B1G players highlight McShay's latest big board
ESPN NFL draft insider Todd McShay continued to load his big board with B1G talent.
In all, nine B1G players cracked McShay’s latest big board. Five of those players came from Ohio State while Michigan State had two and Nebraska and Penn State had one apiece.
Noteworthy is the fact that McShay took Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg out of the top 32 and put his teammate, Austin Johnson in. McShay, as you’ll recall, once had Hackenberg atop his mock draft. Ironic is the fact that he was removed after a game in which he threw for 300-plus yards and three touchdowns.
Luckily for Hackenberg, the draft is still over six months away. Here’s where McShay had each B1G player.
1. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State Buckeyes*
Bosa has played lights-out since Big Ten play started, with 8.5 tackles for loss in four conference games. That gives him 45.5 TFLs in his 34 career games at Ohio State. He shows a consistent ability to convert speed to power and uses a wide array of pass-rush moves — swim, rip, club, spin. With experience playing DE on both sides and moving inside to DT on obvious pass downs, Bosa brings a lot of scheme versatility to the table.
13. Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State Spartans*
Coming into the season, we were interested to see how Conklin would hold up in pass protection versus NFL-level defensive ends. So far, so good. Most specifically, Conklin got the best of Oregon’s DeForest Buckner (No. 10 on this list) when the two matched up against each other on Sept. 12. While Conklin’s stock has risen since the start of the season, a left knee injury — which forced him to sit out the two games prior to Michigan — should be closely monitored.
14. Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State Buckeyes*
After leading the Buckeyes in TFLs last season, Lee has picked up right where he left off (7.0 TFLs in eight games). The former high school quarterback is an undersized weakside linebacker prospect (6-2, 235 pounds) with a good combination of athleticism, range, versatility and playmaking instincts. He fits today’s NFL extremely well.
16. Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State Buckeyes*
Ohio State’s inconsistencies at quarterback are no secret, but Thomas has again been a steadying force for the offense. He leads the teams in catches (35), receiving yards (536) and touchdowns (six). Thomas is strong and tough enough to make difficult catches over the middle and fast enough to be a viable big-play threat (11 catches of 20-plus yards this season).
17. Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska Cornhuskers*
After getting off to a slow start, Collins has rounded back into form (five TFLs and four QB hits). He’s an effective hand fighter, and has the skill set to prey on off-balance offensive linemen. And while Collins is not an overwhelming bull rusher, he generates enough push to make it tough for quarterbacks to step up.
19. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State Buckeyes*
A true workhorse back, Elliott has yet to be held under 100 yards rushing in a game this season. And after scoring 18 TDs in 2014, he’s on an even more impressive pace this year (13 TDs in eight games). Elliott’s 23-carry, 274-yard, 3-TD performance against Indiana is one of the best games I’ve seen a running back play this season. He’s a powerful runner who almost always churns out yards after initial contact and falls forward at the end of runs.
21. Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State Nittany Lions
Johnson has been a consistent force for the Nittany Lions, registering a tackle for loss in six of his past eight games. He also scored a 71-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery earlier this season against San Diego State. One of the games he was held mostly in check came against Ohio State. I’ll be watching to see if that happens against Michigan and Michigan State down the stretch.
25. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State Buckeyes
Decker’s versatility in the run game, particularly on zone-stretch plays, has helped Ohio State average 247 yards per game on the ground this season, 13th in the FBS. Decker, who has experience at both tackle positions, must continue to improve his leverage and feet in order to maximize his draft stock.
26. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
I came away from the Michigan game really impressed with Cook. I know he completed less than 50 percent of his passes, but he was able to help create big plays through the passing game against one of the nation’s best defenses. And even better? There was no letdown the next week against Indiana (398 yards passing and four TDs). One area in which he can improve is his accuracy. Far too often, he misses the strike zone and forces receivers to adjust to the ball.
*Player still has eligibility after 2015