It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yes, the holidays are over, along with the college football season, but it is the official start of the NFL draft process.
Players have declared/graduated, hired agents, and have begun training to impress potential NFL suitors. One way for players to improve (or hurt) their draft stocks has been by accepting invites to collegiate postseason all-star games. The largest one to date has been the Reese’s Senior Bowl, which takes place in Mobile, Alabama. Players like the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, Cardinals’ David Johnson, and Chiefs rookie phenom Kareem Hunt all played in past Senior Bowls to help improve their stock. This year there was a slew of Big Ten players who accepted invites to the game. Here, we’ll take a look at what Big Ten alums to watch for during practices and the game, which will take place this Saturday, January 27th at 1:30 CT.
Tanner Lee surprised most people when he declared for the 2018 NFL draft after tossing 16 interceptions this past season. Lee started his first two seasons at Tulane before transferring over to Nebraska where he played his lone season as a red-shirt junior. A late invite, Lee will look to showcase his arm talent and show that his decisions issues are behind him. The Louisiana native finished his college career passing for 6,744 yards and 46 touchdowns to 37 interceptions.
Akrum Wadley-Running-Back Iowa
It’s a shame that Akrum Wadley is often overshadowed by some of the bigger names at running back in the Big Ten. The 2017 Pinstripe Bowl MVP finished fifth in the Big Ten in rushing with 1105 yards and 13 total touchdowns. Wadley will be able to showcase his talents against tough defensive prospects that will be featured on the South team.
DaeSean Hamilton-Wide Receiver-Penn State
DaeSean Hamilton had a long career at Penn State where he became the Nittany Lions’ all-time leader in receptions. He finished his career with nearly 3,000 yards receiving in four seasons in State College. With the emergence of Saquon Barkley, Penn State leaned a little less on the passing game as he was never able to match the 83 receptions he notched his freshman year. However, Hamilton is sure-handed and has some big play ability.
Mike Gesicki-Tight End-Penn State
If you’re looking for the new-age receiving tight end, look no farther than Penn State’s Mike Gesicki. Gesicki is an athletic freak at tight end who will give opposing defensive coordinators matchup nightmares. The New Jersey native finished 2017 with 57 receptions for 563 yards and nine touchdowns. He was also a finalist for the Mackey Award, which is given to the nation’s top tight end.
Troy Fumagalli-Tight End-Wisconsin
If you thought catching a football was hard with ten fingers, Troy Fumagalli makes it look easy with just nine. Fumagalli was as sure-handed as they come when his name was called upon in a run-heavy offense. Asking him to block isn’t too tall of a task either, which can be a problem for collegiate tight ends (like Gesicki above) coming into the NFL. Fumagalli reeled in 46 receptions for 547 yards and four touchdowns in 2017.
Ian Thomas-Tight End-Indiana
The only Big Ten representative on the South team, Ian Thomas is another athletic tight end that can fit in the modern-day NFL. Thomas’s lone year as a featured tight end was sporadic, but at times he showed the speed and separation ability to have an NFL career. He finished his 2017 season with just 25 receptions for 376 yards and five touchdowns.
It seems as if Mason Cole as anchored the Michigan offensive line for about 15 years. A starter since he walked on campus, Cole has played all over the line for the Wolverines. The Florida native has 51 consecutive starts at both tackle and center during his time in Ann Arbor. NFL teams value linemen that can play across the line, but it looks as if center will be his calling in the league.
Speaking of versatile offensive lineman, Sean Welsh also fits the bill after a lengthy career at Iowa. Welsh notched snaps at both tackle and guard during his time in Iowa, paving the way for Wadley listed above. An All-Big Ten selection, Welsh will find his calling at guard in the NFL, much like the former Hawkeye Brandon Scherff.
Ja’Whaun Bentley-Inside Linebacker-Purdue
Ja’Whaun Bentley is a player that Purdue fans have well known since his true freshman season in 2014. Since Bentley has had injury problems in his career but was able to bounce back in 2017 by playing in all 13 games.
Mike McCray-Inside Linebacker-Michigan
Playing behind such a talented defensive line, linebacker Mike McCray was in position to make plenty of plays. McCray basically worked a part-time job in opponent’s backfields in 2017, notching 14 tackles for loss to go with 4.5 sacks. The Ohio native has some ability to play outside linebacker too, but will have to show that he’s healed from injuries during his Michigan playing career.
Garrett Dooley-Outside Linebacker-Wisconsin
Wisconsin arguably had the best defense in college football regardless of coming up short of the college football playoffs. Garrett Dooley played a huge role in that, leading the defense in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (12). Former Badger linebacker Joe Schoebert had an outstanding Pro Bowl rookie season for the Cleveland Browns, Dooley will look to match that.
Kemoko Turay-Outside Linebacker-Rutgers
Kemoko Turay is another once-highly touted recruit that had a career tempered by injuries. Turay stormed the banks his true freshman season, notching 7.5 sacks during his first year as a Scarlet Knight. He didn’t match that mark over the next three. Turay did play in all 13 games in 2017, compiling a career-high 60 total tackles with six tackles for loss and three sacks.
Marcus Allen-Safety-Penn State
Out of everyone mentioned here, Marcus Allen is probably the highest touted prospect. Allen realistically would have gone top 50 if he entered the draft last year. The Maryland native is an absolute tackling machine, totaling 320 over his career with the Nittany Lions, 110 coming his junior year alone. Allen is more of a box safety on the next level, after pulling in only one interception over the course of his career.
Christian Campbell-Cornerback-Penn State
Christian Campbell came into State College as a true freshman, playing mostly on special teams. Injuries played a part in him never being able to earn a starting gig until 2016 (where played nickel) but finally got the chance to start outside in 2017. Campbell was tested a lot and held his own, notching a team-high 25 passes defended.
Tyquan Lewis-Defensive End-Ohio State
Tyquan Lewis was a part of an absolutely daunting defensive front that Urban Meyer deployed in 2017. As a fifth-year senior who acted more as a situational pass rusher (thanks to the baby Bosa), Lewis excelled at just that. Finishing 2017 with seven sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss. Lewis finishes his decorated Buckeye career with a total of 23.5 sacks.
Jalyn Holmes-Defensive End-Ohio State
Jalyn Holmes was buried even further down the depth chart than Lewis was, but in limited opportunities Holmes was successful. As a true senior Holmes played in 51 games for the Buckeyes, leaving no question about his durability. The Virginia native finished out his career with 84 tackles, 14 for a loss, and 5.5 sacks.