so much for that
Big Ten Draft O' Snark: All Big Ten Team
Several weeks ago Brian sent me an e-mail to say we're going to have a fantasy draft of Big Ten players called "The Draft Where Whoever Picks Denard Wins," and that I was on the clock. (Parts II, III, and IV)
People of the Earth: this is how you recruit for a fantasy league. Actually this is how if you're a college sports site editor you motivate your hypercompetitive (Michigan grads, remember?) staff to become insane experts on the rest of the conference right before football season begins. For that reason, despite quarterbacks chosen out of position and so so much snark, right now we feel as competent as anyone at putting out one of those All-Such-and-Such list things.
The draft is still going on and some of the picks we've made have yet to be revealed, however we have tagged enough positions at this point to post an official-ish pre-season All Big Ten team. There's a few specialists I'll include but won't reveal who drafted them. I'll also follow up either next week or later on this week with a "what we learned about the Big Ten" post that breaks down all the picks by team. This one's about the best by position.
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Disclaimer: This is NOT a watch list because pre-season watch lists are stupid and useless. Maybe a prediction list. A pre-season prediction list of who is the most likely to be most awesome at various positions this year, that is not a watch list. We predict they're going to be All Big Ten. You can watch or not watch; it's all the same to us.
MGoBlog's 2012 All Big Ten Not-a-Watch List:
|1st Team||2nd team|
|QB||Denard Robinson||MICH||SR||1||QB||Braxton Miller||OSU||SO||3|
|RB||Montee Ball||WIS||SR||2||RB||Le'Veon Bell||MSU||JR||37|
|RB||Fitzgerald Toussaint||MICH||JR||36||RB||Rex Burkhead||NEB||SR||40|
|WR||Kyle Prater||NW||SO||11||WR||DeAnthony Arnett||MSU||SO||22|
|WR||Devin Gardner||MICH||JR||19||WR||Keenan Davis||IOWA||SR||26|
|WR||Jared Abbrederis||WIS||JR||20||WR||Kofi Hughes||IND||JR||41|
|TE||Jacob Pedersen||WIS||JR||48||TE||Jake Stoneburner||OSU||SR||50|
|T||Taylor Lewan||MICH||JR||5||T||Michael Schofield||MICH||JR||17|
|T||Ricky Wagner||WIS||SR||15||T||Jack Mewhort||OSU||JR||45|
|G||Chris McDonald||MSU||JR||44||C/G||Graham Pocic||ILL||SR||49|
|G||Spencer Long||NEB||JR||47||C/G||Ricky Barnum||MICH||SR||56|
|C||Travis Frederick||WIS||SR||42||C||James Ferentz||IOWA||SR||64|
|1st Team||2nd team|
|DT||Kawaan Short||PUR||SR||8||DT||Jordan Hill||PSU||SR||27|
|DT||Johnathan Hankins||OSU||JR||9||DT||Akeem Spence||ILL||JR||28|
|SDE||John Simon||OSU||SR||4||SDE||Marcus Rush||MSU||SO||24|
|WDE||Michael Buchanan||ILL||SR||14||WDE||William Gholston||MSU||JR||18|
|MLB||Chris Borland||WIS||JR||10||SLB||Jake Ryan||MICH||SO||29|
|SLB||Denicos Allen||MSU||JR||13||WLB||Mike Taylor||WIS||SR||31|
|MLB||Jonathan Brown||ILL||JR||16||WLB||Gerald Hodges||PSU||SR||32|
|SS||Jordan Kovacs||MICH||JR||33||SS||C.J. Barnett||OSU||JR||38|
|FS||Isaiah Lewis||MSU||JR||35||FS||Ibraheim Campbell||NW||JR||39|
|CB||Terry Hawthorne||ILL||SR||21||CB||Micah Hyde||IOWA||SR||25|
|CB||Johnny Adams||MSU||SR||23||CB||Ricardo Allen||PUR||JR||34|
|PK||Drew Basil||OSU||JR||?||PK||Dan Conroy||MSU||SR||?|
|P||Brett Maher||NEB||SR||30||P||Ben Buchanan||OSU||SR||?|
|RET||Jared Abbrederis||WIS||JR||20||RET||Jeremy Gallon||MICH||JR||65|
This isn't straight-up how we drafted, for example Heiko took Taylor Martinez 6th overall as his running back for gamesmanship and because Heiko is a little bit batshit; I'm ignoring that pick and doing the same with full-time quarterbacks further down who were drafted out of position.
