Everybody assumes that first-round picks are destined for 15-year careers and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Some could do that, but the chances aren’t likely.

In fact, I think there are a couple Day 3 players from the B1G who could have longer careers than the first-rounders. Maybe it’s the position they play, maybe it’s their versatility or maybe it’s their work ethic that could make them stick in the NFL. That isn’t to say I think they’ll have the best careers.

This list is all about longevity. So who will be playing in the NFL the longest?

OT Jack Conklin — Left side, right side, I don’t care where Conklin plays at the next level. I’m betting on him to be a starting tackle in the NFL well into his 30s. He and Taylor Lewan could easily become one of the best offensive tackle duos in the NFL, and they could be in for plenty of success if they can get some skill players around Marcus Mariota.

There’s a reason that Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. were so high on Conklin in the top 10. Nobody is saying Conklin is a lock for the Hall of Fame, but it’d be a major surprise if he didn’t develop into a franchise cornerstone.

CB Eli Apple — One of the youngest guys in the draft, Apple is getting a head start compared to some of his fellow draftees. But Apple is already a tremendously skilled athlete who takes care of his body. He has the size to handle the physicality at the next level, and given his limited injury history, he isn’t coming into the league with any medical red flags.

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Even if he wasn’t the Giants’ first choice at No. 10, I don’t think fans will look back on it as a “bad pick” down the road. If he can develop more as a tackler, the former Buckeye could become into one of the league’s perennial corners.

DT Austin Johnson — In today’s NFL, everybody — even the defensive tackles — has to be quick and versatile. Johnson is the modern defensive tackle. He can fit in any scheme and succeed in it.

At a position where it’s easy to blend in, Johnson stands out. The second-team All-B1G defensive tackle had an impressive 72 tackles — 15 of which were for loss — last season. At 6-4, 315 pounds, Johnson gets off blocks extremely well for a guy his size. Sure, he played with some talented running mates in Carl Nassib and Anthony Zettel, but Johnson can dominate his guy and wreak havoc in the backfield.

He’s got “Kewann Short” written all over him. I expect Johnson not only to establish himself in the NFL, but to be a force in the league for the foreseeable future.


WR Leonte Carroo — If Carroo did what he did the last two seasons at Georgia instead of Rutgers, there would’ve been talk of him as a top four wideout in the draft. I don’t think people realize how good and how versatile Carroo was. Nobody in the B1G was more efficient and nobody in the country averaged more yards per route than Carroo did. And that was at Rutgers, where Carroo wasn’t exactly hidden on the scouting report.

You can put Carroo in the slot, you can put him in double screens, and he’s even physical enough to capitalize on a one-and-one matchup. He does too many things well — on top of the fact that he never drops passes — not to make it in the NFL.

ILB Joshua Perry — To play for a long time in the NFL, you have to have to have it all together. Few college athletes seemed to have their ducks in a row like Perry. The LOTT Impact Award finalist is as valuable off the field as he is on it.

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He might not have the upside of first-round linebackers in today’s NFL, but Perry is going to be a sure-tackler and a leader in whatever locker room he walks into and I think he’ll make his presence felt immediately. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him to become a franchise staple for the next decade and have a London Fletcher-like career.

DL Dean Lowry — Like Perry, Lowry is another guy who has his priorities in line. You need that to sustain success in the NFL. Lowry became a fan favorite in Evanston as a guy who came in and improved a ton in four years. Few in the B1G were better than Lowry was at diagnosing a play and blowing it up in the backfield.

On top of that, the 6-6, 296-pound defensive lineman has versatility that allows him to fit into any scheme. He can play in a 3-4, a 4-3, he can play inside and he can play outside. The Packers might’ve surprised a few people by taking him in the fourth round, but Lowry has the intangibles to develop and become a starter for a long time in the NFL.