Can the B1G make NFL Draft history in 2020? Here's a realistic way that happens
This year’s NFL Draft could be historic for the B1G.
No, the league isn’t likely to produce more draft picks than the SEC this year. It won’t have the most first-round selections compared to other leagues, either. Unless there’s a change of heart at the last second from the Cincinnati Bengals, the B1G won’t even receive the glamour of producing the No. 1 overall pick this year, with LSU’s Joe Burrow essentially locking that down.
Still, if you trust NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah and a recent report from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the conference could still do something on Thursday night that it’s never done in the 50-year history of the modern NFL Draft: produce three of the top four picks.
The B1G has never produced 75 percent of the first four selections in a single season since the AFL/NFL merger was complete in 1970. In the modern era of the draft, only two leagues have done that — the Big 12 in 2010 and the SEC in 2011.
To be clear, the B1G actually did have three of the top four picks in the 1967 common draft (before the AFL-NFL merger was complete). Michigan State produced the first two selections that year — defensive tackle Bubba Smith went No. 1 and running back Clint Jones was No. 2. Purdue quarterback Bob Griese was taken with the fourth overall pick.
It hasn’t happened since.
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Producing three of the top four picks is a realistic possibility for the B1G on Thursday night, thanks to Ohio State defensive end Chase Young and cornerback Jeff Okudah, and Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs. Those three ex-B1G stars are slated to be selected with picks No. 2-No.4 on Thursday, based on Jeremiah’s latest mock draft.
Young and Okudah have essentially been Sharpie’d into the No. 2 and No. 3 slots since the end of the season. Many believe that Young could even be the best overall prospect in this draft, but with the quarterback position being the most valuable in today’s game, passing on Burrow would be too much of a risk for the Bengals.
Last season, Young totaled 16.5 sacks, forced six fumbles and blocked a kick, earning him a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Now, he’s expected to join former teammates Dwayne Haskins and Terry McLaurin in D.C. as a member of the Washington Redskins as the second overall selection on Thursday.
Okudah hasn’t ever really been in the conversation as the first overall pick in the 2020 draft, but he’s consistently been mentioned as a top 10 prospect since the start of the college football season. Near the end of the year, it became clear that the Buckeye defensive back was the top corner in college football.
He solidified that by totaling 35 tackles, nine pass break-ups, three interceptions and two forced fumbles in his final year in Columbus. Jeremiah is confident that the Detroit Lions take Okudah with the No. 3 pick.
“Okudah is the premier player at his position in this draft and fills a massive need on the Lions’ defense,” Jeremiah wrote.
Not until recently did Wirfs enter the picture as a potential No. 4 pick by the New York Giants. An outstanding performance at the NFL Scouting Combine and some added protection for quarterback Daniel Jones appears to be the reason why some believe the former Iowa offensive lineman could sneak into the top five.
According to Fowler, the Giants have been targeting Wirfs recently.
“Tristan Wirfs has spent a considerable amount of time with the New York Giants, who pick fourth,” Fowler said on SportsCenter, according to 247Sports. “They’re looking at several options, including a lot of defensive guys. They have also zeroed in on Wirfs. Now, the Giants are looking to trade back. If they move to, say, six, Wirfs could be an option there as well as potentially the first tackle off the board.”
Wirfs was a solid first-round prospect on most draft boards heading into the offseason. His stock skyrocketed after his trip to the combine in Indianapolis, however. He set a record at his position in the vertical jump (36.5 inches) and tied the broad jump record (10-foot-1), while also clocking a 4.85 time in the 40-yard dash, fastest among all offensive lineman this year. All that with a 6-foot-5, 320-pound frame.
Is that combination of size and athleticism too much for the Giants to pass up? It could be one of the more interesting storylines in the coming days as the draft creeps closer.
With Young and Okudah essentially locked into the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in the 2020 NFL Draft, the only question is whether Wirfs has done enough to convince New York that he’s worthy of that fourth pick. If the Giants take the former Hawkeye, B1G history will be made in this year’s draft.
It’ll also be just the third time it’s ever happened since 1970.