The 10 most important B1G players who turned down the 2022 NFL Draft for another year in college
While there were plenty of Big Ten stars to opt not to return to college, here are the 10 most important players who chose to come back for another season:
10. DE Zach Harrison (Ohio State)
Harrison hasn’t quite had the same impact as the Bosa brothers or Chase Young, but he is a solid player in his own right, having been an All-Conference selection this season. And the Buckeyes need all the help they can get on defense.
9. TE Sam LaPorta (Iowa)
Iowa’s leading receiver coming back will provide a big boost to an offense that desperately needs it. At times over the last 2 seasons, it has seemed that Spencer Petras only had chemistry with LaPorta. So for him to return is a nice surprise for a Hawkeyes offense that is lacking in weapons. If LaPorta can take his game up one more notch and provide a little support for what should be another terrific defense, Iowa should contend again in the West.
8. C John Michael Schmitz (Minnesota)
PFF’s No. 3 center is back for a fifth season, and if the previous 4 are any indication, it’s going to be a good one. Schmitz has been among PFF’s top 6 centers each of the last 3 seasons. Especially on an offensive line that is losing 4 starters, Schmitz has to be the anchor of an offense that relies heavily on the run game.
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7. S Ji’Ayir Brown (Penn State)
Brown tied for the most interceptions in the country this season with 6, so his return is important for a Penn State squad that is losing a whole bunch of firepower on defense, including sack leader Arnold Ebiketie, Brandon Smith, Jesse Luketa and Ellis Brooks.
6. OT Dawand Jones (Ohio State)
The rare 3-star recruit at Ohio State, Jones has developed into a star on the outside. His emergence moved Thayer Munford, a 3-year starter at tackle, to the inside. Jones was PFF’s No. 2-graded tackle in the Big Ten. The 6-foot-8, 360-pounder excels in the run game but has room to grow in pass protection. It will be interesting to see if new offensive line coach Justin Frye can help take Jones’ game to another level before he heads to the NFL.
5. CB Riley Moss (Iowa)
The Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year was a game-changer for Iowa when healthy, as he returned 2 interceptions for TDs against Indiana in the opener and also picked off passes against Maryland and Penn State. Moss has multiple interceptions in 4 seasons.
4. QB Aidan O’Connell (Purdue)
I’m not sure there was a high demand for O’Connell at the next level, but he sure is a valuable college player. His return makes Purdue a contender in the West. If there was any question of what O’Connell can do without David Bell, look no further than his 534-yard, 5-TD performance against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.
3. RB Mohamed Ibrahim (Minnesota)
No one would’ve blamed Ibrahim if he’d have moved on to the NFL after sustaining a season-ending injury in the opener against Ohio State, since running backs have shorter careers than any other position. To get Ibrahim back will help offset losing 4 starting offensive linemen.
2. LB Jack Campbell (Iowa)
The leading tackler in the country will anchor what should be one of the top defenses in the country yet again. Campbell was a monster in 2021 and could’ve started playing on Sundays, but his return eases the burden on Iowa’s anemic offense.
1. WR Jayden Reed (Michigan State)
Reed’s return is huge not only for his production (he is the No. 2 returning WR in the B1G behind only Jaxon Smith-Njigba), but because of what he means to Michigan State’s offense. His chemistry and longtime friendship with QB Payton Thorne is well documented at this point, so they will form the No. 2 QB-WR duo in the B1G next year. With Kenneth Walker III off to the NFL, Reed will be the focal point of the offense in 2022 and should keep the Spartans from being one-year wonders.