Looking at the top of the Big Ten, it gets pretty obvious fairly quickly who is going to be competing for the title at the end of the season. There are good teams elsewhere in the league, but the top features a handful of teams who are absolutely spoiled when it comes to blue-chip/draftable talent.

We’re talking Ohio State, Michigan, Oregon, and to a lesser extent Penn State. Surprise, surprise.

In the 2024 NFL Draft, those 4 schools produced 32 draft picks. The Big Ten (including the 4 newcomers) had 69 total picks. So, half of the pool from slightly less than a quarter of the membership. Michigan had 13 selections alone. Next year, Ohio State could break a draft record for total picks in 1 cycle.

And while it’s too early to really know what the top of the 2025 NFL Draft will look like, it is time to turn the attention to next year’s class. Whittling things down to a top 10 wasn’t easy, but here’s how I view the class.

These are the Big Ten’s 10 best 2025 NFL Draft prospects:

10. Quinshon Judkins, running back, Ohio State

This exercise isn’t about finding the right order of the first round, it’s about identifying the most talented players. While the running back position has been devalued in the NFL, talent is still talent and Quinshon Judkins is one of the purest football talents in the country. Will he be a first-round pick? Probably not, but he’s better than any running back that was picked in the 2024 class. Since his freshman season in 2022, Judkins leads all Power 5 backs in rushing yardage (2,726), yards after contact (1,800), and missed tackles forced (154). He also has 3 receiving touchdowns to go with 31 rushing scores. Now at Ohio State, Judkins joins a backfield where he’ll share the load with TreVeyon Henderson. The counting stats will take a hit, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a star running back.

9. Denzel Burke, cornerback, Ohio State

Burke has a 6-foot-1 frame with length and speed. He sticks with guys vertically and disrupts well at the catch point. Burke missed a few too many tackles last season but he has a high ceiling as a boundary corner. He might have been a first- or second-rounder had he come out in the 2024 draft cycle, and his return to Columbus to chase a national championship next season could solidify his status as a first-rounder.  In 3 seasons and 35 appearances with the Buckeyes, Burke has 95 career tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 27 passes defended, 2 interceptions, and a forced fumble.

8. Jack Sawyer, edge, Ohio State

The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Sawyer played Ohio State’s Jack position in 2022 before transitioning into a full-time defensive end role last fall. He produced 45 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. His 37 pressures were tied for the fifth-most by a Big Ten edge. Teammate JT Tuimoloau also had 37 pressures, and he’s the more toolsy player of the Buckeyes’ 2 edge rushers. Sawyer doesn’t have the same kind of length or twitch, but he explodes off the line of scrimmage and makes his money as a bull rusher. He’s sturdy and plays with a good motor.

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7. Sebastian Castro, cornerback, Iowa

There were only 6 FBS cornerbacks who played at least 900 snaps last fall. Only 1 of them had an overall defensive grade north of 80 (per PFF). Only 1 of them had a coverage north of 80. Only 1 of them had more than 25 stops (defined by PFF as tackles resulting in a “failure” for the offense). Only 1 of them allowed fewer than 7 yards per reception when targeted. Only 1 of them went the entire season without allowing a touchdown. Castro is the next great Iowa defensive back, and he’s already great. He had a 91.2 overall defensive grade from PFF last season and a 91.2 coverage grade. He made 36 stops with a missed tackle rate under 15%. He allowed receptions just 54% of the time he was targeted, gave up just 6.1 yards per reception, and didn’t give up a touchdown. Castro is a slot corner who can shut down things within 10 yards and help a team’s run defense.

6. Colston Loveland, tight end, Michigan

The 6-foot-5 Loveland would have been TE2 in the 2024 draft, had he been eligible. In the 2025 class, he has the chance to be TE1. In 29 career appearances over his first 2 seasons in Ann Arbor, Loveland has 61 receptions for 884 yards and 6 touchdowns. He broke out last season as a matchup problem and a favorite target for JJ McCarthy, finishing just 5 targets off the team lead. Loveland has to grow as a run blocker, as he has primarily been used in the slot to this point, with only a third of his snaps coming in line.

5. JT Tuimoloau, edge, Ohio State

A theme amongst many of Ohio State’s top contributors, Tuimoloau was considered a top-50 prospect had he entered the 2024 draft but opted to return to school to chase a title and boost his stock. The 6-foot-5, 269-pound end has played in 35 games over his first 3 years with the Buckeyes, but he only has 18 career tackles for loss and 7 sacks. He also has a pair of interceptions and 9 passes defended — active hands are a plus. But for a player with his physical tools and pedigree (the fourth-ranked recruit in the 2021 class), the production to this point has felt a bit underwhelming. I love Tuimoloau as a prospect but he has to show more consistency as a pass rusher in 2024. He has all the tools to be one of the very best in college football.

4. Josh Conerly Jr., offensive tackle, Oregon

After a reserve role as a true freshman, Conerly stepped in as Oregon’s full-time left tackle in 2023 and played more than 900 snaps — leading all Ducks linemen. He was up and down to begin the season but really found a groove over the team’s final 7 games, where he was charged with just 6 pressures allowed and no hits allowed on the quarterback. Oregon’s offensive line has been one of the best in the country — if not the best — over the last 2 years despite pieces moving around each offseason. As Conerly enters into Year 3 in the system, the former 5-star recruit has a chance to become one of the country’s very best left tackles. A strong year catapults him into the first round and gives him a decision to make regarding his final season in Eugene.

3. Will Johnson, cornerback, Michigan

Johnson is showing up in the first 5-10 picks of most too-early 2025 mock drafts, and for good reason. He has tremendous size (6-2, 202), fluid movement, and an aggressive play style. In 2 seasons with the Wolverines, Johnson has 54 tackles, 14 passes defended, and 7 interceptions. When targeted last season, he allowed a catch just 45% of the time (17 receptions on 38 targets) and picked off 4 passes. With Mike Sainristil and Josh Wallace moving to the NFL, opposing offenses are probably going to steer clear of Johnson a bit more in 2024. Rather, they should. 

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2. Abdul Carter, edge, Penn State

He wears the famous No. 11 and is moving from linebacker to edge rusher this season. The comparisons to Micah Parsons are going to be unending for the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Philly native. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe Parsons’ timeline is influencing the thinking a bit here. Penn State had this monster of a pass-rusher playing off-ball linebacker and then he moved to the NFL and immediately became one of the league’s premier edge rushers. Carter has some of the same freakish athletic abilities and, with a big season, could cement himself as a top-5 pick. Carter had limited opportunities to rush the passer last fall and still produced 28 total quarterback pressures. For his career, he has 11 sacks, 10 passes defended, and 3 forced fumbles in 26 appearances. A double-digit sack season is firmly in play.

1. Mason Graham, defensive tackle, Michigan

A 6-foot-3, 318-pound junior, Graham is a monster in run support with enough get-off to effectively rush the passer. He is disruptive almost every time the ball is snapped. In the College Football Playoff National Championship game against Washington, he was unblockable. UW tried to double him and he still blew up runs. Playing him straight up led to blockers being tossed aside. His motor is like a Honda Civic. His hands are ridiculous. And he’s deceptively quick. Last season, he had 28 stops and 29 quarterback pressures (per PFF) to go with 7.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. New Michigan defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has a best-in-class game-wrecker in the middle.

Honorable Mention (in no particular order): Penn State QB Drew Allar, Ohio State WR Emeka Egbuka, Oregon WR Evan Stewart, USC DL Bear Alexander, Penn State edge Dani Dennis-Sutton, Oregon CB Jabbar Muhammad, Oregon OL Ajani Cornelius

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