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Green Bay Packers Prospect Watchlist: Scouting the Big Ten

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Green Bay Packers Prospect Watchlist: Scouting the Big Ten

 

The Green Bay Packers 2017 season is just around the corner, but the fall also marks the beginning of college football. And while it’s way too early to discuss the 2018 NFL Draft, it’s never a bad idea to get a sense of the next-level talent in the college ranks.

This series highlights the top prospects on each major college team to pay attention to on Saturdays this fall. It also discusses how certain players in particular could be players that fit with the Packers.

Recently we went through the top ACC prospects, and now, we’ll take a look at what the Big Ten has to offer this year.

 

NFL Watchlist: Big Ten Prospects

Illinois

(1 prospect) - WR Malik Turner

Turner is a 6-foot-3, 205-pound wideout who led the Fighting Illini in receiving as a junior with 712 yards and six touchdowns on 48 receptions. His 14.8 yards per reception was one of the highest in the Big Ten last year. He could be a late-round receiver the Packers consider selecting in the draft.

Indiana

(4 prospects) - WR Simmie Cobbs, WR Nick Westbrook, LB Tegray Scales, CB Rashard Fant

The Hoosiers have a pair of talented wide receivers. While Westbrook led the team in 2016 in receiving (985 yds and 6 TDs), Cobbs is the better overall prospect. He was a medical redshirt last season, but the year prior he was dominate on the perimeter, averaging over 17 yards per catch. Cobbs also has an impressive NFL frame (6-4, 220) and could be a top-ten wide receiver in the 2018 draft class. Scales is also a really interesting athlete. He's a dynamic Will linebacker who can rush the passer or make plays in coverage. He recorded 126 tackles, 7 sacks, and 16.5 tackles for loss as a junior. His game reminds me a bit of Haason Reddick.

Iowa

(6 prospects) - RB Akrum Wadley, C James Daniels, DE Anthony Nelson, LB Josey Jewell, LB Ben Neiman, SS Miles Taylor

Wadley tallied 1396 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns last season while averaging over six yards per carry. He's the focal point of the Hawkeyes offense and he should get mid-round considerations next spring. Jewell and Neiman are active linebackers who swarm to the ball and make plays all over the defense. Jewell in particular has next-level talent and instincts. He's one of the top linebackers in college football and his ability to also hold up well in coverage would make him a tremendous fit at inside linebacker in Green Bay.

Maryland

(2 prospects) - RB Ty Johnson, LB Jermaine Carter

Currently, the Terapins don't boast a lot of potential NFL talent. There are two players that have a shot at sneaking into the late rounds or making an NFL roster as undrafted free agents. If Johnson can put up big numbers again in 2017 he could get the attention of scouts. Last year he led Maryland with 1004 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Carter on the other hand is the team's top defensive player. He's an active linebacker who can generate interior pressure as a blitzer. Last year alone he recorded six sacks to go along with his team-leading 110 tackles.

Michigan

(4 prospects) - QB Wilton Speight, OL Mason Cole, DT Maurice Hurst, LB Mike McCray

The Wolverines had a whopping 11 players from their program selected in the 2017 Draft. However, their 2018 class won't be quite as impressive. Cole is clearly an early-round prospect and one of the top offensive lineman in college football. While he’ll start at left tackle this season, he's versatile enough to play any position on the line. However, Hurst could be the first Wolverine drafted in the spring. He's a highly explosive defensive tackle who can push the pocket and get after the quarterback. With a strong senior season he could land in the first round. McCray is a big, physical linebacker with a nasty streak. He's one of the more exciting players to watch in college football, but average speed and inconsistency in coverage could hurt his draft stock.

Michigan State

(3 prospects) - RB LJ Scott, C Brian Allen, DT Raequan Williams

Scott is a smooth one-cut runner who is surprisingly light on his feet for a back measuring in at 6-foot-1 and 231 pounds. Coming off a sophomore season where he recorded 1,141 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns, Scott is definitely player to watch this season. He's a great blend of power and agility, and he's possesses underrated hands and elusiveness in space. He'd be an ideal fit in the Packers West Coast Offense and zone running scheme. Allen and Williams are two potential late-round candidates.

Minnesota

(4 prospects) - RB Rodney Smith, TE Brandon Lingen, DT Steven Richardson, DT Merrick Jackson

The Golden Gophers have a notable prospect on each side of the ball. Smith is an elusive running back who gained 1,158 yards on the ground last season. He also ran in a whopping 16 touchdowns. He does need to improve in the passing game, but in the very least, he looks like a mid-round running back who can make some plays. On defense, their top player is athletic defensive tackle Steven Richardson. As an interior rusher he tallied seven sacks to go with 11 tackles for loss last season. He’s a disruptive three-technique who could find a role in the Packers nickel defense.

Nebraska

(8 prospects) - WR Stanley Morgan, OG Tanner Farmer, OG Nick Gates, DL Carlos Davis, DL Mick Stoltenberg, LB Dedrick Young, CB Chris Jones, FS Joshua Kalu, SS Kieron Williams

Surprisingly, Nebraska’s roster is full of next-level talent. Their defensive prospects are highly underrated, and many of them could land in the middle rounds come draft day. Davis and Stoltenberg are solid defensive linemn, but Jones, Kalu, and Williams are the stars of the group. All three measure in just over six-feet tall and around 200 pounds and play the ball extremely well. Last year alone, Jones recorded three interceptions and 13 pass defensed as the team’s top cover corner, while Kalu had 12 pass defensed and Williams brought in five interceptions. Any of the three could fit in Capers defense. On the offensive side of the ball, Farmer and Gates are an effective guard tandem, while Morgan is a polished route runner with some downfield speed.

