Our annual gimmicky Big Ten preview occurred. Then a football season occurred. And now that it’s deeply offseason it occurred to us to do a wrap on that, roundtable style.
1. DEFEND YOUR TEAM
Brian: Christian Hackenberg got drafted ahead of Connor Cook. Therefore I had a good QB.
Seth: J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets!
Brian: Seriously though, flip out Hackenberg for Cardale Jones, who was neck and neck with JT Barrett for much of the year and got drafted and my offense is clearly the best running outfit available: #4 overall pick at RB, first-rounder at LT, returning IU All-American next to him, a legit dual threat superback/H-back type and a traditional TE, both drafted. Marz and Kugler were both upper-echelon college players not quite good enough for the league; Ball got hurt in fall camp and eventually left UW's team.
There's nobody else who can put that kind of rushing firepower on the field, or really anywhere close to it. The downgrade from Elliott to anybody else is enormous.
Seth: Is it?
[After the jump: Brian gets thatsracist.gif about 3-3-5s. Spartan defensive backs are lamented. And someone in the comments will say they don’t like this series]
Each drafter was asked to defend his team and say something nice and something mean about each of the others. Your candidates:
THE Acehio State
There are consequences to such behaviors [original photo courtesy of Ace's new employers at Eleven Warriors]
OFFENSE: QB Jake Rudock (U-M), RB Josh Ferguson (IL), OW Braxton Miller (OSU), WR Michael Thomas (OSU), WR DaeSean Hamilton (PSU), H-back Kyle Carter (PSU), TE Adam Breneman (PSU), LT Jack Conklin (MSU), RT Kodi Kieler (MSU), LG Billy Price (OSU), RG Kyle Kalis (U-M), OC Dan Voltz (UW)
DEFENSE: WDE Joey Bosa (OSU), SDE Darius Hamilton (RU), NT Austin Johnson (PSU), DT Willie Henry (U-M), OLB Darron Lee (OSU), MLB Riley Bullough (MSU), OLB Joshua Perry (OSU), CB Eli Apple (OSU), CB Darius Hillary (UW), HSP Sean Davis (MD), S Tyvis Powell (OSU), S RJ Williamson (MSU)
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Paul Griggs (PU), P Cameron Johnston (OSU), KR Josh Ferguson (IL), PR Braxton Miller (OSU)
Ace: My defensive front is downright terrifying. The best player in the draft, at a position of relative weakness in the conference, dropped to me at #3. That front four (plus Darron Lee) would be very stout against the run and produce a fearsome pass rush more than capable of covering for any perceived weakness in the secondary—and my secondary is pretty decent with a nice ceiling if RJ Williamson takes a step forward this year. My linebackers will clean up anything that somehow manages to get past the line, the corners are good, and Tyvis Powell is a steadying presence in the back.
The criticisms of my backfield are legitimate, though Ferguson's fumbling is getting too much attention (hi, Seth); he's the best weapon out of the backfield in the conference, which is key given the dearth of receiving talent this year, and he's also an explosive runner with good patience and vision—he's much more than just a receiving threat. Rudock won't set the world on fire but he's got the best group of pass-catchers to work with out of any of our teams, he'll take care of the ball, and I'm actually more confident he'll have a strong season this year than Hackenberg. My line features a potential top-ten pick at left tackle, a good Wisconsin center, two guards poised for major breakout years, and a right tackle who didn't give up a sack and blocked the run well last year.
What I believe sets my team apart, aside from the defensive line, is the Braxton Miller pick. Not only does he provide an explosive threat from the slot, he's backfield insurance for both Rudock and Ferguson—Ohio State is going to move him all over the field this year (Miller: "It's like playing a video game") and my offense would utilize him in similar fashion. I'm still shocked he went after Cardale Jones, who provides nothing if he doesn't win the starting job.
The first rule of Draftageddon is "you must complain about Draftageddon." The second is "the four people drafting assemble teams of Big Ten players in an effort to seem the best at drafting." The third is "you vote on who you think assembled the best team." The fourth is "This is actually our Big Ten preview."
In order to ensure a bountiful harvest and that all further injuries and transfers will affect only Northwestern Wildcats, every year we sacrifice a little bit of what makes us human to discuss what just occurred, and try to summarize all of Draftageddon into a single, informative around-the-Big Ten preview.
We'll defend our teams and let you vote on them later; this is the informative part. I sent out a mini-questionnaire to all the selectors and got back the following:
1. So many Spartans (15) and Buckeyes (19). Skip the justifiable ones and tell us which were the most overrated?
Seth: Josh Perry==Joe Bolden, and I'm skeptical of any 1st round grades for their secondary because their DL was so good we rarely got to see Powell or Bell even have the opportunity to biff a coverage. That goes double for MSU: Cox is barely holding down a job, and was behind Hicks, who was so iffy last year they had to play Lippett both ways. Neither Williamson nor Nicholson could hold off the other last year. Kodi Kieler is just okay, though at that point Ace was picking from bad OT options.
