The Next Best Ten Returning Big Ten Players

Submitted by Seth on July 12th, 2017 at 4:00 PM

AKA

Draftageddon 2017: The Peters is Happening

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Draftageddon is pre-season All-Big Ten #content given the ol’ MGo-Really-Do-A-Job treatment. We hold a snake draft (1-2-3-4/4-3-2-1 etc.) of Big Ten players and try to build the best teams. You come out of it with a four-deep preseason All-Big Ten. We come out of it primed to cover the upcoming football season.

Previously: The first 10 picks (Hurst, Speight)

Where things stand after 10 picks:

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  1. Ohio State (4 players): DE Nick Bosa (3rd, Seth), QB JT Barrett (6th, Seth), DE Tyquan Lewis (8th, BiSB)
  2. Michigan (3 players): DT Maurice Hurst (2nd, Brian), DE Rashan Gary (5th, Ace), QB Wilton Speight (a reluctant 7th, Brian)
  3. Penn State (2 players): RB Saquon Barkley (1st, BiSB), QB Trace McSorley (4th, Ace)
  4. Indiana (1 player): LB Tegray Scales (9th, BiSB)
  5. Minnesota (1 player): DT Stephen Richardson (10th, Brian)

Keep rowing the boat Big Ten West! We stopped in the middle of the 3rd round so we’re picking up with Seth, who has already drafted two Buckeyes.

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Seth: ROUND 3, PICK 3: Denzel Ward, CB Ohio State

No, not the 6'9 OT who was briefly in Hoke's 2014 class.

Off: QB JT Barrett (OSU)
Def: DE Nick Bosa (OSU), CB Denzel Ward (OSU)

Okay so now I'm definitely getting myself photoshopped onto a rival's uniform. But it's hard to argue the value of this guy at #11. The conference lost a ton of cornerback talent to the NFL, leaving just 2-4 sure things, and a very clear #1 for this fall.

Ward was more or less interchangeable with OSU’s two first round draft picks, liberally rotating with Marshon Lattimore, who went #11 overall, and 24th pick Gareon Conley. His position coach didn’t see much difference between him and the 1st rounders:

“[Ward is] as good as the other two. I played three guys of equally talented ability,” [CB coach Kerry] Coombs said. “I don’t run out a guy who is not as good as they other guys. Who would do that? Have you met my boss?”

That link notes Ward allowed a Jourdan Lewis-ian 15 completions on 42 targets, breaking up 9 of those. Like Lewis, the knock on Ward is his height—just 5’10—a shortcoming (ha!) he makes up for with uncanny closing speed. A junior, Ward’s expected to be among the top corners taken in next year’s draft.

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[Hit THE JUMP for a defense of Al Borges]

Ace: ROUND 3, PICK 4: Simmie Cobbs, WR, Indiana 

Previously: 2016 Rnd 9 (Seth)

Off: QB Trace McSorley (PSU), WR Simmie Cobbs (IU)
Def: DE Rashan Gary (M)

If not for an ankle injury that cost him all but one snap in 2016 and a suboptimal coordinator change, Cobbs would’ve gone higher in this draft. As a sophomore in 2015, he hauled in 60 of 110 targets (nearly a quarter of IU’s target share) for 1035 yards, an average of 9.4 yards per target.

At 6’4", 212, he’s a matchup nightmare. He takes full advantage of his large catching radius, which is important when your quarterback is Richard Lagow. He can line up all over the field, act as a catch-and-run threat or a jump-ball target, and provide plus blocking in the run game. With Nick Westbrook’s emergence as a dangerous #1 option in his own right last year, Cobbs will get room to operate, and he should pick up where he left off before the injury. In a down year for receiving talent in the conference, he’s the clear number one.

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Brian: And the DeBord offense starts going.

Ace: I was told to keep it short or I’d be citing Tennessee’s 11th-ranked(!!!) passing S&P+ mark last year with a #1 receiver who’s pretty similar to Cobbs. They’ll probably be fine until they go up by a score in the second half.

Brian: Josh Malone is similar to Cobbs like Calvin Johnson is similar to Zach Gentry.

Ace: He went in the fourth round. I don’t find that comparison ridiculous.

Brian: Because DeBord ruined him!

Ace: If he ruins Cobbs into a 13.0 YPT season I’ll be cool with that. Now please stop making me semi-defend Mike DeBord.

Brian: This is pretty much the whole reason I won't be drafting any Indiana offenders.

