The Top 21-28 Returning Big Ten Players

Submitted by Seth on July 19th, 2017 at 12:11 PM

alias

Draftageddon 2017: Stop Taking Buckeyes Edition

Four_Horsemen_by_MarkWilkinson1

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 and angry at each other.

Previously: The first 10 picks (Hurst, Speight), the next 10 picks (Gary, Peters)

Where things stand after 20 picks:

image

  1. Ohio State (8 [edit: 7] 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), OC Billy Price (17th, BiSB), DE 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)

As hinted Ace is about to make that 9 Buckeroos.

-----------------------------

Ace: ROUND 6, PICK 1: Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State

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

Uh, somehow PFF’s #6 returning player in the Big Ten made it to the sixth round:

Raekwon McMillan was the name brand of the Buckeye linebacker corps in 2016, but sophomore first-year starter Jerome Baker was every bit as strong a player in Columbus. Look no further than his performance in The Game, as he terrorized the Wolverines by posting a sack, two hurries and five total stops. His 84.0 run-defense grade is one of the highest among returning Big Ten linebackers this year, and he also gave up just three receptions of over 10 yards on the season.

Baker grades out well in run defense, coverage, and pass-rushing; OSU lines him up all over the place to utilize his versatility and athleticism. He was the best Buckeye defender against Michigan by a significant margin:

There are plenty of impressive MIKE-types in the Big Ten, but none who can play inside and in space like Baker—just watch him at the 3:23 mark above playing man coverage in the slot on Amara Darboh and forcing Wilton Speight to squeeze a low-upside pass into a tight window. I guess he’s worth a sixth-rounder.

-----------------------------

[After the jump: a delightful nit to pick]

Seth: ROUND 6, PICK 2: Sean Welsh, OG, Iowa

Previously: 2016 Rnd 5 (Seth)

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

PFF's top guard in the conference last year (Price, weirdly, didn't even make 2nd team) was also PFF's top returning guard when I took him a round higher in last year's draft. This was 2015:

Welsh allowed just 13 pressures during the season (think of it as just one UFR negatives in pass pro per game). Meanwhile PFF called Welsh possibly the best run blocker in the conference while naming him a first team guard last year.

And this was 2016:

Welsh was one of the most consistent players in the conference at any position for the entire season. Against Minnesota stud defensive tackle Steven Richardson he gave up four hurries, but he only gave up three the entire rest of the season, including clean slates against the outstanding pass rushes of Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska. His 83.9 run block grade was also the highest in the conference.

Sold. Also USA Today named him a 2nd team All-American, the only returning Big Ten player on either list. His quick feet and versatility impress NFL scouts: Welsh can play guard or center, and when called upon even fared well at right tackle (2015 Northwestern, 2016 Illinois).

-----------------------------

Brian: ROUND 6, PICK 3: Josey Jewell, MLB, Iowa

Previously: 2016 Rnd 10 (Brian)

image

[Patrick Barron]

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

Jewell is a tackling machine who's exceeded 120 the past two years for Iowa and should do the same this year. By the Michigan game last year he was already +17 to PFF, which is a very large number for an ILB--like UFR, PFF's grading is somewhat harsh on linebackers. He's a positive in all three facets with a run D specialty. He also had nine pass breakups a year ago.

Going into his senior season he's pretty much what he is: an utterly reliable MLB generally ranked a hair behind Cichy by NFL draft types. PFF's Josh Liskewitz:

“If he were to come out, that’s a mid-round guy that is probably going to start in the league immediately,” Liskiewitz said.

“I think we’ve seen his ability to do a little bit of everything. That’s a clean prospect to me. That’s a guy where, if he’s not blowing up the world with elite athleticism, I think he’s plenty athletic enough. But there’s other guys that are off the charts in front of him a little bit.”

Okay, NFL starting linebacker still in college. I'll take it.

-----------------------------

BiSB: ROUND 6, PICK 4: Godwin Igwebuike, S (Northwestern)

Previously: 2016 Rnd 12 (Seth)

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

We have finally reached the end of the PFF ten best returning players list that we have linked nine times already. The Big Ten really has two top-flight safeties this year, but I'm going with Igwebuike over Marcus Allen (NTMA) because of his versatility.  Basically, take what I said about Tegray Scales and skinny it up by about 15 pounds; Igwebuike can play sideline-to-sideline, he can play over the top, he can play man coverage on quality receivers, he can defend the run, and he can come downhill. This brief scouting clip should give you a sense of Igwebuike as a space defender who can also do the traditional safety stuff.

He was arguably the best safety in the Big Ten last year not named Malik Hooker. His counting stats were also pretty impressive; he had 108 tackles, including 78 solo tackles (second only to the aforementioned Scales), along with 2 picks and 7 passes defended. Northwestern's defense fell off a little bit last year from their excellent 2015 squad, but they still only allowed 22.2 points per game.

