In both 2007 and 2008, seven Big 10 receivers and tight ends were taken each year. Some were NFL ready (Ted Ginn Jr., James Hardy). Some were destined for the practice squad. In 2009, draft prognosticators again have much faith in the NFL potential of this years Big 10 crop of receivers and tight ends, predicting that up to seven will be taken. Because of an unimpressive year for Big 10 passer ratings and single season receiving numbers, I doubt that this number will actually be reached. But we will know more when combine numbers and teams needs are more pronounced.
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Last year's crop was a little better in NFL standards. Hardy, Devon Thomas, and Mario Manningham were blessed with speed or size (or both) and were picked in the first three rounds of the draft. Manningham would have gone earlier had he not lied about his marijuana use and then sent a letter to all 32 teams admitting he lied (cc Baltimore Ravens: I did inhale). Thanks to Penn State and their stable of quick receivers, the Big 10 may be able to hit their typical "7 ball catchers drafted," but unless someone breaks off a huge combine day, these receivers don't have the size or hype to make an instant impact. Although one would like to think that the PSU receivers will be given credit for learning a complicated offense and being asked to run a large amount of routes in the Spread HD, teams tend to draft on potential/hands over experience/statistics.
Derrick Williams: Watch Derrick run. Watch Derrick catch. Watch Derrick return punts. Watch Derrick get picked in Round 2 or 3 of the NFL draft. JoePa's favorite five star recruit came to Happy Valley with national championship dreams and left with decent statistics and a solid future. Williams is a do it all player who fit perfectly in the Spread HD because of his versatility and the toughness he showed while blocking downfield. It should also be mentioned that 4.3 speed doesn't usually come with a 200 lb wide receiver, but when it does, scouts notice. NFL Comparison: Steve Breaston, Santana Moss. Projected Round Drafted: 3
Brian Robiskie: Showed off his impressive hands against Texas, but it's widely known that he isn't the sprinter that Ginn was and doesn't posses the Spiderman quickness of former Buck Anthony Gonzalez. Will be a possession receiver at the next level, perfect for that 7 yard grab on 3rd and 5. Showed a nose for the ball around the goal line, leading the Big 10 in touchdowns in 2008 while helping Terrelle Pryor adjust to college ball. NFL Comparison: Muhsin Muhammad (sticky hands, good size - remember that Muhammed was a flop until he broke out for Carolina). Projected Round Drafted: 3
Travis Beckum: This NFL ready tight end might drop out of the guaranteed money because there are 4-5 tight ends that either played for better teams or have a higher profile. But anyone who has seen Beckum play at Wisconsin won't doubt his physical tools and his outstanding hands. He runs a predicted 4.59 40 yard dash, easily good enough to get him into Round 3. NFL Comparison: Chris Cooley (born to make catches, playmaking ability, great agility for a TE). Projected Round Drafted: 3
Greg Orton: This skinny but capable receiver was the Boilermaker replacement for Dorien Bryant and I chided him (and the Purdue receiving corps) for dropping balls early in the year. Although Orton found the endzone increasingly more at the end of the season and posted decent stats (2nd in the Big 10 in receptions), Purdue receivers haven't exactly torn up the NFL since the invent of Tillerball in West Lafayette. You can't teach Orton's 6'3'' height, but he doesn't have any hype surrounding him to draw attention to this obviously talented receiver. One problem with the inept Purdue offense: Because of the numerous short passes and Curtis Painter's inability to get the ball to his wide recivers downfield, we don't now exactly how talented Orton is. NFL Comparison: Drew Bennett (if Orton is serious about making the league, he needs to add 15 lbs...I couldn't find a top NFL WR who was as tall and skinny as Orton). Projected Round Drafted: 6
Deon Butler: Probably the second best hands in the Big 10, Butler was Penn State's leading receiver this year. A former walk on (!), Butler is a burner who's slight frame will skew his NFL draft prospects. All the players in the NFL who are Butler's size are lightning fast receivers, defensive backs, or punters. If his 40 time and agent can make a case for a quick, sure handed receiver, Butler will probably go earlier than Jordan Norwood, but well after Derrick Williams. NFL Comparison: Marvin Harrison. Projected Round Drafted: 6
Jordan Norwood: The senior had a solid year, catching 41 balls for 637 yards and six touchdowns. This capped a remarkable career in which he never had less than 32 receptions in a season. Norwood showed no fear catching balls in mid-air while being punished by safeties. One problem: He weights 170 pounds. Another problem: He became less effective as the season wore due to hamstring injury. FInal problem: Dropped a lot of balls this year, something you shouldn't do when paired with a solid QB like Daryll Clark. Isn't even on some draft charts. NFL Comparison: Eddie Royal (but slower - Royal ran a 4.39 last year at the Combine). Projected Round Drafted: 7/FA