Adam: Eli Apple and Raekwon McMillan, whom Ace and I took in the ninth round, respectively. I think both guys will have successful seasons, but those are two guys who played a significant amount in 2014 but have yet to start a full year. Looking at others at the same positions, there were guys with proven track records who went later that you could make an argument for flipping with Apple and McMillan (Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Desmond Morgan come to mind). There is, however, a price to upside.
Ace: I think Taylor Decker (with Jack Conklin on the board) and Adolphus Washington (a host of quality DTs) went earlier than they should've, even though both are fine players. Demetrious Cox was one of the more questionable picks in the whole draft. I'll cop to overrating Josh Perry—I wanted Ed Davis, overcompensated in the aftermath of him going off the board, and... actually, I guess that kinda worked out.
Brian: Will Gholston.
[After the jump: why we drafted more Wolverines than Spartans]
ACE: Round 22, Pick 2: RJ Williamson, safety, Michigan State
OFFENSE: QB Jake Rudock (U-M), RB Josh Ferguson (IL), OW Braxton Miller (OSU), WR Michael Thomas (OSU), WR DaeSean Hamilton (PSU), H-back Kyle Carter (PSU), TE Adam Breneman (PSU), OT Jack Conklin (MSU), OG Billy Price (OSU), OG Kyle Kalis (U-M), OC Dan Voltz (UW)
DEFENSE: WDE Joey Bosa (OSU), SDE Darius Hamilton (RU), NT Austin Johnson (PSU), DT Willie Henry (U-M), OLB Darron Lee (OSU), MLB Riley Bullough (MSU), OLB Joshua Perry (OSU), CB Eli Apple (OSU), CB Darius Hillary (UW), S Tyvis Powell (OSU), S RJ Williamson (MSU)
Michigan State's defense took a slight step back last year as a few teams cracked the code on beating Pat Narduzzi's aggressive Cover 4 scheme. While they remained generally stout against the pass (16th in S&P+, 9th in Success Rate), big plays were an issue, especially against Oregon, Ohio State, and Baylor. That's almost certainly what's scared us off from selecting Williamson so far.
I think we've overcorrected. The aggressive scheme put the safeties in unenviable positions once opponents figured out the best plan of attack was to send a guy like Devin Smith flying up the seam. The cornerback play across from Trae Waynes underwhelmed. Kurtis Drummond tried to do too much and ended up victimized on several long passes as a result. After some early season issues, I thought Williamson rebounded pretty well, and now he's the senior leader of MSU's secondary, taking over the free safety spot from Drummond.
Williamson is a proven playmaker. He has six career interceptions—including some spectacular grabs—despite playing spot duty until last season, when he had three picks and added five pass breakups. He should be solid as a senior, especially if MSU makes some minor tweaks to their defense so opponents don't take so many shots over the top.
SETH: Round 22, Pick 3: Rafael Gaglianone, kicker, Wisconsin
OFFENSE: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Corey Clement (WIS), WR Leonte Carroo (Rut), WR Geronimo Allison (ILL), Slot Jalin Marshall (OSU), OC Jack Allen (MSU), OG Pat Elflein (OSU), OT Alex Lewis (Neb), OT Mason Cole (Mich), OG Graham Glasgow
DEFENSE: NT Ryan Glasgow, 3T Malik McDowell (MSU), DE/DT Lawrence Thomas (MSU), DE/OLB Kemoko Turay (RU), SAM Joe Schobert (Wis), MLB Desmond Morgan (Mich), WLB Steve Longa (RU), HSP Jabrill Peppers (Mich), DB Jordan Lucas (PSU), S Michael Caputo (WI), CB Will Likely (MD)
OFFENSE: QB Jake Rudock (U-M), RB Josh Ferguson (IL), OW Braxton Miller (OSU), WR Michael Thomas (OSU), WR DaeSean Hamilton (PSU), OT Jack Conklin (MSU), OG Billy Price (OSU), OC Dan Voltz (UW)
DEFENSE: DE Joey Bosa (OSU), DT Darius Hamilton (RU), NT Austin Johnson (PSU), OLB Darron Lee (OSU), OLB Joshua Perry (OSU), CB Eli Apple (OSU), CB Darius Hillary (UW), S Tyvis Powell (OSU)
If you don't want to watch a season's worth of Ezekiel Elliott highlights while focusing on the left guard, which I can understand, at least skip to the 3:17 mark to see Billy Price chip a defensive tackle and then seal off a linebacker with surprising suddenness for a 6'4", 315-pound human. Then take these things into account:
He started all 15 games as a redshirt freshman on Ohio State's offensive line, which became arguably the best run-blocking unit in the country by the end of the season. Incidentally, Price only got better as 2014 wore on.