-----------------------------

BiSB: ROUND 7, PICK 1: Mike Gesicki, TE/WR (PSU)

image

30% chance this is an actual block attempt [Sean Haffey/Getty]

Off: QB Brandon Peters (UM), RB Saquon Barkley, TE/WR Mike Gesicki, G/C Billy Price (OSU)
Def: DE Tyquan Lewis (OSU), LB Tegray Scales (IU), S Godwin Igwebuike

Ten people had more receiving yards in the Big Ten last year than Mike Gesicki (48 catches, 679 yards). Eight of those guys are gone. One is saddled with Mike DeBord and has to compete with Simmie Cobbs' return from injury.  One plays for Illinois, and will be catching passes from either Jeff George Jr., or Chayce Crouch. So when you add in the fact that Chris Godwin's 59 catches and nearly 1,000 yards are up for grabs in Penn State's Rex Grossman-inspired offense and it seems like Gesicki is primed for a big season.

Gesicki is what the analysts call a "matchup nightmare." He's 6'6", 250 pounds, and can run like a receiver. He also has good ball skills and the ability to make contested catches. So, you may be asking yourself, "what's the catch?" But because you are a loyal MGoBlog reader who consumes ALL OF THIS CONTENT AND ENJOY EVERY FEATURE, you already know the catch: Gesicki is among the worst blockers in the history of tight ends. In the history of football. In the history of obstacles of any kind. Ace broke it down in FFFF last season, but it can basically be summarized with this:

Now, in fairness, he did get a (veeeeeeeery) little bit better late in the season. That said, the ability to put a hat on a hat would make him a first-round NFL talent, but the lack thereof still leaves him as one of the the best offensive targets in the conference. He's the flexiest of flex tight ends, and he's pretty damn good in that role. He's basically what we hope Zach Gentry becomes in a year or two.

-----------------------------

Ace: doink

Seth: /giphy swinging purse.

purse

Alex Cook: The James Harden of tight ends.

Ace: I’m relieved someone else took him because I couldn’t really justify passing up on him the next turn but I didn’t want to have to also draft an actual tight end.

BiSB: If the Penn State roster didn't say "Tight End," people would feel less conflicted about him. That's why I reject labels, man.

Ace: I think the bigger issue is Penn State still occasionally tries to use him like one. But I’ll readily concede he’s a hell of a receiving threat.

BiSB: And I will readily concede that, as a blocker, he's a hell of a receiving threat.

Seth: On WTKA last Thursday Brian said he's Devin Funchess. I thought about drafting him a few rounds ago as a receiver but because they use him as a tight end the comp is still Devin Funchess as a tight end.

Ace: Since we’re tearing into Gesicki’s blocking, I’ll mention that I really wanted Michigan to offer Igwebuike in high school, when he was a really impactful RB/DB on Jake Butt’s Pickerington North squad. He’s a heck of an athlete. He’d be pretty nice to have right now.

BiSB: To be fair, they took Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill in that class, so (a) they still did okay, and (b) Hoke would have burned that redshirt on punt coverage, so he'd be gone anyway.

Ace: Valid points.

annnnnnnnnd I found an old Gesicki thread:

 

BiSB: I have to be honest: this was my selection, and yet "Watch Mike Gesicki Try To Block Things" has been the best part of Draftageddon thus far.

-----------------------------

Brian: ROUND 7, PICK 2: Mason Cole, OL, Michigan

Previously: 2016 Rnd 3 (Seth), 2015 Rnd 12 (Seth)

image

[Brian Fuller]

O: QB Wilton Speight (M), RB Akrum Wadley (IA), TE Troy Fumagalli(UW), OT Mason Cole(M)
D: NT Stephen Richardson (Minn), DT Mo Hurst(M), MLB Josey Jewell(IA).

Mason Cole is going to be good, and this means I will have one more good lineman than I had last year. Also I can stick him anywhere and it'll more or less work. Cole isn't the most powerful dude in the world and had some troubles against mondo nose tackles, but was nonetheless PFF's second team All Big Ten center a year ago, behind only OSU's Pat Elflien.

The year previous he was PFFs #2 run blocking tackle nationally, because dude is incredibly mobile:

At tackle he was allowed to take on linebackers and DEs, who he was able to match for power and outmaneuver. He was really, really great on the ground in 2016. He was not great as a pass protector. He had a hard ceiling: excellent against average players, struggled against great ones. Whether he's improved is an open question. You'd assume so, what with two extra years for a guy who didn't redshirt.