Northwestern

(3 prospects) - QB Clayton Thorston, RB Justin Jackson, SS Godwin Igwebuike

Jackson is one of the most dynamic backs in the conference, and after rushing for 1,524 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior, he could solidify himself as an early-round prospect with another productive year. While he lacks true breakaway speed, he is elusive and possesses some wiggle in the open field. Last year, Igwebuike was the Wildcats leading tackler with 78 stops, and now the 6-0, 205-pound senior goes into the 2017 season as one of the top safeties in college football. His sure tackling and ability to also make plays in coverage make him a versatile defensive back who can play multiple positions in a secondary.

Ohio State

(15 prospects) - QB JT Barrett, RB Mike Weber, RB/WR Parris Campbell, TE Marcus Baugh, C Billy Price, DE Sam Hubbard, DT Dre’Mont Jones, DT Michael Hill, DL, Jalyn Holmes, DE Tyquan Lewis, LB Jerome Baker, LB Chris Worley, LB Dante Booker, CB Denzel Ward, S Damon Webb

Ohio State has so much next-level talent on their roster it's difficult to know where to begin. Price is perhaps the top interior offensive lineman in the upcoming draft class, while Weber could be an early-round running back if he declares early. However, the real stars are on the defensive side of the ball. Lewis and Hubbard are long, athletic edge rushers who could crack the first round with strong seasons. Jones and Hill are one of the top interior defensive linemen duos in the country, while the three starting linebackers could all eventually play on Sundays. While Worley and Booker are thumpers, Baker is a speedy Will linebacker whose athleticism allows him to make plays in space and shade receivers in coverage. He looks like a first round talent. Ward’s game is raw, but he has elite speed (4.27) and solid ball skills. He's already receiving comparisons to former teammate and first-round pick Marshon Lattimore.

Penn State

(8 prospects) - RB Saquon Barkley, WR DaeSean Hamilton, TE Mike Gesicki, OG Ryan Bates, DE Torrence Brown, LB Jason Cabinda, LB Manny Bowen, FS Marcus Allen

The Nittany Lions have four elite talents on their roster. Barkley is not only the best running back in the upcoming draft class but he may be its best overall player. He's a truly special talent that blends power, speed, and vision. Penn State also has one of the top tight ends and safeties in all of college football in Gesicki and Allen. And then there’s Brown, who is a highly underrated defensive end. After playing a part-time role last season, Brown is set for a breakout season this year as a full-time starter. Brown’s athleticism is through the roof and he should be one of the more intriguing edge prospects in the 2018 class. While Barkley will likely well out of reach for the Packers, Gesicki, Allen, and Brown are all early-round prospects that meet future needs on Green Bay’s roster.

Rutgers

(1 prospect) - CB Isaiah Wharton

Wharton has NFL measurables (6-1, 202) for a defensive back and is currently the only player on the Scarlet Knights roster with next-level potential. As things stand right now, he looks like a late-round prospect who could improve his draft stock if he makes more plays on the ball in his junior season. While a solid cover player, Wharton only recorded one interception and five pass breakups last season.

Wisconsin

(5 prospects) - RB Chris James, TE Troy Fumagalli, OG Beau Benzschawel, LB Jack Cichy, LB TJ Edwards, LB Garrett Dooley

The Badgers best unit is clearly their linebacker group. Cichy is an electric hard-hitting downhill defender, while Edwards is a smooth athlete with great instincts. They’re an effective duo and could both be mid-round picks come draft time. However, it's Wisconsin’s tight end that is probably their best player on the roster. Fumagalli is a tall, athletic target down the field, and he possesses great hands. He can split out wide or put his hand in the dirt and be an effective blocker. Right now, he looks like a solid third-round prospect and a guy the Packers could take a serious interest in.

*Not any prospects on the watchlist at the moment for Purdue

Top-10 Big Ten Prospects

  1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
  2. Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State
  3. Jerome Baker, WLB, Ohio State
  4. Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State
  5. Marcus Allen, FS, Penn State
  6. Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
  7. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
  8. Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
  9. Billy Price, OL, Ohio State
  10. Josey Jewell, ILB, Iowa

 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (3) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Colin_C's picture

Great overview! You forgot Janarion Grant from Rutgers though. He is easily one of, if not the best return specialist in football right now. If he can come back from last season's injury, watch out.

Saquon Barkley is flat out amazing. I think he'll go down as one of the most talented backs to play the game if he's drafted by the right team. My hope is we can trade Hundley to someone for their 1st pick next year, and end up with a high enough choice to get Barkley. I love Ty, but Barkley is about as close to un-bustable it gets.

dan dahlke's picture

I'm not real familiar with Grant, so thanks for the recommendation. I'll have to check him out. I'm completely with you on Barkley. Truly special talent. Any team will be lucky to have him.

Jonathan Spader's picture

I'm excited to see Troy Fumagali this year. He was unstoppable in the last game the Badgers played.

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