One of the worst years in the long and proud history of Big Ten football will, in all likelihood, bleed into the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
That’s right: While the SEC is primed to set a record for the most players selected by one conference in a single first round, ESPN Draft expert Mel Kiper’s fifth and final Mock Draft does not list a single Big Ten player among the top 32 selections.
Basically, while player after player from the SEC is selected — wearing a gorgeous new suit and shiny shoes — the Big Ten as a conference will be like a drunk, disheveled fan across the street from Radio City Music Hall ticked off that no one’s letting him inside.
But things could have been different. Star Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan almost certainly would have been a top 10 pick but he shocked the college football world in deciding to stay in Ann Arbor for his senior season.
As for the players actually entering the draft, there is a combination of underwhelming 2012 performances mixed with tough NFL Combine times mixed with the needs of NFL teams forcing Big Ten stars down draft boards.
For example, the market for a speedy but inaccurate quarterback in Michgan’s Denard Robinson is slim. He is trying to make the switch to wide receiver, but his inexperience at the position pushes him far out of the first round.
Following his own superstar junior year, Wisconsin’s Montee Ball finished as a Heisman Trophy finalist and most likely would have been selected in the first round. However, he also chose to return to school, and it looks like he will suffer for it.
Ball will most likely be selected some time in the second round. However, the fact that the NFL is moving more and more to a pass-first, pass-second and pass-third league, along with the fact that Ball’s combine performance left plenty to be desired, will likely keep him out of the first 32 as well.
Finally, Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins. Big Hank is a load as a 6-foot-3, 320-pound defensive tackle. The former Buckeye is, by all accounts, an exceptional run stopper, but he lacks the true burst to break through and put any real pressure on the quarterback.
That being said, if this were a weaker draft class at his position, Hankins would probably be a first-rounder. However, with Florida’s Sharrif Floyd, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams and Mizzou’s Sheldon Richardons all rated higher than him, along with a slew of defensive ends for teams to choose from, there simply isn’t enough room for Big Hank in the first round.
For Hankins, that is obviously a major bummer.
For the rest of the Big Ten, things are looking even worse right now.