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Ace: ROUND 4, PICK 1: Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State 

Off: QB Trace McSorley (PSU), WR Simmie Cobbs (IU)
Def: DE Rashan Gary (M), DT Dre’Mont Jones (OSU)

Who was Ohio State’s highest-graded run defender last year, according to PFF? At least as of the Michigan game, it wasn’t Raekwon McMillan, or Jerome Baker, or Tyquan Lewis, or Nick Bosa, or Sam Hubbard, or Jalyn Holmes—it was redshirt freshman defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones.

As a 280-pound high school defensive end coming off a season of rehab following a knee injury, Jones wasn’t even supposed to start last year. Tracy Sprinkle’s opening-game injury gave him an opportunity, however, and he turned into the biggest surprise on the defense. While his task was mostly to occupy blockers so McMillan and Baker could shoot into gaps clean of blockers, Jones displayed a Hurstian burst that could get him to plays before they really began:

At the very least, he’ll be an excellent run defender, and he’s got plenty of pass-rushing upside—something he doesn’t always get to display because of OSU’s four-DE “Rushmen” package. He’s already good and his unusual development track suggests he’s still got a lot of untapped potential; NFL draft types apparently agree, as Jones is already getting some potential first-round hype for 2018.

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Seth: ROUND 4, PICK 2: Jack Cichy, LB, Wisconsin

Previously: 2016 Rnd 24 (Seth)

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Not Stacy Thomas the next guy.

Off: QB JT Barrett (OSU)  
Def: DE Nick Bosa (OSU), LB Jack Cichy (UW), CB Denzel Ward (OSU)

Checking in at #5 on PFF's best returning B10 players is "Three-sack" Jack Cichy, the Wisconsin junior who fell to me in Round 24 last year because the conference was silly with linebackers. This year the conference is again silly with linebackers but the guy who was a Butkus semifinalist in 60% of a sophomore season sounds like a priority when PFF describes him:

Cichy was in the middle of an outstanding 2016 campaign when a torn pectoral against Iowa ended his year in Week 8. He excelled in all three phases, most notably posting three sacks, three hits and four hurries to go with 22 total defensive stops in four conference games. His game against Michigan in Week 5 was one of the standout performances of the season, as he ripped the Wolverines for two sacks, four total pressures and six defensive stops with no missed tackles to his name. He has graded out extremely well in each of the past two seasons despite playing less than 400 snaps both years, and if he can maintain his health in 2017 he could be one of the top inside linebackers in the entire country.

Cichy gave up an average 3.64 yards before tackling, 13th best in the country, and wracked up 45 tackles, 7 for loss, in about half a season’s work. If the Badgers put him outside, expect Biegel-like carnage. If he remains an ILB he's one of the best coverage backers in the country.

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Brian: ROUND 4, PICK 3: Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin 

Off: QB Wilton Speight (M), TE Troy Fumagalli, (UW)
Def: NT Stephen Richardson (Minn), DT Mo Hurst(M)

Troy Fumagalli was hugely productive last year despite cutting off one of his fingers and mailing it to a rich guy with the same name as a poor guy in an elaborate and failed faux kidnapping*. When not getting mildly irritated at people for leading off every damn story about him the same way, Fumagalli vacuums in passes and, unlike some other purported tight ends in the league, blocks people. He also produces in the crunch. Dude had 14 of his 47 catches last year against OSU and LSU.

That combination has people raving up and down about him. He's PFF's second-best returning tight end nationally. (Behind Adam Breneman, the injury-blasted TE who had to leave Penn State for UMass in a last ditch attempt to save his career. Better late than never, Ace.)

Mel Kiper had him second on his list of senior TEs for next year's draft. CBS's Matt Miller named him Most NFL Ready and Best Blocker. You get the idea. Fumagalli is a complete inside-outside tight end the likes of which does not otherwise exist in the conference this year, and thus has superior value. I'll let someone else take Gesicki and get inundated with gifs of him swinging a purse.

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Rules note: Since the rest of us have one BiSB must take a QB this swing. Let’s see whom he chooses.

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BiSB: ROUND 4, PICK 4: Brandon Peters, QB, Michigan

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[Bryan Fuller]

Off: QB Brandon Peters (UM), RB Saquon Barkley
Def: DE Tyquan Lewis (OSU), LB Tegray Scales (IU)

THAT’S RIGHT, I SAID IT.