What isn't an open question is that he'll be the best run blocking T in the league, an All Big Ten player, and one of the first B10 OL off the board in the draft.

-----------------------------

Seth: Damn you Brian I was trying to put the band back together! /closes Cubelic tab.

BiSB: No one cares, but I was seconds away from taking him over Igwebuike.

Brian: OL I'm certain will be fine is a rare thing in the league this year.

Ace: It was pretty bleak last year and I think it might be worse this year.

-----------------------------

Seth: ROUND 7, PICK 3: Tariq Cole, OT, Rutgers

1510372

Off: QB JT Barrett (OSU), OG Sean Welsh (IA), OT Tariq Cole (RU)
Def: DT Kingsley Opara (MD), DE Nick Bosa (OSU), LB Jack Cichy (UW), CB Denzel Ward (OSU)

Good protection is really important (read that! It’s way better than Draftageddon), but so hard to find in this conference that just-okay Mason Cole was our first blindsider taken. That's because the most underrated guy in the conference was hiding in the last place you'd look for it:

His specialty is pass protection, where other than one poor showing against Iowa and Anthony Nelson, he has given up just one pressure in six games. His 82.6 overall grade is the best in the conference, and 11th-best nationally, and he also owns the Big Ten’s top pass- and run-blocking grades.

That perfect OT was also hidden under himself: the 6'6 Cole played basketball and ran track in high school but may have reached 400 pounds as a freshman before shedding 20% of his body weight. That appears to have revealed a hell of a player—one in fact PFF thinks will be drafted among the top four OTs next year. He missed the Michigan game after leaving Ohio State with an injury but his play vs. Bosa and Hubbard was eye-opening:

A RS sophomore last year who came in raw, there's still lots of upside for Jerry Kill to develop over 1-2 seasons without much else of value to do.

-----------------------------

Brian: RUTGER

Seth: I know.

BiSB: Before Sparty.

Ace:

Brian: Like, even if this guy is the business you probably could have got him in round 25. I had not even occurred to me to look at Rutgers.

Ace: I was looking at tackles, knew about Cole, and didn’t consider him for even a moment in round seven.

Seth: I was looking at Jamarco Jones either grabbing or flailing uselessly at the league’s elite pass rushers then watched Cole and decided "Well if I can see it the other guys can."

BiSB: I dub thee Tio de Heiko

Ace: So is the eye-opening part of Cole’s first drive against OSU the snap where he almost gets pushed into the QB or the one where he loses his block inside to give up a tackle two yards downfield?

I’ll just say I don’t think this pick gets made if Cole is healthy against Michigan.

Brian: I question the value of Rutgers pass pro when they suck so bad 90% of their passes are quick. And half of this guys snaps were against third stringers.

Ace: PFF grades in this context are pretty dubious.

Seth: And all the draftkniks…(sigh) You know what we shouldn't do in Draftageddon again? Have multiple paragraphs of arguing about Rutgers linemen. I obviously could have gotten way better value on this guy later. I also had to talk myself out of Jones and, like, Mahon to make this pick so have at the blindside guys and we'll see how it goes.

BiSB: You dropped this Rutger on our doorstep like a dead bird. We understand it was a gift, but that doesn't mean we're bringing it inside.

Ace: In related news, I’ll be taking…

-----------------------------

Ace: ROUND 7, PICK 4: Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State

Previously: 2016 Rnd 18 (Adam)

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

Alright, then. Jamarco Jones. Unlike Tariq Cole, he played against Michigan. Unlike every other Ohio State offensive lineman in that game, he emerged with a positive grade (+2.7). He played Michigan’s fearsome pass-rushers to a stalemate, not allowing a sack, and did good work on the ground.

A former top-60 overall recruit who played in ten games as a true freshman, Jones now has a full season of starting under his belt entering his senior season. He’ll at least be a solid, mid-round pick type; he has a chance to play himself into the first two days of the draft.

-----------------------------

Seth: Since announcing he won't be photoshopped on to a rival's body Ace has taken four straight Buckeyes.

Ace: It’d be three if, again, you didn’t take a dude from freakin’ Rutgers. Don’t die on this hill.

Seth: Just sayin if you draft a potato next round your cover's blown.

