Top NFL draft prospects participated in the closing bell ceremonies Wednesday at the New York Stock Exchange. If projections hold true, tonight could be the first time since 1953 the Big Ten didn’t have a first-round selection.
Faithful supporters of the Big Ten are advised to turn away when the draft begins today at 8 p.m.
By many projections, the Southeastern Conferenceis is about to wallop the Big Ten by a couple of touchdowns — 14 first-round picks to 0.
That would mark the first time since 1953 the Big Ten didn’t have a first-round selection and another two-by-four-across-the-face reminder of the gap between the SEC and the rest of the country.
How uncharted is this for the Big Ten? The league houses many of the most prolific NFL factories — Ohio State’s 66 all-time NFL first-round picks are second only to Southern California’s 71, while Michigan has produced 42. And the Big Ten has had at least three first-rounders in 29 of the last 31 drafts, including every year since 1998, when Michigan’s Charles Woodson was selected fourth by the Oakland Raiders and Penn State’s Curtis Enis was taken fifth by the Chicago Bears.
In fairness, the streak would have continued had Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan not made the surprising decision to return for his senior year. Nor will a shutout be official until the lights go down at Radio City Music Hall. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins — whose stock has steadily fallen since leaving OSU a year early — Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, and Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short are dark-horse candidates to leap into the first round.
This year, though, Ohio State, Michigan, and the rest of the Big Ten will have to settle for hanging their helmet on quantity.
Of that, there is, well, some. A dozen-plus Ohio State and Michigan players will hope to hear their names over the next three days, though a seven-round mock draft by NFL.com projects four Buckeyes and only UM’s Denard Robinson will be selected.
Hankins is likely the first to go for OSU, though not as soon as he expected months earlier. The 6-foot-3, 322-pound interior anchor said he received a first-round grade from the NFL’s advisory council, but many have since scrutinized his drop in production last year. After having 67 tackles — including 11 for a loss — and three sacks as a sophomore, he had 55 tackles — four for a loss — and one sack in one fewer game last season.
Hankins’ potential drop would continue a rare drought for Ohio State, marking the third time in four years the Buckeyes do not have a first-round pick. Between 1995 and 2009, the Buckeyes had 27. (In all, OSU has had a national-best 82 players drafted since 2000).
“You look at Hankins in the second round,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., said. “He wasn’t as dominant this year as he was two years ago, but he’s got a lot of ability.”
Defensive end John Simon and left tackle Reid Fragel, the grandson of former Rossford basketball coach Joe Stalma, are projected as midround selections. Other OSU draft candidates include fullback Zach Boren, cornerback Travis Howard, linebacker Etienne Sabino, tight end Jake Stoneburner, and defensive end Nathan Williams.
Meanwhile, Robinson, who will be moving to receiver in the NFL, looks to be Michigan’s only sure pick. NFL.com projects the former quarterback to go in the fifth round.
“If there are two things about Denard Robinson that I think I know, one, he’s quick as can be, and two, he’s very tough,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “He’s got 700 touches at Michigan. I know he’s a tough and quick kid, and those two attributes are big toward the development of a slot receiver.”
Safety Jordan Kovacs — a former walk-on from Clay — defensive lineman Will Campbell, linebacker Kenny Demens, and offensive lineman Patrick Omameh are late-round or priority free-agent candidates.
Also of local interest in the Big Ten, Iowa’s Micah Hyde is widely viewed as a midround to late-round pick. The Fostoria graduate was named the league’s defensive back of the year last season.
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.