Bias check: Gardner represents a bit of Michigan lean on this Michigan blog's all-conference team. Michael Schofield was spread-bias, but he seems to be the only other Wolverine you could make a case for being out of place in this list. If we are homers we seem to think rather highly of a lot of our rivals' players. Here's the school breakdown of the 1st and 2nd teams, not counting returners:
|School||1st team||2nd team||Offense||Defense||Spc.||Total|
Michigan is well-represented, but then so are the two games we want to win more than all the games.
Er. Mah. Gerd.
Astonishing nobody, Michigan bloggers think Denard Robinson is the bee's knees as well as the bee's elbows and several other parts of bee (occasionally he even dresses like a bee). Michigan's signal-caller is so good he can win a draft/popularity contest singlehandedly, because in Soviet Big Ten final score is based on likeability and academics. After four seasons of herky-jerky transition to the spread offense and back again, the MGoStaff is ready to take the slippery speedsters with okay (Denard) to questionable (Braxton Miller) passing accuracy over the ol' stand-up routine represented by gun (-slinging) aficionado James Vandenberg. The Miller pick is also belief in Urban Meyer's staff, and that staff having an actual quarterbacks coach among them. Tressel used to coach the position himself, meaning the nominal QB coach whom Fickell retained last year was really just an overglorified video coordinator. We saw how dangerous OSU's next great inked one could be last year even with the comical inaccuracy issues. If those get fixed, whoa.
Ace jumped on Vandenberg with Taylor Martinez and Nathan Scheelhaase still available, and Heiko took Martinez as a running back to force Brian into Scheelhaase. This led to several rounds of overstating the Illini QB's weaknesses; he completed 62 percent of his passes, was under pressure nearly as much as whomever was playing against his defense, and Illinois fans like him more than they ever did Juice Williams. Several other QBs—Garder, Northwestern's Kain Colter, and Minnesota's Marqueis Gray—were drafted as receivers, further speaking to the athleticism taking snaps across the conference. When we dream of Michigan beating Alabama in Dallas, the fans are spending the waning minutes of surety chanting "Big-Ten-Speed!"
Running Back and Fullback:
I'm ignoring Heiko's pre-Fitz/Bell selection of Taylor Martinez, though it says something about us that we put Rex Burkhead after Ball, Toussaint, Bell, and his own quarterback. What is says is that we respect Montee Ball's numbers too much to say he's just a product of Wisconsin's offensive line, we think Toussaint is the real deal, we think Le'Veon Bell deserves to be in the Heisman conversation as much as any of those guys, and we think Burkhead isn't anything special except he's used a ton. If you want to call us homers for Toussaint then I guess we're saying Le'Veon Bell is the best back in the country, except his offensive line too ends up all over the draft boards. Statistically Ball is in a separate league, and the other three guys come down to whether you prefer phonebooth jukes (Fitz), trucking broken tackles (Bell), or always getting 5 yards even if he has to Hart out the last 2 while dragging two linebackers (Burkhead).
We pretty much ignored fullbacks; this is because we lack the family values to pick Boren and not because the fullbacks in the conference are far less valuable than slot-backs, second running backs, and terrible Iowa linebackers.