The strictures of Draftageddon require me to take a quarterback, and I ask you: if you were putting a football team together, and you had to choose from the following…

  • Clayton Thorson, who threw for 6.7 YPA and lost his two most efficient targets (including Austin Carr)
  • Richard Lagow, who leads a post-Kevin Wilson Mike Debord HUNH offense
  • Tanner Lee, who never cracked 6 YPA at Tulane, and who in both of his seasons had a worse passer rating than Mitch Leidner in Mitch Leidner’s worst season
  • David Blough or Brian Lewerke, who Purdue and Michigan State respectively
  • Brandon Peters.

…what would you do? Sure, he might not start at Michigan this year. But he might. And I’d rather have this guy under center than any of this motley group of also-threws.

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Ace: I, for one, am in full support of Bryan’s quarterback strategy.

Brian: I'm changing his username to Hijo de Heiko

BiSB: I know almost nothing about fruit fly genetics.

Ace: These are the deep cut MGoMeta jokes that keep the people flocking back to Draftageddon.

BiSB: I know the Peters move is a bit gimmicky, but honestly, I think it's possible that Michigan's (likely) backup quarterback is better than any of the other options in the conference. It boils down to how much of Michigan's success at quarterback result of the QB Game Genie that is Jim Harbaugh. I don't know about you guys, but I'd put my money on "a significant amount" (see: Speight, Wilton, and Rudock, Jake). And if that applies to Brandon Peters as well—which we have no reason to question thus far—I feel like I can defend this move.

Also, I don't want those other guys and you can't make me take them.

The Mathlete: Plus, Draftageddon is a keeper league, right?

Ace: On a pure talent/ability standpoint, it’s hard to disagree. It’s a huge gamble this early but there’s the chance Peters takes the job and this completely screws over Brian, who was a 100% lock to take Peters as a “punter” in the late rounds.

BiSB: Exactly. Most of those poor damn schmucks will be available in, say, Round 25. I took the one guy someone else was definitely going to take.

The Mathlete: Purdue was so bad that Blough actually rated out as +68 in my MVP system, not saying he's good, but compared to the rest of the Purdue offense, he was amazing.

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BiSB: ROUND 5, PICK 1: Billy Price, G/C (OSU)

Previously: 2016 Rnd 11 (Seth), 2015 Rnd 16 (Ace)

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Off: QB Brandon Peters (UM), RB Saquon Barkley, G/C Billy Price (OSU)
Def: DE Tyquan Lewis (OSU), LB Tegray Scales (IU)

No offensive linemen in the first four rounds is presumably a Draftageddon record, and I get it. There are can’t-miss All American candidates at tackle, which is usually where the sexiness arises. But there is a can’t-miss All American candidate on the interior, because there is a returning All-American on the interior. Billy Price was an American Football Coaches Association first-teamer at right guard. Price is moving to center this year, but he can realistically play anywhere on the interior.

Price is just a really effective interior lineman. He’s stout, but still agile. He’s a good run-blocker, though he’s more of a positional blocker than a road-grading mauler. And he excels in pass protection; Ohio State had trouble keeping JT Barrett upright, but that was on the edges and on LG Michael Jordan (NTMJ). If you have the stomach, watch Price vs. Michigan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP1qwuFu5FQ), and watch how he handles the best defensive line in college football.

On second thought, don’t watch that. I watched it for you. Just trust me. Don’t… don’t watch that.  

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Seth: One other thing you don't want to do: search for Billy Price on Twitter. Geoff Schwartz, Lineman Lunch, James Light, and others have all independently featured Price highlights at some point this year. Going into the Michigan game Price was even incrementally ahead of Elflein, the Rimington winner, to PFF.

BiSB: How did he slip past Seth's Buckeye Bunch?

Seth: Because Three-Sack Jaekwan Katzenvrabelhawkinaitistary was around.

The Mathlete: As for Price, individual OL ratings I'll leave to PFF, but last year Ohio State got 5 yards or a first down on 56% of their called running plays (excluding sacks and scrambles), only Louisville and the Heisman trophy winner had a higher percentage

Seth: Now you’ve found the JT Barrett stat.

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Brian: ROUND 5, PICK 2: Akrum Wadley, RB, Iowa

O: QB Wilton Speight (M), RB Akrum Wadley (IA), TE Troy Fumagalli(UW)
D: NT Stephen Richardson (Minn), DT Mo Hurst(M)

Do I even have to explain this pick to Michigan fans?

