10 B1G thoughts from the 2020 NFL Draft
It was another busy year for the B1G in the NFL Draft.
The conference saw 48 former players selected over the weekend, second-most of any league in college football this year. Ohio State and Michigan led the way with 10 picks each, with Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa each producing five selections. Wisconsin, Purdue, Maryland, Michigan State and Nebraska all had multiple picks and Indiana had one player chosen.
So, for 11 programs in the B1G, it was a good weekend.
Now that the 2020 NFL Draft is in the books, there are a few takeaways from this year’s event. Here are 10 thoughts I have about the B1G following this year’s draft.
Can we go ahead and award Chase Young a gold jacket now?
Not many analysts are willing to project draft picks as future Pro Football Hall of Fame players, but that seems to be the case with Chase Young. The No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft is considered the most talented athlete in the class and is expected to step on the field immediately and make an impact in Washington.
Some have compared Young to a better version of Nick Bosa, which won the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award last season. If that’s true, then opposing quarterbacks are in for nightmare years in the future.
Young still has to prove he can perform at the next level, but does anyone doubt that he’ll be able to produce? After a few years in the league, we’ll probably start hearing his name as a future Hall of Fame defensive end on a regular basis.
It’s somewhat concerning that Michigan produced 10 NFL Draft picks
Sending a double-digit total of players to the NFL in a single draft is an incredible accomplishment for any program. By having 10 players selected this year, Michigan tied Ohio State for most in the B1G and second-most in college football behind LSU’s 14.
What’s the problem? Despite all that talent, Michigan still finished 9-4. The Wolverines were blown out by Ohio State (10 picks), Alabama (9 picks) and Wisconsin (4 picks) and dropped a close game to Penn State (5 picks). At the very least, Jim Harbaugh should have his teams more competitive in games against some of the better teams in the league.
As Ralph Russo of the Associated Press pointed out, there’s a pretty large disparity between where Ohio State’s players were selected and where Michigan’s landed. He notes that the average selection for the Buckeyes was 97.9 while Michigan’s was at 184.5. There’s no question Ohio State has the more talented roster.
Still, sending 10 players to the next level via draft shows that Michigan has the talent to win at high level and compete with the best in the B1G. The fact that the Wolverines still haven’t cracked the Buckeyes or claimed a division title in five years is a knock against the coaching staff.
Josiah Scott is an absolute steal for the Jaguars in the fourth round
Because of Michigan State’s struggles to win games the past two seasons, Scott has been somewhat overlooked as an NFL Draft prospect. He’s a player who stepped on the field immediately in East Lansing and made a difference and went on to have a solid three-year career with the Spartans.
As a freshman at MSU in 2017, Scott totaled 30 tackles, broke up 10 passes, intercepted two more and forced a fumble. His next season was derailed with a preseason injury that cost him eight of the team’s 13 games. Still, after resuming action in the final five games, he recorded 13 stops, seven pass break-ups and two more picks.
Scott was a player again this year, adding 55 tackles, seven pass break-ups, three interceptions and a forced fumble to his career totals. That’s a pretty solid three-year career on one of the B1G’s better defensive units.
He’s scrappy, tough and able to make plays on the ball. He’s got a good chance to get on the field early in his career in Jacksonville.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers really like the B1G West
If you were paying attention to Tampa Bay at all this weekend, you noticed that they seemed to really love guys from the B1G West. The first five selections in the 2020 NFL Draft for the Bucs were all used on players who competed in the division at some point in their careers:
- No. 13: Tristan Wirfs, OT (Iowa)
- No. 45: Antoine Winfield Jr., S (Minnesota)
- No. 76: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB (Illinois/Vanderbilt)
- No. 161: Tyler Johnson, WR (Minnesota)
- No. 194: Kahlil Davis, DL (Nebraska)
Vaughn is the lone outlier, coming from an SEC program, but he did spend a few years at Illinois before transferring to Vanderbilt.
Maybe it’s the fact that Iowa and Minnesota defeated SEC programs in the Outback Bowl the last two years, giving executives a close look at future prospects. Or maybe it’s that general manager Jason Licht is a native Nebraskan and pays attention to B1G West football in the fall.
Either way, a lot of B1G players are headed to Tampa to join Tom Brady, who was also a former B1G star. Fitting, right?