Just one year prior, Price was adjusting to offense after moving from defensive tackle, his primary position in high school.
"The 6-foot-4, 312-pounder is regarded to be the strongest guy on the team. He bench-presses 475 pounds, has done 34 reps at 225 pounds and has a vertical jump of 30 inches."
34 reps at 225 would've placed Price fourth among offensive linemen at this year's NFL combine. He's still a year away from draft eligibility.
He's learning from Ed Warinner, one of the best offensive line coaches in the country.
Assuming Price develops at a reasonable rate he'll be one of the best guards in the conference this year. He might've reached that level by the end of last year and he'll be much more comfortable as a second-year starter. He got a lot of praise for his play in the spring after he showed enough command of the offense to fill in for a banged up Jacoby Boren at center. The term "night and day" was thrown around a couple times. He's got a ton of physical ability; if the light comes on, he'll be really good, and he's already shown he can reliably push around defensive tackles.
SETH: Round 16, Pick 3: Graham Glasgow, OL, Michigan
OFFENSE: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Corey Clement (WIS), WR Leonte Carroo (Rut), WR Jalin Marshall (OSU), OC Jack Allen (MSU), OG Pat Elflein (OSU), OT Alex Lewis (Neb), OT Mason Cole (Mich), OG Graham Glasgow (Mich) DEFENSE: DE/OLB Kemoko Turay (RU), MLB Desmond Morgan (Mich), WLB Steve Longa (RU), HSP Jabrill Peppers (Mich), DB Jordan Lucas (PSU), S Michael Caputo (WI), CB Will Likely (MD)
We've now exhausted the preseason all-[thing] lists and NFL mock drafts, and Brian is taking the Aussie kicker we all desired. He just did this despite having zero anybodies on the interior OL to protect Hackenberg, because that always turns out well. So I feel bad for taking this one, since it's totally Brian's fault that I know Graham Glasgow is good at football.
MGoBlog has said enough on that subject since 2013 that we can save most of the details for next month's O-line preview. I'll add that two springs now two coaching staffs have threatened the OT depth chart with Glasgow sliding outside if they don't outplay the interior guys too. Graham's probably the center this year, but we've seen him mostly at guard, where he's strong enough to hold up against very good DTs (+4.5/-2 in PSU UFR) and blast light ones (+9/-1 vs Rutgers).
More importantly he has often been Michigan's only lineman making the quick heady adjustments that good running games must have for consistent success. I've also noticed a trend in that he gets better as the game progresses and he starts to pick up opponents' tendencies. The last link is Glasgow recognizing his second-level target is backing out and there's no chance against the blitzer, so he just seals Cole's guy.
Ironically for such an exceptionally bright player on the field, this pick is in jeopardy from an offseason repeat of the same bad judgment that cost him last season's opener. From here to January, the margin for further error is .001 percent. But if you're going to put your faith in something, it might as well be a Glasgow.
OFFENSE: QB J.T. Barrett (OSU), WR Jordan Westerkamp (Neb), OT Jason Spriggs, (IU), TE Jake Butt (UM), C Austin Blythe (Iowa), RB Justin Jackson (NW), OG Brian Allen (MSU), WR De'Mornay Pierson-El (Neb), OG Josh Campion (Minn)
DEFENSE: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), DT Adolphus Washington (OSU), S Vonn Bell (OSU), CB Eric Murray (Minn), LB Raekwon McMillan (OSU), DE Drew Ott (Iowa), OLB Ed Davis (MSU), S/HSP Nate Gerry (Neb)
Gerry is nominally a free safety, but I can't help but watch him and think that he's an ideal hybrid space player. He's the same weight (205) as Peppers and an inch taller, and his stats—88 tackles (49 unassisted), 7 TFL, 2 forced fumbles, 3 QB hurries, 5 interceptions, 4 PBU—paint a picture of a guy who's adept playing near the line or in coverage.
He isn't lined up over the slot, but there are shades of HSPness in this interception. Nebraska lines Gerry up as a linebacker to disguise the coverage. That he can line up there on 3rd-and-11 and the only red flag is what he's wearing says something about his versatility. Gerry then bails as the ball's snapped. He adjusts to an underthrown ball, jumping in front of the receiver for an interception. More evidence: Gerry ran a state-record 10.3 second 100-meter dash in high school; with that speed I'm confident he can linger in space near the line and carry a receiver into coverage or blow up a run in the backfield.
