For the second straight year, we have a consensus over which Big Ten player will be the first off the board in the NFL Draft. The only mystery is where that player will go.

Last year, Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson was considered a fairly sure thing as the No. 1 overall pick until the week of the Draft. Jacksonville zigged to Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker, and Hutchinson fell to the hometown Detroit Lions with the 2nd pick.

This year rival CJ Stroud finds himself in Hutchinson’s shoes. For most of the pre-draft process, Stroud has been considered the No. 2 quarterback prospect behind Alabama’s Bryce Young. But recent smokescreens have pointed to Kentucky’s Will Levis as a possibility for that pick.

It’s also possible that Houston takes Alabama edge Will Anderson No. 2, which could put Stroud’s destination completely up in the air.

Would a team trade up to the No. 3 spot to take him? Will the Colts grab Stroud or Levis at No. 4? And if Stroud falls to 5th, will someone trade for Seattle’s pick?

It’ll be fascinating to see how it plays out Thursday night.

Stroud will be the first of many B1G selections taken in the 2023 NFL Draft. Last year, 48 Big Ten players were drafted, ranking 2nd among all conferences. Every school but Northwestern had a player picked. This year all 14 should see a player drafted.

Here’s who should be the first off the board from each B1G program:


CB Devon Witherspoon

A Fighting Illini hasn’t been drafted in the first round since Whitney Mercilus in 2012. And based on how the program fared in the past decade up until last season, that comes as no surprise.

Witherspoon isn’t just a first round pick, though. He may well be the next Big Ten player drafted after Stroud. No Illinois player has gone in the top 10 since Simeon Rice and Kevin Hardy were taken 2nd and 3rd overall in the 1996 Draft.

Most draft experts have Witherspoon rated as the top cornerback in this year’s class.

When he’ll be picked: Top 10


LB Cam Jones

Jones will follow in Micah McFadden’s footsteps as a quality Day 3 selection for some NFL team. His size, which is more comparable to a safety, will concern some teams. But Jones figures to help out on special teams right away.

When he’ll be picked: Day 3


DE Lukas Van Ness

Van Ness’s edge on fellow Hawkeye Jack Campbell basically boils down to defensive end being a more premium position than inside. Quarterbacks, guys who protect quarterbacks, and guys who get to quarterbacks are the 3 things that matter most in the NFL.

Van Ness is a mid- to late-first round player.

When he’ll be picked: Round 1


CB Deonte Banks

Banks’ mock draft ascent is a bit of a surprise — he was an honorable mention all-BIG media team defensive back, but wasn’t recognized by the league’s coaches.

He’s tested very well in the pre-draft process, though, showing off freakish athleticism. Banks ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash, posted a 42-inch vertical, and broad jumped 11 feet, 4 inches. All were top-3 postings among cornerbacks in the 2023 Draft.

When he’ll be picked: Picks 20-40


DT Mazi Smith

A year after Hutchinson was taken No. 2 overall, it’s possible the first Wolverine won’t be off the board until the 2nd pick of Round 2.

This is not considered an overwhelming defensive tackle class, so even though Smith is likely to be the 2nd or 3rd player off the board at his position, it won’t be happening until late Round 1 or early in Round 2.

If New Orleans is still looking for a tackle at 40th overall, it’ll be a surprise to see Smith fall beyond that pick.

When he’ll be picked: Picks 30-40

Michigan State

WR Jayden Reed

Reed’s skill as a returner helps his cause considerably. And though most see him as a late Day 2/early Day 3 pick, Reed is a bit of a wild card. A number of teams might consider taking him in the second round of a draft that is not very top-heavy at wide receiver.

When he’ll be picked: Rounds 3-4


C John Michael Schmitz

Schmitz is the top-rated center in this year’s draft, which likely equates to an early second round selection.

When he’ll be picked: Round 2


WR Trey Palmer

As if you needed additional explanation for why Nebraska is on a new coach, player development was not a program strength under Scott Frost. Palmer, an LSU transfer who spent 1 season at Nebraska, will be the first Cornhusker picked — and that won’t happen until the middle of Day 3.

When he’ll be picked: Day 3


OT Peter Skoronski

A year after the Wildcats were shut out of the NFL Draft, Skoronski is poised to be Northwestern’s highest draft pick since Chris Hinton went 4th overall in 1983. Rashawn Slater, whom Skoronski replaced on Northwestern’s offensive line, was drafted 13th in 2021.

At any rate, Skoronski will be 1 of the top 2 tackles taken in this year’s draft. Scouts rave about his technical soundness.

When he’ll be picked: Top 15

Ohio State

QB CJ Stroud

I understand the trepidation over picking Stroud early.

No quarterback in the country had better targets to work with, and Ohio State’s receivers can cover up a lot of sins. It’s kind of wild to me that he’ll go higher in the draft than Justin Fields did given Fields’ superior athletic ability.

Maybe he doesn’t have the ceiling of Levis or Anthony Richardson in terms of raw arm strength. But Stroud definitely doesn’t have the floor of those high-risk gambles, who have major Zach Wilson vibes.

I could see the Texans making the mistake of not picking Stroud, but a team will pounce before he escapes the top 5.

When he’ll be picked: Top 5

Penn State

CB Joey Porter Jr.

Porter is just about guaranteed to make history as the 1st Penn State defensive back ever drafted in the first round. The dream, of course, is that he ends up with his dad’s Steelers at No. 17 overall.

Pittsburgh took Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett last year, and that seems to be working out just fine. Why not stay local again?

When he’ll be picked: Round 1


WR Charlie Jones

Since all of us are already thinking it, the Patriots have the following Round 4 picks:

  • No. 107 (Round 4, Pick 5)
  • No. 117 (Round 4, Pick 15)
  • No. 135 (Round 4, Pick 33)

New England doesn’t pick again until Round 6. If Jones slips to Round 5, expect to see him in another uniform.

When he’ll be picked: Rounds 4-5


P Adam Korsak

Greg Schiano refers to his punter as “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” and what would be better to add to that resume than the title of Mr. Irrelevant?

When he’ll be picked: Round 7


DT Keeanu Benton

The Badgers have 3 intriguing draft prospects — Benton, outside linebacker Nick Herbig and center Joe Tippmann.

None of them are going to be taken in the first round. But none of them are going to slip to Day 3, either. It’s a bit random that a school has 3 guys generally bunched together, and those will be the only 3 players drafted. We could see every Badger drafted within 20 picks of each other.

While they could go in any order, Benton seems the safest bet. As noted before, there aren’t a ton of great defensive tackle prospects in this draft, but Benton is near the top of the list.

When he’ll be picked: Round 2