Wadley was the Iowa offense against Michigan last fall, and even if that was only worth 14 points doing that your damn self is impressive as hell. Wadley was inexplicably platooned with LeShun Daniels but still manged to crack 1000 yards on the season at a 6.4 yards per carry clip, a full yard and a half better than Daniels. He ended the season on a tear with games of 164, 262, 264, and 171 yards, with two of those against Michigan and Florida.

He's also Iowa's leading returning receiver and the most productive RB in the country out of the backfield... but Michigan fans already knew that part too.  Now liberated from the clutches of Greg Davis the sky's the limit for him. Please don't get it twisted with this Mountain West transfer. He can give Wadley a breather but he can't hang.   

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The Mathlete: The MVP numbers agree with the Wadley eye test. He was +0.16 PPP vs the rest of the Iowa offense, which was the highest among higher usage running backs not compared against the dregs of Illinois and Rutgers. I'll have to dig in and see if I can find a way to predict whether or not he'll get the carries from Ferentz this year.

Ace: I’ll freely admit I wanted Wadley too, but I have to point out that it’d be extremely Ferentz to only get him 200 touches again this year.

Brian: Nah, Wadley's a senior and seniors have senior leadership

Ace: But he doesn’t look like he played fullback in the 1960s. So he doesn’t have that going for him.

Brian: Also BiSB just took a backup quarterback in the fourth round so maybe focus your playing time ire on Hijo de Heiko. That's gotta be up there with "Seth takes Justin Jackson over Melvin Gordon".

Ace: I’m not going to pretend I don’t support any pick that blatantly sabotages your backup plan, no matter how ridiculous.

Ace: Also, it was Venric Mark.

Brian: Oh lord.

Ace: Just to swing back to informing the masses instead of reminiscing about the Worst Pick Ever, the three reasons Wadley dropped were (1) Kirk Ferentz, Head Coach, (2) Brian Ferentz, Offensive Coordinator, and (3) there are a crapton of good RBs in the conference this year.

Seth: (4) AIRBHG may be dormant but not forgotten.

Ace: On freakin’ cue:

-200 senior leadership points.

Seth: I saw "On freakin' cue," saw the gif, and though way worse. Way to tempt the wrathful Ace.

Also you guys way to bring up the "Remember that one bad play by Peppers?" of Draftageddon history—those are so rare it's important to hold onto them forever.

Ace: Reading is important. As is not drafting Venric Mark over Melvin Gordon.

BiSB: If I recall correctly, it wasn't Venric Mark over Melvin Gordon. It was Venric Mark over Melvin Gordon, Ameer Abdullah, Tevin Coleman, and Jeremy Langford.

Alex Cook: Well it's not like ALL four of those guys are good in the NFL...

(only because Abdullah gets hurt a lot)

Ace: Pssst

(whispers: Peters is happening)

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Seth: ROUND 5, PICK 3: Kingsley Opara, DT, Maryland

Warning sudden volume jump—you may want to mute if you're at work:

Off: QB JT Barrett (OSU)
Def: DT Kingsley Opara (MD), DE Nick Bosa (OSU), LB Jack Cichy (UW), CB Denzel Ward (OSU)

Here's Maryland's 2016 defense in a nutshell:

We all took note when PFF sent us Maryland's numbers last year and this dude we'd barely heard of was a Bosa-like +20. I did the FFFF that week and noticed Opara was in the backfield nearly every play. MGoBlog fave-rave Yannick Ngakoue was just as surprised:

Ngakoue ... marveled at the improvements from one of the players he arrived with in the 2013 class.

"He was like, 'Wow, I can't believe how much of a better player you've gotten to be,'" Opara remembered. "They [Ngakoue & Patriots DT Darius Kilgo] try to tell me that I'm just as good as they are, if not better, so I just try to pick their brains."

Opara earned PFF's national DT of the week for his game against Penn State and finished with 11.5 TFLs (tied with Maurice Hurst) and three sacks as primarily a 3-4 nose tackle, moving down to end sometimes when Azubuike Ukandu rotated in. Another 14 TFLs for Jesse Aniebonam (a just-good +7 to PFF) is a testament to the level of disruption. Maryland's 31st DL Havoc ranking despite Durkin's super-conservative (14th in IsoPPP) defense is another.