I'm going to move my next pick to a different position as well, but this isn't as much of a stretch as turning Gerry into a HSP. Campion is a former tackle, though Minnesota has decided to move him to guard this fall. At 6'5" and 310 pounds I'm inclined to leave him at tackle, especially considering he's started 39 straight games there; the versatility is a nice bonus. He garnered an All-Big Ten honorable mention on a Minnesota line that wasn't bad—19th in adjusted line yards, 26th in standard downs line yards per carry, and 56th in opportunity rate. He has also been compared to former Gopher Adam Haayer, because "...both share a bond as very dependable Gopher starters with a love for the outdoors." Minnesota, man.
[After THE JUMP: HEY WE DRAFT A BUNCH OF MICHIGAN GUYS IT'S SAFE TO CLICK]
“For the most part, it’s going to be H-Back and punt return,” Miller said in a phone interview on Thursday night. “It’s a long process to get back totally to throwing and throwing every day. This is the smarter thing for right now, God blessed me with a lot of talent and different opportunities. I’m going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that.”
A reminder: H-back, in Urban Meyer's system, is the Percy Harvin position. Miller is as close to a Harvin-level athlete as Meyer has had since Harvin himself. While I'm forced to take a quarterback again here, the magnanimous Commissioner Brian offered the opportunity to release Miller back into the pool and take an additional compensatory selection; I will not be doing that, even with Jalin Marshall still on the board. Miller's potential in that role is too great for me to pass up on; it was one of the main reasons I drafted him in the first place.
So, anyway, an actual quarterback. Many would expect Indiana's Nate Sudfeld to go here, but I'm not convinced he can replicate his 2013 success. Sudfeld benefitted from both Kevin Wilson's wide open, lightning fast system and a great group of receivers (2014 2nd-rounder Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes, Shane Wynn, Ted Bolser) that season. With Latimer, Hughes, and Bolser gone last year, Sudfeld had rough games against the two remotely viable defenses he faced—32/70, 378 yards (5.4 YPA), 1 TD, 1 INT combined vs. Mizzou and Maryland—before injuring his shoulder early on against Iowa. He had Tevin Coleman there to take a great deal of attention off of him and still didn't look all-conference caliber.
Jake Rudock, meanwhile, played for a program that considered Mark Weisman an acceptable three-year starter at running back. Brian's done the research legwork here. Rudock generally looked verygood when afforded time and a reasonable gameplan despite working with a substandard group of receivers. He looked less good when victimized by a combination of coaching malpractice and a leaky offensive line. At the very least, Rudock should be efficient; even in a year when he eventually got benched, he posted the third-best passer efficiency in the Big Ten. If a lot of his perceived issues—namely, a propensity for checking down too often—were the product of his GERG-ian environment, he'll thrive under Jim Harbaugh. My guess is Rudock will serve as yet another reminder to Iowa fans that their coaching situation, um, sucks.
SETH: Round 12, Pick 3: Mason Cole, OL, Michigan
OFFENSE: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Corey Clement (WIS), WR Leonte Carroo (Rut), OC Jack Allen (MSU), OG Pat Elflein (OSU), OT Alex Lewis (Neb) DEFENSE: Steve Longa (WLB), HSP Jabrill Peppers (Mich), DB Jordan Lucas (PSU), S Michael Caputo (Wis), CB Will Likely (Md)
Last year's offensive line preview gave Michigan a "1 of 5" for tackle, because in the history of true freshman tackles, the absolute ceiling is for some future superstar to be just okay. Brian even ran down the history of teams forced to put the blindside in the hands of an 18-year-old and found those who got to okay had a five-star recruit on the level of Peppers.
Mason Cole was okay.
Since competent true freshman LTs are so rare we're literally stuck with Laremy Tunsil as the only comparison, here is a list of Michigan redshirt freshman offensive lineman since the mid-'90s who were not obvious liabilities: Jansen, Hutchinson, Backus, Long, Molk, Lewan.
Cole's best years are still in the future, but I'll take last year plus the standard freshman-to-sophomore bump on my line any day.
ADAM: Round 12, Pick 4: Ed Davis, OLB, Michigan State Round 13, Pick 1: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern
OFFENSE: QB J.T. Barrett (OSU), WR Jordan Westerkamp (Neb), OT Jason Spriggs, (IU), TE Jake Butt (UM), C Austin Blythe (Iowa), RB Justin Jackson (NW)
DEFENSE: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), DT Adolphus Washington (OSU), S Vonn Bell (OSU), CB Eric Murray (Minn), LB Raekwon McMillan (OSU), DE Drew Ott (Iowa), OLB Ed Davis (MSU)
My linebackers may not win the hearts of the Michigan faithful, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to add a SAM with pass-rush ability. Davis had 58 tackles, 12.0 TFL, and 7.0 sacks in his first season as a starter; you may remember him from his 6 tackle, 2 TFL performance against Michigan.