Jared Abbrederis: Best WR / Jacob Pedersen: Best TE / Winzer Käse: Best Cheese
Here's Wisconsin on top again, and we're only half-way through their offensive 1st teamers. Two-thirds of the 1st team receiver group is Heiko being Matt Millen-batshit. Among the mustached guano the first two receivers off the board were Devin Gardner, Michigan's backup quarterback who has yet to play a college snap at wideout and projects to only do so sparingly for one season, maybe, and Kyle Prater, who transferred to NW because he couldn't crack the depth chart at USC, which has like 50 guys on scholarship. The last 1st teamer is Wisconsin one time walk-on Jared Abbrederis, who could be legit or could be a dude who benefited from everyone else on Wisconsin's offense being so scary good last year they didn't bother to cover him. The consensus here is legit.
The second team includes Keenan Davis, a Hawkeye with 713 yards and 4 TDs last year, before it dives into a cesspool of a Hoosier (Kofi Hughes) and a Tennessee transfer (DeAnthony Arnett) currently battling to be a starter at receiver-starved Michigan State. If we ignore that last for being Heiko's, we reach Kenny Bell, a Nebraska now-sophomore who had the dropsies. Apparently we hate Roundtree. We also hate Ohio State receivers like Devin Smith, who caught 14 balls for 294 yards to lead the Buckeyes.
It's a reflection of how bad, or at least unproven the receivers in-conference are this year, not totally unexpected given a relative dearth of 4- and 5-star receiver recruits heading north the last four years, against a huge departing class of NFL draft picks. Most of the guys who came with hype either left Penn State or spent last year in Columbus not catching passes thrown to Tacopants.
At tight end it's a little more settled. Jacob Pedersen of Wisconsin is one of those reasons the other Badger skill layers are on this list. He's the conference's best target in the red zone and best blocking tight end. Not far from Pedersen in the catching department is Ohio State's big target Jake Stoneburner, selected immediately after Pedersen. OSU is going to try splitting Stoneburner out at wideout a bit this year to get him more involved in the offense. Close behind those two is Iowa's rising junior C.J. Fiedorowicz, who's 6'7/265 and still getting stronger. After him there's Ben Cotton, a dedicated blocker from Nebraska, and there the draft board (by which I mean my knowledge of other tight ends in the conference) goes dark.
Andrew Weber-US |Sportsbank
Daisy, Daisy, here is your answer true: We're not crazy, Taylor Lewan is true. It's not been a stylish marriage; he had to stop riding his carriage. But our 1st team has Taylor beating a handful of plugging dudes. Ricky Wagner went 15th because he makes the same NFL lists as Lewan, and I took Michael Schofield soon after because good options for spread OTs were him and a sleeper from Nebraska who lost his starting job last year. For his part Ace snatched up the other returning Badger clone, Travis Frederick. Chris McDonald of Michigan State, and Spencer Long , Nebraska's strong one-time walk-on, were taken way too late and launched a flurry of OL picks that didn't end until the 2nd teamers all had homes.
Those 2nd teamers all have gaping holes. Jack Mewhort last year was a turnstile against state of Michigan teams. Graham Pocic is a 6'7 center who gets talked about as an NFL draft pick next year, but like the rest of the Illinois interior line, was pwned by Michigan's DL. James Ferentz is the center version of his father's program, if daddy ever mouthed off to cops like he does refs. I believe in Ricky Barnum but was called a homer for doing so.
If Ohio State fans were holding this draft I wouldn't think it all weird if John Simon went 1st overall. For us he went 4th, after Denard, Montee Ball, and Braxton Miller. He's one of a very few Big Ten players who would have been sure to get drafted in the early NFL rounds yet came back this year. To play for a new coach. When he can't go to a bowl. Argh. Further argh came shortly after when I used the 9th and 8th overall picks to grab Johnathan Hankins—better not to discuss his recruitment—and Kawaan Short to create a two-punch at DT closer to that of the modern Detroit Lions than anything in college.
This was just the beginning for the conference's best position group, a group so deep that Jordan Hill and Akeem Spence are both just 2nd teamers. A group so deep that State's William Gholston, who is hailed by every site but ours as one of the best DEs in the country, and State's Marcus Rush, who this site thinks is better than Gholston, both only made 2nd team because Illinois's Michael Buchanan returns and this time doesn't have to compete with the ludicrous sack-master who used to be opposite him.