Minnesota is on the rise
Speaking of the Golden Gophers, how about their showing in the NFL Draft? It took P.J. Fleck just three years to produce Minnesota’s most successful year in the draft of the modern era. Five players were selected this year, the most since 1988 when the draft exceeded today’s current seven-round format.
That provides Fleck and his staff with a very marketable advertisement on the recruiting trail. Not only are the Gophers coming off their best season in decades (11-2), they tied Iowa and Penn State for third-most draft picks produced from the B1G.
Minnesota is going to be a lot more attractive place for high-level recruits and the program could be a real force in the B1G West in the coming years. It should be really interesting to see what the response to Minnesota’s draft success is on the recruiting front in the near future.
Jeff Okudah is right, Ohio State’s secondary is “Best in America”
During the NFL Scouting Combine, Jeff Okudah said he wasn’t concerned whether or not Ohio State deserved the moniker “DB U.” Instead, he said the Buckeyes secondary operated under the phrase “B.I.A,” or “Best in America.”
With Jeff Okudah going No. 2 and Damon Arnette selected at No. 19, eight Ohio State defensive backs have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2014. No school has had more than three defensive backs taken in Round 1 in that same window.
To add to the “Best in America” nickname, every Ohio State starting cornerback has been selected at some point in the NFL Draft since 2013. That’s insane.
Now it’s up to the 2020 draft class to keep the Buckeyes’ streak alive.
Indiana is starting to prove it can be a football school
What if I told you that Indiana’s active draft streak is longer than half the teams in the B1G?
Based on Indiana’s history in football, you might be a little hesitant to believe that statistic. But with offensive lineman Simon Stepaniak getting selected by the Green Bay Packers in the sixth round on Saturday (No. 209), the Hoosiers have now had a player selected in ever draft since 2014.
That current seven-year run is longer than Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Rutgers. No, IU isn’t challenging the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa or Wisconsin as a football factory, but it is significant progress for a program that has struggled on the gridiron.
We’ll see how long Tom Allen can keep the streak going in Bloomington.
What happened with Wisconsin?
Asking “what happened” might be a strange question for a program that saw four players selected over the draft weekend. When you consider where some of those draftees were expected to land, however, you can’t help but wonder.
Linebacker slipped from a first-round prospect to the third round. Center Tyler Biadasz was also a first-round or second-round offensive lineman at one point, but was the last pick of the fourth round. Linebacker Chris Orr didn’t hear his name called.
Perhaps all three players — and even second-round running back Jonathan Taylor — could end up turning heads at the NFL level, and making other head coaches and general managers look foolish after a few years. That’s always a possibility.
Wisconsin entered this weekend with the potential to have three players selected in the first round. Instead, they didn’t have any.
Nate Stanley is going to hang around the league for awhile
The decision by the Minnesota Vikings to take Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley with a seventh-round pick seems like a pretty smart move. The three-year starter for the Hawkeyes has a large frame, is very durable and has a high football IQ. Those characteristics usually result in lengthy NFL careers, even if it’s primarily as a backup.
Whether or not Stanley will develop into an NFL starter at some point in his career is uncertain right now, but he has everything you want in a backup quarterback entering the league. Plus, he threw for over 8,000 yards, went 27-12 as a starter and went undefeated in bowl games while under center for the Hawkeyes.
Stanley didn’t get much attention at the quarterback position coming into the draft, but you might be surprised how long a player with his skill set can stick around at the NFL level. He’ll be a fun one to keep an eye on in the coming years.
The struggle continues for the state of Illinois
Neither Illinois nor Northwestern had a player selected in this year’s NFL Draft. For both programs, it’s the fourth time in the last 10 years they’ve failed to produce a draft pick. Not a great message for potential recruits.
Obviously there have been some obstacles at both schools.
Illinois has seen multiple coaching changes this decade, though Lovie Smith will be entering his fifth season with the program. With so many players transferring and the Fighting Illini having to start from scratch so frequently, it’s been tough to have much continuity or consistency in Champaign.
Northwestern’s academic standards and general middle-of-the-pack recruiting rankings put the program at a bit of a disadvantage compared to other teams in the league. That really should be a testament to how good of a coach Pat Fitzgerald has been in Evanston. It’d still be nice to have a little more success in the draft, though.
Maybe both schools can change the tune next year.