In his Hail to the Victors preview, Seth described Davis as "...an attack piece who will rack up a lot of sacks and otherwise match up against tight ends he's more athletic than." If that's what my twelfth round pick can do then that's fine by me. What's most noticeable on film is his lateral quickness, which allows him to easily cover the flat or crash inside to stop the run. He's also fast enough to line up wide and make tackles look absolutely ridiculous.
His skill set lends itself to being a SAM in a 4-3 under, which was what I was looking for. In McMillan I have a player who was certainly productive as a true freshman but whom I drafted in part because of his potential (i.e. recruiting profile); in Davis I have a two-year starter and fifth-year senior who's a more known commodity.
My next pick played in the M00N game- on offense, no less. And I made this pick voluntarily! Easily snarkable, and yet a likely record for longest it's taken for a Northwestern player to go off the board. Jackson's not a big back (5'11", 195) but he's quick and his vision is excellent. He's also a reliable receiver, catching 78.6% of passes when he was targeted and averaging 7.2 yards per target.
In 2014 Jackson rushed for 1,187 yards on 4.8 yards per carry despite playing behind a line that ranked 83rd in adjusted line yards and 117th (!) in opportunity rate. He's also the second-leading returning rusher in the Big Ten, behind only Ezekiel Elliott (who understandably went 11 rounds earlier). He put up 162 rushing yards on 33 carries and 106 on 22 (plus 4 catches for 50 receiving yards) against Wisconsin and Minnesota, ranked 29th and 36th in Rushing S&P+, respectively. Those two games were part of his end of season tear, in which he rushed for 100+ yards in six of the season's last eight games.
I can't recreate OSU's offense, but if Barrett's going to be effective he needs a run threat to keep defenses honest. I'm happy to have this one in what looks like an otherwise arid wasteland of Big Ten backs.
[After THE JUMP: CERTAINLY WE ARE OUT OF OSU PLAYERS AT THIS JUNCTURE]
ACE: Round 8, Pick 2: Braxton Miller, QB/?, Ohio State
OFFENSE: QB Braxton Miller (OSU), WR Michael Thomas (OSU), WR DaeSean Hamilton (PSU), OT Jack Conklin (MSU)
DEFENSE: DE Joey Bosa (OSU), DT Darius Hamilton (RU), NT Austin Johnson (PSU), OLB Darron Lee (OSU) The rules dictate I take a quarterback here, and I'll abide by those rules. For the most part.
Braxton Miller isn't the favorite to win the job at Ohio State. He's coming off a lost season after his surgically repaired throwing shoulder fell apart in fall camp. JT Barrett stepped in and nearly won the Heisman; Cardale Jones relieved Barrett and won the national title. Miller may have the least amount of pro potential of the three, at least at quarterback.
Health permitting, however, Miller may be the best college quarterback. It's not a stretch to say he's already a legendary Big Ten QB. He's one of four players in the history of the conference to win two Big Ten MVP awards. In his most recent season, he passed for 2094 yards on 8.2 YPA and rushed for 1068 on 6.2 YPC; he accounted for 36 touchdowns and threw only seven interceptions. The list of national, Big Ten, and school records he owns or has in his sights is too long to list here. He may not be the most polished passer, but he is a breathtaking runner:
While Miller's injury is a downside the other two Buckeye QBs don't have, his running ability provides an upside his competition lacks. If Miller doesn't win the job, it's in everyone's best interest for him to play running back or H-back (Meyer's Percy Harvin position). He probably wouldn't start with Ezekiel Elliott and Jalin Marshall, respectively, holding those two spots, but it'd be hard to keep him off the field as long as he stays healthy.
If I'm lucky, I just snagged a #1-pick value in the eighth round. If I'm not, I still think Miller will contribute in some form, and I can grab one of the middle-tier quarterbacks later as insurance.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Soon after Ace made this pick it was announced that Miller would be playing H-back/Harvin guy. The commissioner decided that Ace had to take an actual QB with his next pick, which is in the next post, and had the option of keeping Miller or throwing him back in the pool and taking a supplemental pick immediately. Ace chose to keep Miller, because duh.]