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Ace: ROUND 5, PICK 4: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State

Previously: 2016 Rnd 7 (Ace)

Off: QB Trace McSorley (PSU), WR Simmie Cobbs (IU)
Def: DE Rashan Gary (M), DE Sam Hubbard (OSU), DT Dre’Mont Jones (OSU)

I wouldn’t have blinked if Hubbard went in the first or second round of this draft. The former Notre Dame lacrosse commit and high school safety has seamlessly and productively moved down to the defensive line. As you’d expect from an athlete making such a significant transition, he still has plenty of untapped potential, but he’s also a remarkably instinctual player who can be productive without advanced technique. Now that he’s comfortable at defensive end, OSU is toying around with having him moonlight at outside linebacker to take advantage of his ability to play in space.

Meanwhile, he graded out tops among Ohio State’s vaunted group of defensive ends last year, per PFF, in large part because teams couldn’t run on him. He passed up a chance at the NFL to come back for his redshirt junior year, and he’s on course for the first round in 2018—perhaps even the top ten. He’s not an elite pass-rusher yet, though he could become one this year; his rock-solid run defense and unusually versatile skill-set for a defensive end make him a great value here.

HOW THE THINGS STAND AFTER 20 PICKS:

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  1. Ohio State (8 players): DE Nick Bosa (3rd, Seth), QB JT Barrett (6th, Seth), DE Tyquan Lewis (8th, BiSB), CB Denzel Ward (11th. Seth), DT Dre’Mont Jones (13th, Ace), Billy Price (17th, BiSB), Sam Hubbard (20th, Ace)
  2. Michigan (4 players): DT Maurice Hurst (2nd, Brian), DE Rashan Gary (5th, Ace), QB Wilton Speight (a reluctant 7th, Brian), QB Brandon Peters (an obligatory 16th, BiSB)
  3. Penn State (2 players): RB Saquon Barkley (1st, BiSB), QB Trace McSorley (4th, Ace)
  4. Indiana (2 players): LB Tegray Scales (9th, BiSB), WR Simmie Cobbs (12th, Ace)
  5. Wisconsin (2 players): LB Jack Cichy (14th, Seth), TE Troy Fumagalli (15th, Brian)
  6. Minnesota (1 player): DT Stephen Richardson (10th, Brian)
  7. Iowa (1 player): RB Akrum Wadley (18th, Brian)
  8. Maryland (1 player): DT Kingsley Opara (19th, Seth)

NEXT TIME ON DRAFTAGEDDON:

Ace probably drafts Jerome Baker…

BiSB: Fuck that's some good value.

I mean... uh... BOOOO they suck and you suck for thinking they don't suck.

Seth: Yeah I'm a believer too in the cruel tutelage of Pai Harbaugh but I didn't imagine Michigan's quarterback depth chart would be gone before the PFF top 10.

Also Ace and I are now tied for most Buckeyes. Maybe I can be Photoshop Urban Meyer and you can be Photoshop Greg Schiano!

Ace:

slack-imgs

Seth: Nice 2013 reference.

Brent-Rambo

…and things start to get salty.

Comments

ak47

July 12th, 2017 at 4:26 PM ^

I probably would have taken a stab at Hornibrook from Wisconsin over Peters.  They have a charmin soft schedule, return 4 of 5 starters on the offensive line and he's got solid returning production to throw to in Fumagali and Jazz Peavy.  He won't be elite but he'll at least play. 

Bodogblog

July 12th, 2017 at 6:00 PM ^

Even if you hate the other QBs, you didn't have to take Peters now.  He would have been available in theory at the very end of the draft.  And yeah, I say Thorson has a pretty good year. 

BiSB

July 12th, 2017 at 7:48 PM ^

I had to take a QB. And in a weird twist, those other guys are still gonna be there in later rounds, but Brian was certainly going to grab Peters at some point to handcuff his Speight pick. I took the only QB who was certain to be selected later.

nerv

July 12th, 2017 at 11:25 PM ^

Not sure I understand taking a QB right there. Everyone else has a starter and are competing for most every other position. Peters is a back up. You could have drafted him 15 rounds later and filled out other roster holes.

Poor strategy I say.

Seth

July 14th, 2017 at 7:58 AM ^

No because some of the rest of us need DEs too. The rule is to prevent someone waiting till the end to fill a position the other three guys already filled because he knows it's not a need for them. And because it is Illuminating to the readers when somebody gets put in a position to pick the best of bad bunch early.