from the NFL draft deadline, and who are the losers? Let's take a look:


Ohio State DE Joey Bosa (et al): This might've been the nation's biggest no-brainer. Bosa is the consensus No. 1 overall draft pick, so it's impossible to place him in any other category. He was the Big Ten defensive lineman of the year, an All-American and a constant thorn in the side of opposing offenses. Several other Buckeyes underclassmen -- such as Eli Apple, Ezekiel Elliott, Darron Lee and Michael Thomas -- are also projected to go in the first round. Individually, it's winners all around here.

Michigan Wolverines: OK, so Willie Henry decided to forgo his final season just before the deadline. Fair enough. But U-M is still a winner here for three big reasons: The return of defensive back Jourdan Lewis, tight end Jake Butt and defensive end Chris Wormley. It's that kind of returning talent that led two of us to name Michigan the favorite to win the East division next season.

Penn State DL Austin Johnson: Nebraska's Maliek Collins deserves a shoutout here and might even be drafted ahead of Johnson, but Johnson's draft stock really skyrocketed and made him the big winner. Collins was All-Big Ten the last two seasons; Johnson was just an honorable mention before his 2015 breakout season. He finished with 78 tackles this past season and now has scouts' attention.

Iowa Hawkeyes: The grand total of Hawkeyes declaring early for the NFL draft? Zero. The key move that puts Iowa among the winners here? Thorpe winner Desmond King deciding to stick around for his final season. "There will be those that say my decision is wrong," King wrote on Instagram, "but it's what's best for me." King recorded eight interceptions in 2015 and is one of the top defensive backs in the nation. That's a huge boost for the Iowa defense.

Michigan State OL Jack Conklin: ESPN's Todd McShay has Conklin going No. 13 overall, while Mel Kiper projects him to go No. 14. If their projections hold up, that would mean Conklin would become the second Big Ten player off the board following Bosa. He served up 65.5 knockdowns this past season.


Ohio State Buckeyes: No team in all of college football is more impacted by this deadline than the Buckeyes, as they lost as many underclassmen (9) as Alabama and Clemson combined. Even Urban Meyer was caught off-guard by the number: "Nine is a lot." You can't blame a lot of these players for declaring early, but that thought won't help Ohio State much in 2016. That's a lot of departing talent to replace.

Nebraska DL Vincent Valentine: Not only is defensive tackle the deepest position in this year's draft, but Valentine struggled with an injury and started in only seven of Nebraska's 13 games this past season. He finished with just 10 tackles and didn't even earn honorable mention on the All-Big Ten team. He obviously would've benefited from another season, and might even go undrafted. At least he earned his degree, though.

Ohio State WR Jalin Marshall: Of the nine Ohio State underclassmen declaring early for the NFL draft, only two -- Marshall and Tyvis Powell -- aren't ranked within the top 10 draft prospects of their respective positions. Powell at least graduated and said he accomplished what he set out to do; Marshall is just a redshirt sophomore. What makes Marshall's decision even more head-scratching is that he almost certainly would've been J.T. Barrett's top target in 2016.

Indiana Hoosiers: With the departure of senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld, Indiana sure could've used the return of its top running back. But Jordan Howard instead decided to follow in the footsteps of Tevin Coleman and turn pro early. That's bad enough, but the surprise decision to declare early by defensive lineman Darius Latham -- who finished second on the team with four sacks -- only adds to the Hoosiers' woes. Howard missed several games due to injury, and Latham has character issues. Both players boast plenty of talent, but this situation isn't a best-case scenario for either player or the Hoosiers.

Maryland DL Quinton Jefferson: Once again, this is not a good season to be a defensive tackle unless you're elite -- and Jefferson isn't elite. He did earn a spot on the Reese's Senior Bowl and graduated last month, but he could've improved his ranking with another season at Maryland -- especially with a staff full of defensive specialists. As it is now, Jefferson might be a sixth-round pick, or he could go undrafted.