SETH: Round 8, Pick 3: Michael Caputo, strong safety, Wisconsin
OFFENSE: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Corey Clement (WIS), WR Leonte Carroo (Rut), OC Jack Allen (MSU), OG Pat Elflein (OSU) DEFENSE: HSP Jabrill Peppers (Mich), DB Jordan Lucas (PSU), S Michael Caputo (Wis)
After 30 picks you don't expect to find a second-team All-American still on the board, especially not when he's a linebacker-sized ballhawk who led Wisconsin in tackles last year as a safety, and outshone Chris Borland in 2013 from F linebacker (hybrid space player).
As you might have guessed, I'm picking for either a 3-3-5 or a 4-2-5 defense with hybrids to either side. Since the conference's elite pass rushers went off the board quickly, my strategy for kicking ass will have to include a lot of blitzing, which means having the dudes who can do that or cover a lot of ground behind it. Basically it's the anti-spread modern version of the 46 defense. And it just so happens the reincarnation of #46 (Doug Plank) himself plays in the Big Ten.
If we're assigning roles between this trio, Caputo is the two-parts-linebacker/meat-raw safety who takes the side of the tight end. From Madison.com:
Michael Caputo was 2 years old when he hopped on his toy articulated vehicle, a load of dirt in the back, and pedaled down the 125-foot long driveway at the family’s home near Pittsburgh. The boy picked up speed along the way crashing into a concrete wall.
He thought it was so much fun that he did it over and over.
Go ahead and save that for the next time someone asks you to describe Wisconsin in so many words. After cement walls, Caputo finds Big Ten tight ends remarkably pliable, if less fun. Popping bubble screens is just easy. Last year when I stole him in round 21 I quoted DC Dave Arranda on how his then-sophomore was the only guy who could make the schematic adjustments that made Wisconsin's run defense work. Here's safeties coach Bill Busch one year later:
“He’s the true captain of the ship back there with all the adjustments that he makes,” Busch said of Caputo, who plays alongside true freshman Lubern Figaro. “A lot of times we put him in the position that requires the most thinking.”
The Kovacs is strong in this one. If Kovacs was the size of a linebacker, hit like a truck, and fell one spot shy of a Bednarik semifinalist last year.
ADAM: Round 8, Pick 4: Eric Murray, CB, Minnesota Round 9, Pick 1: Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
OFFENSE: QB J.T. Barrett (OSU), WR Jordan Westerkamp (Neb), OT Jason Spriggs, (IU), TE Jake Butt (UM)
DEFENSE: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), DT Adolphus Washington (OSU), S Vonn Bell (OSU), CB Eric Murray (Minn), LB Raekwon McMillan (OSU)
The Big Ten may have an abundance of talent at corner this fall, but I couldn't let Murray sit on the board any longer. He has a two-year track record as one of the best cover corners in college football, lining up so close he can tell you what the opposing receiver had for their pregame meal while possessing the rare ability to jam and turn and run and actually stay with guys for more than 10 yards.
He's not going to post eye-popping interception totals (he has one career pick, and that came last season against San Jose State), but his 17 PBUs and 75% of tackles being of the solo variety over the past two years show what he can do in coverage and in run support. Defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel agrees:
"He's a good tackler, he's a great blitzer, he's a tremendous special-teams player, he's very, very good in press coverage to the point where a lot of times a play will just break down."
The conference has Michael Thomas, Leonte Carroo, and Dudes Who Sometimes Catch Things. I think Murray will be just fine.
Sticking with defense, I've decided to start building my linebacking corps in the middle, which is probably the conference's weakest spot. You can't say I didn't try to make this draft entertaining.
McMillan takes over for the departed (and oft-criticized) Curtis Grant, whose playing time McMillan already started leeching last fall. McMillan finished the season with 54 total tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 interception, and 1 PBU, playing in every game except the season opener against Navy and the Sugar Bowl against Alabama.
He's not the fastest, but he has good size (6-2, 240) and the kind of instincts that are so often discussed they fill many pages when you Google him. He's also adapted nicely to calling the defense. Per DC Luke Fickell:
"That's the thing that you saw early on. There's some guys who have intelligence and some that aren't football smart, then some who are and don't really work at it. He's got an incredible combination of all of it."
McMillan will benefit from playing next to WLB/Heart and Soul Guy/Gritty Gritster Josh Perry and SLB/hybrid space destroyer/stat sheet filler Darron Lee, but the former top-50 recruit should be able to hold his own against the Big Ten's terrifying stable of offensive weapons.
[After THE JUMP: WE ARE CERTAINLY OUT OF BUCKEYES THIS TIME]
OFFENSE: WR Michael Thomas (OSU), OT Jack Conklin (MSU) DEFENSE: DE Joey Bosa (OSU), OLB Darron Lee (OSU)
Michigan State has assembled a strong offensive line, finishing 7th in adjusted sack rate and 28th in adjusted line yards last year, and the strongest piece of that line is left tackle Jack Conklin, who went from recruiting unknown to a possible franchise tackle:
It has been well-documented that Cook and Calhoun might have been first-round picks had they declared for the upcoming draft, but according to Kiper, the same might have been true about the less-heralded Conklin.