Warning: Pam Ward
I said "best" position group above because the middle three are even deeper than the defensive front four. Wisconsin's Chris Borland, the 10th overall pick, had a ridiculous 143 tackles last year as a sophomore. Wisconsin's WLB Mike Taylor, the sixth (!) linebacker taken, had 150 stops! Before you ask, no, Wisconsin didn't face an inordinate number of plays—they had 850, below average for the conference. Between them Taylor and Borland accounted for over a third of all offensive plays run against Wisconsin. Taylor slipped because guys like the tiny Denicos Allen, MSU's true pass-rushing terror, and Illinois's Jonathan Brown, the most gifted of the bunch, were going off the board first. Allen had 18.5 TFL; Brown had 19.5 TFL plus 108 tackles (12.8% of Illinois's plays faced).
Gerald Hodges, who may be drafted ahead of all of them, was relegated to the 2nd team, though we debated the merits of his speed/size/talent/instincts versus Allen's backfield production. As was Jake Ryan, though you'd think the linebacker Michigan fans fell in love with last year would be taken higher. Some near-great LBs like Max Bullough, Chris Norman, and Will Compton, and up-and-comer Des Morgan, were available deep into the late rounds, and the best tacklers on bad teams like Dwayne Beckford, David Nwabuisi, and Keanon Cooper were safely ignored altogether.
How do we love Jordan Kovacs? He was the first safety off the board, falling to me with the 33rd pick. Feel free to join me in laughing at the others for that. The taking of the Kovacs touched off a safety binge that saw obvious-best coverage safety (even if he's officially listed at strong) Isaiah Lewis, OSU's big and talented C.J. Barnett, and Northwestern's young Kovacs clone Ibraheim Campbell fly off the board in quick succession. That should tell you what we think of the safeties in the Big Ten: The good ones are good at what they do; nobody's Ed Reed. They're not deep either—before this draft is over the linebackerish Supo Sanni of Illinois and OSU's deranged Glenville product Christian Bryant will have found homes. Thomas Gordon was the next guy to go after the 2nd teamers.
At cornerback Brian surprised us by taking Illinois's Terry Hawthorne with the 21st overall pick. The one with all the hype, MSU's Johnny Adams, quickly went next, and they in turn were shortly followed by Iowa's Marlin Jackson clone Micah Hyde. Purdue's tiny tackler Ricardo Allen—think smaller Morgan Trent—rounded out the top four. If you want to go three-deep here, OSU's Bradley Roby, the last of the sure things in the conference, went 53rd overall, then the other Purdue corner (who by Mathlete's figuring was the best in the conference) Josh Johnson followed much later. Both of Michigan's corners went around that time, 10 spots before the overlooked Darqueze Dennard was taken overlookedly, because Dennard cannot be mentioned without saying something about how the SEC could have had him if they'd offered.
There is Nebraska's good kicker/excellent punter Brett Maher—taken before guys like Gerald Hodges, Jordan Kovacs, and Mike Taylor—and there are guys. Advanced stats will show Ohio State's Drew Basil hits longer field goals at the same accuracy clip as a room full of career 83-percent kickers, mostly because OSU attempts more long kicks. It is frustrating, when Michigan's kicking game is basically praying a guy who couldn't hit the broad side of Ondre Pipkins in 2010 can keep brunettes in his head at all times, to know that the conference is full of Top 25 kickers. I threw State's Dan Conroy in there even though he hasn't been picked yet because he will be, since he's an outside Groza candidate again. After that it will be between the dependable Mitch Ewald of Indiana (29/35 over 2 years) or the bigger leg (most attempts in the conference last year) of Purdue's Carson Wiggs.
And since we mentioned them while hyping up our picks, Abbrederis is the Big Ten's best punt returner, and it's not even close: 15.75 YPR and a touchdown in 20 shots. The next closest is Jeremy Gallon, taken as my slot receiver, with 10.11 YPR. No other leading returners from last season were taken, the few that are even around anymore. Kick returning we ignored entirely because the new rules mean returning kickoffs is for suckers.