-----------------------------

HOW THE THINGS STAND AFTER 28 PICKS:

image

  1. Ohio State (9 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), OC Billy Price (17th, BiSB), DE Sam Hubbard (20th, Ace), LB Jerome Baker (21st, Ace), OT Jamarco Jones (28th, Ace)
  2. Michigan (5 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), OT Mason Cole (26th, Brian)
  3. Penn State (3 players): RB Saquon Barkley (1st, BiSB), QB Trace McSorley (4th, Ace), “TE” Mike Gesicki (25th, BiSB)
  4. Iowa (3 players): RB Akrum Wadley (18th, Brian), G/C Sean Welsh (22nd, Seth), LB Josey Jewell 23rd, Brian)
  5. Indiana (2 players): LB Tegray Scales (9th, BiSB), WR Simmie Cobbs (12th, Ace)
  6. Wisconsin (2 players): LB Jack Cichy (14th, Seth), TE Troy Fumagalli (15th, Brian)
  7. Minnesota (1 player): DT Stephen Richardson (10th, Brian)
  8. Maryland (1 player): DT Kingsley Opara (19th, Seth)
  9. Northwestern (1 player): S Godwin Igwebuike (24th, BiSB)
  10. Rutgers (1 player): OT Tariq Cole (27th, Seth)

NEXT TIME ON DRAFTAGEDDON:

ad6af3142701a46ce3c2d609029e4e43

Comments

lhglrkwg

July 19th, 2017 at 12:24 PM ^

Now I'm no football coach, but wouldn't you rather just have him line up outside to take a defender out of the box? Because you know if that defender is in the box, you're basically going a man down since Gesicki is barely going to impede his motion. Seems like you'd rather just have him distract a guy rather than try to block him

Rabbit21

July 19th, 2017 at 12:52 PM ^

Football coaches are stubborn is my best guess. 

There may also be some value in repping the play as designed and not ALWAYS having Gesicki presence screaming pass.  Then again, split him out wide, take one or two defenders away from the play and have Barkley run against a less stacked offense and watch the fun...

dragonchild

July 19th, 2017 at 12:48 PM ^

is seemingly getting vindicated:  MGoBlog is a treehouse full of risk-averse stat junkies, so they strongly favor established starters over uncertainty.

There was a large amount of "homerism" last year, but that's an illusion.  Michigan was an "old" team in that there were upperclassmen at most starter positions, a lot of nothing from the Hoke recruiting tail-off, and two huge classes of grass-green yoots.  Now it's the yoots' turn to play, so while there's a high degree of confidence many of them will be very good, they're not sure who's going to be good.  OTOH, OSU was both good AND young last year, so they have a year's worth of FBS data on who's playing this coming September.  So you get. . . this.

We have receivers on our roster with ceilings higher than Simmie Cobbs, and Harbaugh >>> DeBord.  But right now WR is competition-o-rama, especially when the U.S.S. Harbaugh submerges for fall camp, and we have a lot of them, so MGoBlog doesn't know how the snaps are going to shake out.  Simmie Cobbs goes off the board; DPJ is up for grabs.

The "bench" picks (including the blatantly abused "punter") offset this, but not by very much at all, since there are only 2-3 of them.

MI Expat NY

July 19th, 2017 at 1:31 PM ^

This is the best criticism of this series, and specifically of the format of the series.  The writing staff likes to portray this as a conference preview on a position-by-position basis.  But as you point out, that's not really what this is, it's more of a possition-by-position summary of known quantities around the league.  Because they insist on pretending that someone can "win," we don't get much in the way of potential "newcomers" who could explode this season.  

I still think there is more value in this format than an arbitrary ranking of players (which would probably suffer from the same problem) or the general team previews that are ubiquitous.  But it is a legitimate criticism.  

ak47

July 19th, 2017 at 1:53 PM ^

I mean trying to argue that thinking highly rated recruits that have produced at the college level will out perform highly rated recruits who haven't played yet seems like an intelligent rational position, not a flaw in the system.  Just because it doesn't result in a lot of Michigan players getting picked doesn't make it a bad system.

Sure its possible a Michigan freshman wr is better this year than Simmie Cobbs, but that is more hopeful wishing than anything worth predicting, the number of recruits who flame out without producing Simmie Cobbs level is much greater than the number of recruits who pan out.

InterM

July 19th, 2017 at 12:56 PM ^

May I suggest "Detailed Position-by-Position Breakdown of OSU Roster"?  Not too catchy, I admit, but captures the appeal (or lack thereof) of this year's version of this "feature."  What doesn't kill us in the offseason makes us stronger, right?

Michigan4Life

July 19th, 2017 at 1:24 PM ^

LJ Scott should be drafted pretty soon. He's a stud but Mork for whatever reason refuse to feature him as a lone back like he did with Ringer, Langford and Bell. LJ Scott is every bit as good as the three of them but Mork keeps rotating him with Madre and Holmes, both are inferior runner than Scott.

Also, Brian Allen is one of the better OL in the conference and should be drafted as well.

kevin holt

July 19th, 2017 at 2:17 PM ^

If the refs decide that holding is a penalty again, Jones will be mediocre at best. If they continue the moratorium on holding calls, Jones could be first team All-B1G or better. My money's on moratorium.