"I think he's a first-round caliber, yes I do,'' Kiper said on his Wednesday conference call, asked about Conklin's upside. "I think Brandon Scherff from Iowa, not much separating Scherff from Conklin, and some may even think that Conklin is a more highly rated player.
"(Conklin) was on my radar because I thought maybe he'll come out, because he has such a high grade, but by going back, you're looking at an elite of the elite. Jack Conklin has a chance to be a very very high first round pick, certainly the first offensive tackle off the board.''
The former walk-on has allowed only 2.5 sacks in his 27 career games, which include 23 consecutive starts at LT. Ohio State's fearsome pass rush produced just one sack against MSU last year; that came from DT Michael Bennett. Only Baylor DE/Terminator Shawn Oakman gave Conklin much in the way of trouble last season, and nobody else's team in this exercise has a Shawn Oakman, let alone a Joey Bosa.
I'm going off the premise that I'm being judged on what Carroo accomplishes with Connor Cook throwing to him. But it's not like any of the 94 targets he turned into 1,086 yards and 10 touchdowns were made easy by Gary Nova.
There are two schools of thought on the "Carroo did a lot of that on broken plays" theory. Ace gave you one. Here's another: behind a turnstile offensive line, Gary FRIGGIN NOVA was the third most efficient passer in the Big Ten last year, in large part because running around like Miley Cyrus then chucking it at Carroo and three defenders was a totally efficient thing to do.
I scouted this guy for last year's draft because Bill Connelly's targeting (YPT, NEY, RYPR) stats made Carroo pop out among the conference's best. I didn't end up taking Leonte then because the majority of his yards were against lightweights. Carroo still torched bad defenses (151 yards vs. WSU, 140 on Tulane, 125 on Indiana) in 2014, but also had 84 yards on 6 catches while matched against Jordan Lucas, 5 for 100 against Doran Grant, and 6 for 104 on Will Likely. Trae Waynes got the better of him (1 catch for 6 yards on 5 targets); Michigan stuck a safety over him and got bombed everywhere else. He finished top 10 in the country in all three of Connelly's imperfect metrics, indistinguishable from Lippett.
Michael Thomas is an excellent Avant; Carroo as a junior was more comparable to Braylon at his age (67 catches, 1035 yards 10 TDs). Yes, with the occasional drops. Still a highly dangerous weapon I didn't think would slip to me.
ADAM: Round 4, Pick 4: Jordan Westerkamp, WR, Nebraska Round 5, Pick 1: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
Westerkamp is suspended for the first game for tying a damsel to some train tracks
OFFENSE: QB J.T. Barrett (OSU), WR Jordan Westerkamp (Neb), OT Jason Spriggs, (IU) DEFENSE: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), DT Adolphus Washington (OSU)
Westerkamp is best known for the time he hauled in a catch that looked like a Madden glitch, but there's more substance to him. His 65.7% catch rate and 11.1 yards per target are both better than oft-targeted (25.6% of passes) former teammate Kenny Bell's 54.0% catch rate and 9.1 YPT. Westerkamp was targeted on just 19.7% of Nebraska's passes, but that will rise due to the departure of the poofily coiffed hair and production of Bell. (I realize his hair had nothing to do with how often Westerkamp got the ball, but it's impossible to write about Kenny Bell and not mention the hair.) While Bell was more frequently targeted than Westerkamp on passing downs (25.6% to 17.1%, respecitvely), Westerkamp again had the better catch rate (60.7%) and YPT (14.0); even when defenses had an idea where the ball was going Westerkamp was able to put up good numbers. I'll happily take a guy who has a better catch rate and YPT than a fifth-round draft pick who was first-team All-Big Ten last season.
If the ball is ever going to get to Westerkamp there should probably be an offensive line, and Spriggs is arguably the best available with Decker and Conklin off the board. Spriggs has started at left tackle since he was a true freshman, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten status every season. He's 6-7, 305 and has anchored a line that has averaged more than five yards per carry the last two seasons. While that number was certainly aided by Tevin Coleman, Spriggs' pass protection is an asset. He'll give up two sacks as he does every year and I'll be happy to have one of the top-10 tackles in the 2016 draft. Also:
#iufb OT Jason Spriggs #'s Are NFL Combine Top of the Charts - 40: 4.82 / Vertical: 37.5" / Bench: 455 / 225 Bench: 33 Reps / Clean 365 etc.
