So another NFL draft is in the books, and I decided to take a look around the entire Big Ten, instead of my normal focus on my favorite NFL teams and the Buckeyes. I was astounded at what I saw.
The men in maize led the entire nation in number of draft picks, 11. That’s great news for young high school kids that dream of making it into the NFL, and is a testament to the talent that the Wolverines can bring in. The bad news is that it’s half of a starting lineup. Harbaugh and company will have their work cut out for them, trying to get that many new faces up to speed.
Their early season could prove problematic. Right off the bat they take on a Florida Gators team that went 9-4 and dispatched Iowa in their bowl game, 30-3. After that is a Cincinnati Bearcats team that is led by Mr. Buckeye, Luke Fickell. He grew up in Columbus, played for the Buckeyes, and spent the vast majority of his adult life coaching at Ohio State. To say that it’s circled on his calendar is an understatement.
The last thing you want to do when you have a young team is play a team that runs the option. Enter the last non-conference game, the Air Force Academy.
I am not predicting doom and gloom for the Wolverines, but if it does happen, this draft will help with the national opinion. Losing that many will give them a bit of a pass next year, until they can get their feet under them.
The Buckeyes had 7 players drafted, and an impressive 5 in the first two rounds. Ohio State markets itself to recruits as a football factory, and this certainly helps facilitate that image.
The 3 first round picks gives them 8 total over the last 2 seasons, and let’s recruits and their families know that the big bucks can come rolling in if you play well for the Buckeyes.
The Hawkeyes had 4 players selected in the middle rounds, and the Badgers had 3 total picks, with 2 first rounders. Neither draft was particularly good, but it wasn’t bad, so I put them here to leave them off the next list.
I was astounded by the lack of names called from the rest of the league. The 10 teams left had their name called 10 times. That’s less than Michigan. It’s also less than the Mid-American Conference.
That’s an average of 1 per team by the bottom 10. The entire Pac12, by comparison, averaged just under 3 per. The ACC was right at 3. The SEC was close to 1 first round pick per team, and I was just too depressed to look any farther.
Sometimes, when living through history, it’s hard to grasp the changing times. What happened to all the great talent in the Big Ten? Penn State and Nebraska, two blue blood programs, combined to tie Northwestern at 2 draft picks. Illinois, Minnesota, Maryland, and Purdue combined for 2. These are programs that have a tradition of putting guys into the NFL.
There is no excuse for this lack of NFL ready talent from the bottom two-thirds of the conference. I understand that the ESPN hype machine has convinced a lot of people that if you are born below the Mason-Dixon, you can run a faster 40, and that affects recruiting rankings. I also understand that football just isn’t as big for most of the Midwest as it was back in the old days. But you still have Northeast Ohio and Western PA churning out boatloads of recruits, and there are other hot beds in Big Ten territory as well.
The MAC is in the Big Ten’s backyard, and they managed 11 picks as a mid-major. Toledo and Western Michigan had three picks each. Only three teams in the Big Ten managed more than three.
I guess I live a sheltered existence in Columbus, Ohio, where Ohio State can still get the recruits and compete on a national level. I knew the league was down, but this was actually a little bit of a kick in the gut. Someone is going to have to explain to me how a team like Illinois, who had Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice on the same team, is now putting out 1 third round pick. Maryland had zero picks. This is the college of Randy White, Kris Jenkins, Shawn Merriman. Did they stop playing high school football around the Midwest?
After further thought, I am not going to include Penn State in the list of losers. 1 pick is pretty terrible for a program of the caliber of the Nittany Lions, but after all the penalties, it’s understandable. Plus, having the season they did and only losing one guy could be seen as a positive. But the rest? I mean I get Rutgers laying a goose egg, but Nebraska tying Indiana for draft picks at one each?