Everyone knows the line on the Big Ten: It’s a meat-and-potatoes, run-the-ball, rough-and-tumble conference. A quick glance at the top players in the league in 2016 probably doesn’t do much to challenge the stereotype
Pro Football Focus released its position-by-position list of the top NFL draft prospects on Thursday. The Big Ten fared pretty well, placing 11 players on the 55-man list, but didn’t have a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, offensive tackle or edge rusher listed in the top five. Those are what you might call most of the marquee positions when it comes to draft watching.
Where the conference did succeed was in the positions most would expect to see Big Ten players listed: tight end, interior line, defensive tackle and linebacker.
And also the secondary. Maybe that one’s a mild surprise given the Big Ten’s supposed reputation, but the conference had two cornerbacks make the top five, Iowa’s Desmond King at No. 1 and Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis at No. 3. The Big Ten also claimed the top spot at safety thanks to Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers.
You’ll find Nebraska senior Nathan Gerry there, too, at No. 5.
Here’s how Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus broke down Gerry’s strengths and weaknesses:
Why he’s on the list: One of the top-graded coverage safeties in 2014, Gerry does a nice job of working downhill when the play is in front of him and he’s a good fit for a two-high safety team. His playmaking skills have led to nine interceptions and five passes defensed over the last two years.
What we’d like to see: Gerry is not as smooth when working backwards, so passes over his head can be a problem. It’d be nice to see if he could handle a center field role as he’s played more split coverages in Nebraska’s scheme. Tackling has also been an issue as he’s missed 25 of his 163 attempts over the last two seasons. Ultimately, a return to 2014 if crucial for Gerry’s evaluation.
The “what we’d like to see” section will read pretty familiar to some Husker fans. That’s why the fact that he’s on the list might come as a slight surprise as well.
Check out PFF’s full list of the top draft prospects here.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.