NFL Draft 1st Round
Coverage: 8:00 EST, ESPN
Where you should talk about it: Right here of course
Last year's draft produced decent results for the B1G; the conference had 4 players (Taylor Lewan, Ryan Shazier, Darqueze Dennard, and Bradley Roby) drafted in the first round. However, as a certain network which covers this event loves to mention, the B1G's drought of top-10 picks stretched into a sixth year since Jake Long went #1 overall. Nevermind that there have been 3 #11 picks from the conference in that timeframe and that one of them, J.J. Watt, makes all ten teams who passed on him look more stupid with every snap he takes in the NFL.
Moreover, the league's streak of years without a QB selected in the first round extended to twenty, going way back to Kerry Collins in 1994. That second one...is tough to explain away. Might it finally end this year?
Let's see, we've got...Gary Nova, C.J. Brown, Trevor Sie- you know what, no, it isn't going to change this year. 2016 should be a very different story with Connor Cook and maybe/probably Cardale Jones and Christian Hackenberg available.
Nonetheless, there are a bunch of dudes at other positions who are getting consistent first-round grades and projections. Here's a quick rundown, along with where you might see them go:
Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
I say OL and not OT because there's much discussion about Scherff's potential to play either guard or tackle in the NFL. Pretty much every mock draft I've seen has the New York Giants taking him at #9, but if he doesn't go there, other teams in need of OL help would include St. Louis at 10, San Diego at 17, Kansas City at 18, Detroit at 23, and Carolina at 25. Should New York and St. Louis both pass on him, it's tough to see him making it past both San Diego and Kansas City.
Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Gregory has perhaps the widest potential variance of the B1G's first-round prospects. Before his positive drug test at the NFL Combine, Gregory was considered a possible top-5 pick, with the thought being Washington would probably take him if he got past Jacksonville and Oakland. Because of both that positive test and more chatter about his inability to keep enough weight on, Gregory has now been displaced in the elite pass rusher talk by guys like Bud Dupree from Kentucky.
Still, Gregory is pretty much unanimously a mid-to-high first-round prospect. Atlanta remains a possibility at 8, but the most popular projection I've seen would send him to New Orleans with the 13th pick. If he doesn't go there and another team doesn't trade up for him, Cincinnati makes sense at 21. The timing of Gregory's selection depends on when the guys ahead of him at the position- Dante Fowler Jr., Vic Beasley, and Dupree- are selected. Gregory may have gotten a boost from Missouri DE Shane Ray also failing a drug test on Monday, just 3 days before the draft.
Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Waynes did a lot to alleviate concerns about his straight-line speed with his Combine performance, which, combined with his spotless character evaluation, has most mocks making him the first corner selected over Washington's Marcus Peters. Potential landing spots for Waynes are Minnesota at #11 and Miami at #14. If teams are troubled by Waynes' poor shuttle time and think it means he can't change direction fluidly enough, it's still unlikely that he'll fall past Pittsburgh at 22. Given the value teams are now placing on DBs who can play man coverage, I think most projections are underselling how highly Waynes and other top corners like Peters and UConn's Byron Jones are going to be taken.
Melvin Gordon III, RB, Wisconsin
Despite the devaluation of the position in the NFL, mock drafters can't help themselves when it comes to Gordon and Georgia RB Todd Gurley; both are now popping up in a lot of first-round projections. Most of those projections have Gurley going before Gordon; even if the taboo on 1st-round tailbacks is broken, Gordon would likely need a second team to break it. Possibilities include Miami at 14, San Diego at 17, and Dallas at 27. The Cowboys in particular would be a great landing spot considering the strength of their offensive line. Hell, even the Jets at #6 really need a productive back, but there's no way they'd be dumb enough to spend that pick on a tailback with all their other needs, right?
-Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State happens to have the misfortune of being in a really deep, talented pool of receivers. He's not likely to go before all of Amari Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Breshad Perriman, and Jaelen Strong are off the board. However, Smith's unparalleled ability to catch the deep ball is going to get some attention, and for a while he was a popular pick for the Seahawks at 31; however, they have since traded that pick to the Saints.
-Devin Funchess, WR/TE, Michigan is in a similar boat to Smith vis-a-vis positional depth that's clearly better than him. Despite his serious issues with drops, bad in-line blocking if you view him as a tight end, and questionable downfield speed, he's got the size and athletic ability that NFL teams simply can't stop themselves from reaching for. It would take an unprecedented run on receivers for a first-round selection of Funchess to make any sense, but he's got that kind of potential, and all it takes is one GM who thinks he can be a Gronkowski/Graham/Gates type of game-changer as a split TE.
-Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota is clearly the best TE prospect in the shallow pool at the position, but he probably isn't going to merit a first-round pick. The early thought was that Seattle might take him at #31, but they used that pick to get Jimmy Graham from the Saints, so one assumes the Seahawks are no longer in the market. Don't rule Williams out of the first round, but don't bet on him making it, either.
-DT Michael Bennett, Ohio State is a guy who used to be in a lot of first-round mocks, and has just sort of disappeared for unclear reasons. Part of it might have been exposure from the Buckeyes' national title run getting washed away by deeper looks at his film, but that feels charitable. More likely, mock artists felt the need to insert more receivers and running backs in the first round, and somebody had to go to make that happen. I wouldn't be surprised if a team like Indianapolis (29), Dallas (27), or even Detroit (23) takes him tonight.