Well... crap. We have this tradition where we seek to irritate every last one of our readers. We could not do that, but then the readers win. The readers cannot win. We are the only site on the internet. We have them in the palm of our hand. We must crush them.
So let's draftageddon again.
You are not going to be happy about this. Let's just state that going in.
Everyone drafts a team from available Big Ten players consisting of
A QB, five OL, and six skill players on offense. Usually this breaks down in to a RB, three WR, a TE, and a wild card but things tend to get weird.
4 DL, 3 LB, 2 CB, 2 S and one wild card on defense.
A punter and a kicker.
Standard serpentine fantasy draft.
Once three teams have filled a position group the final team must do so at most three rounds later. This is mostly intended to prevent someone from waiting on a QB until the end of the draft and occasionally results in hilarious things like "Nathan Scheelhaase goes in round 8".
Seth will take an injured Northwestern player over any available Heisman contender.
Everyone will make fun of me for an excellent pick that ends up going in the middle rounds of the NFL draft.
The winner will be the person with the most impressive team.
Adam, you are on the clock. BryMac is on the email chain to throw out haymakers randomly.
BRYMAC: KURTIS DRUMMOND
ADAM - Round 1, Pick 1: J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
"Will I even play" is an interesting question to ask the TOP PICK IN THE DRAFT
OFFENSE: JT Barrett (OSU).
ADAM: I'll play Buckeye roulette against my better judgement. Picking a quarterback who has a 33% chance of starting is terrifying for a risk-averse person such as myself, but that 33% is assuming all of OSU's quarterbacks have an equal chance of winning the job.
Braxton Miller returns, but he's coming off of multiple shoulder injuries and already had a tendency to turn into Delmon Young when he had to throw deep. Circling back to the risk-averse thing, that gets a big "nooope" from me. Cardale Jones was superb during OSU's playoff run, but he's reportedly behind Miller and Barrett as of now. Silly though it may be to put much weight on an imaginary July depth chart, it's enough for me to look in a different direction.
That leaves Barrett, who completed 64.6% of his passes while averaging 9.0 YPA. On top of that, he brings the dual threat capabilities I'm looking for; in 2014 he ran 14.25 times per game and averaged 5.49 YPC. Overall, Barrett accounted for 7.78 yards per play while throwing 34 touchdowns and rushing for 11 more. It's easy to see why he was named the 2014 Big Ten Quarterback and Freshman of the Year. Now I just have to hope he actually plays.
SETH: I am committed to not doing the insane things this year, among which I include filling the most important position with a guy who's 67% likely to not start. And hell, if Cook played for the other rival, maybe we're be talking about the "next Alex Smith" instead of guessing which of the three stooges gets to drive Urban's war machine to New York.
When Connor took over in 2013 the State offense went from laughable to good enough/safe. When they took the apron strings off in the Big Ten Championship, the INT rate went from 1.41% (best in the country) to 2.12% (Tom Brady), while his YPA shot up to eight against Ohio State and Stanford. Yet I remained a skeptic, until Cook repeated those numbers over an entire season, capped by beating Baylor in a shootout. All told, MSU finished 6th nationally last year in pass S&P+, 10th in YPA, and 11th in turnover rate. Everybody else in range ran a vicious spread or had access to elite talent; Cook did this while working for Jim Bollman.
He won't have Lippett to make him look good this year but Cook made even State's pedestrian receivers look Lippett-esque--Keith Mumphery had 11 yards per target last year; Macgarrett Kings had nine. Arm accuracy is merely good, but it's functionally extraordinary because of a lightning release. His legs aren't up to "dual threat" level but they're enough to extends plays, and State even added a zone-read veer to the playbook last year. I think I've found my quarterback. And despite the ugly green/chrome/bronze/hellenistic helmet, I think Harbaugh would approve.
ACE - Round 1, Pick 3: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Looks like Joe Dirt, plays like Mean Joe Green
OFFENSE: DEFENSE: Joey Bosa (OSU).
ACE: With the two elite quarterbacks off the board, assuming Barrett wins the OSU job (which I think he will, or I'd be bringing the snark much more heavily), I'll happily take the guy projected higher on most early NFL draft mocks than he went here. I don't need to spend much time or effort justifying this selection. Bosa had 21 TFLs and 13.5 sacks last season; both marks led the conference by a healthy margin. He earned unanimous first-team All-American honors. A lengthy section of his official OSU profile is dedicated to the 37 points the Buckeyes scored as a result of Bosa forcing or recovering fumbles last year; 30 of those points came after Bosa forced a fumble on the opposing quarterback. He did all this as a true sophomore.
On top of all that, Bosa is a solid run defender, already able to two-gap blockers to shut down rushes to his side. So, sure, I guess I'll build my defense around the best player in the conference.