If you've followed these pieces on the draft, you know that Big John Hankins is the best pro prospect on the Buckeyes, and is extremely highly regarded by draftniks everywhere. It is even likely that Hankins will not only be the highest drafted of all the Buckeyes, but the highest drafted out of all the Big Ten's players.
However, this draft isn't all about Hankins. The Big Ten doesn't necessarily have the star power or first-round talent that they've had in the past, but there is quite a lot of depth of pro prospects, especially along the defensive side of the ball and in the trenches. Big Ten linemen are always well respected, and this year's crop of linebackers is particularly deep as well. Most of the teams in this league have at least one guy who might possibly represent his school in the first two rounds. Allow us to introduce you to the cream of the crop in the rest of the Big Ten.
Michigan - Taylor Lewan, OT, JR(RS) We begin with That Team Up North. Lewan is the one player who can challenge Hankins as the highest drafted player from the B1G. In fact, he may be drafted higher due to the high premium on dominant tackles. Lewan struggled a bit against Ohio State, but despite Jadaveon Clowney's much-GIF'd play, Lewan played very well against him. It will be very surprising if Lewan doesn't officially declare very soon. He could be a top-fifteen pick, especially with tackle-hungry Arizona picking early.
Michigan State - Dion Sims, TE, JR(RS) CBS' Rob Rang has Sims as his fifth overall tight end, and I tend to agree with him. William Gholston and Le'Veon Bell get the headlines, but Gholston had an off season and Bell is a power back who is more likely to go in the middle rounds, due to the lower overall value of running backs these days to NFL GMs. CB Johnny Adams also gets some consideration here, but Sims is a huge man who can create big time mismatches in the red zone and has enough athletic ability to be used in a two TE set.
Penn State - Jordan Hill, DE/DT, SR Many are high on linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti, but Mauti's unfortunate injury will cost him draft position. Mauti is the best player, but Hill is probably the highest-valued player from Happy Valley. Hill has the ability to contribute as a hybrid DE/DT right away on a 3-4 team. At 6'1, 291lbs he is a fireplug who can clog up the middle against the run but has enough power to rush the passer a little bit. He does not have the sheer size of last year's highly drafted D-tackle, Devon Still, but he is disruptive and will probably be off the board before any other Nittany Lion.
Iowa - Micah Hyde, CB/S, SR This one's easy. There's really nobody else close on this team to his talent level. The Ohio native looks like he'll be a mid-round selection as a special-teamer, but he can start on some NFL teams right now as a second corner or free safety. Hyde's true future, though, is as a nickel corner - he has the size to play the run but the quickness to stay with slot receivers. This position will become more and more important in the league as defenses learn how to defend pass-happy offenses.
Illinois - Akeem Spence, DT, JR(RS) If Spence elects to forego his senior year, he'll be the first Illini player off the board. Illinois has talented players like Spence, DE Michael Buchanan, LB Jonathan Brown and CB Terry Hawthorne from their defense, but all were affected by injuries and the Illini coaching staff's astounding ability, year after year, to get the least out of the talent they field. (Except Whitney Mercilus, who had about threeve sacks in 2011.) All of the above players will rate NFL looks (especially Brown if he comes out), but the best of the bunch is Spence. He's a disruptive 4-3 tackle who some enterprising defensive line coach will ask his GM to draft in the belief that he can get the best out of Spence.
Nebraska - Brett Maher, K, SR Remember that time the Rams took Greg Zuerlein in the 5th round? Maher has a shot to be the first or second kicker drafted this year with his past performance, and rookie kickers coming off a strange down year have had success recently. (See Walsh, Blair.) Maher did both the kicking and punting, so he will garner a look at either spot. Most of Nebraska's players are fringe-draftable talents except for Maher and Rex Burkhead, and Maher is likely to have the more meaningful career.
Northwestern - David Nwabuisi, LB, SR(RS) Nwabuisi had a really good senior year, and that will probably catapult him into the ranks of the drafted. He is a special-teamer right now who looks like he'll either catch on someone's practice squad or be the 46th player on the active roster. He led the team in interceptions and had 91 tackles which will definitely help his draft stock. Scouts will love his coverage ability.
Minnesota - Troy Stoudermire, CB, SR It's a battle between Minnesota's two corners, Stoudermire and Michael Carter, and Stoudermire's ability to return kicks wins the day. He is the all-time NCAA leader in kick return yardage and that alone could get him picked on the draft's last day. Most Minnesota players will not be drafted.
Indiana - Adam Replogle, DT, SR As many fits as Indiana gave Big Ten teams this year, it was so incredibly difficult to find a player who has tape that shows off any draftable skills. Most of Indiana's best players are not even draft-eligible as the team is loaded with freshmen and sophomores. Replogle and fellow defensive lineman Larry Black, Jr. are both draft-eligible seniors with some ability, but Replogle is probably the most likely to be drafted. Don't hold your breath waiting for a Hoosier to hear his name called any time before the 7th round, though.
Purdue - Kawann Short, DT, SR(RS) Short probably shouldn't have come back for his redshirt senior season. His tape from his junior year is much better, but there were still plenty of plays where he showed his dominance. Scouts will drool over his tape from the Ohio State game in 2011 (blargh) and his domination of draftable OG Hugh Thornton of Illinois this year. He's still a 2nd-3rd rounder easily in my book, and could even go at the bottom of the first round if a team hurting for DTs (Carolina?) really likes him and wants to trade up.
Wisconsin - Montee Ball, RB, SR Ugh, it's so boring to go chalk, but Ball is the obvious choice. Rick Wagner and Marcus Cromartie could go early, too, but Ball is the best Badger prospect this year. He had a wonderful career and looks to be ready to make a leap to the next level. There are concerns about his speed and the offensive system helping him out - he probably should have gone to the NFL last year at the peak of his powers - but he did not have as good of an O-Line this year and still put up big numbers. Ball is ready to make an impact.
Do you think I forgot anyone? I'd love to hear from fans of other teams. Who would you want your team to draft that you watched this year?