Tracking Early NFL Draft Entrants Around the Big Ten
Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski - USA TODAY Sports

Tracking Early NFL Draft Entrants Around the Big Ten

January 15, 2019

Monday marked the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. 

In total, 22 underclassmen have entered the draft field, with the bulk of that number coming from the top of the conference. Ohio State and Penn State had more than any other school (five each) while Michigan and Iowa each had four players declare. Seven schools had none, including Big Ten West division winner Northwestern.

Only five of those early entrants belonged to West teams — Iowa’s four and Wisconsin’s lone player, offensive tackle David Edwards.

As it relates to the Huskers, it’s at least a little bit surprising Nebraska didn’t get a declaration. At the top, wideout J.D. Spielman and corner Lamar Jackson were both eligible third-year players. 

Spielman has 121 catches, 1,648 yards and 10 total touchdowns in the last two seasons. If he were to stay for all four years of his eligibility, he’s on pace to shatter Nebraska records for catches and receiving yardage in a career. Of course, it might be hard to keep Spielman in Lincoln that long. He’s a dynamic talent with an NFL general manager for a father (Viking’s Rick Spielman); Spielman will get the best advice as it relates to his draft stock. 

Another year in Lincoln with quarterback Adrian Martinez could help that stock, but Spielman was already projected as a mid-round guy if he were to come out this offseason. There were questions of whether he might after losing his running mate, Stanley Morgan Jr., but those have been put to rest for now.

Jackson, the former 4-star with an interesting first three seasons at Nebraska, seemed poised to make the jump to the NFL. His physical profile has always been enticing from that regard (6-foot-3, long arms) but his play hadn’t quite matched the potential. Still, there were questions publicly as to whether Jackson would be a three-and-done guy as was the talk when he got to Nebraska.

A benching mid-season further fueled that discussion, but maybe everyone was wrong about the Elk Grove, California, native. When he lost his job against Purdue, most thought it was almost a foregone conclusion Jackson would leave. Especially given the public prodding of Jackson from defensive backs coach Travis Fisher.

But the tough love worked, it seems. Jackson fought back, earned his starting spot back and looked more like the corner everyone expected to see in the last half of the season. Now he’ll spend a second offseason with the same position coach for the first time in his Nebraska career. Should that play carry over into 2019, Jackson could and should have real draft potential following his senior season.

As promised, here’s a list of who declared early for the draft from around the Big Ten.

Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1)

  • Nick Bosa, junior defensive end
  • Dwayne Haskins, redshirt sophomore quarterback
  • Dre’Mont Jones, junior defensive tackle
  • Michael Jordan, junior offensive tackle
  • Mike Weber, redshirt junior running back  

Michigan Wolverines (10-3)

  • Devin Bush, junior inside linebacker
  • Rashan Gary, junior defensive end
  • Zach Gentry, redshirt junior tight end
  • David Long, junior cornerback 

Penn State Nittany Lions (9-4)

  • Ryan Bates, redshirt junior offensive tackle
  • Kevin Givens, redshirt junior defensive tackle
  • Connor McGovern, junior guard
  • Shareef Miller, redshirt junior defensive end
  • Miles Sanders, junior running back

Iowa Hawkeyes (9-4)

  • Noah Fant, junior tight end
  • TJ Hockenson, redshirt sophomore tight end
  • Amani Hooker, junior safety
  • Anthony Nelson, redshirt junior defensive end

Northwestern Wildcats (9-5)

  • None

Wisconsin Badgers (8-5)

  • David Edwards, redshirt junior offensive tackle

Michigan State Spartans (7-6)

  • Justin Layne, junior cornerback
  • L.J. Scott, junior running back

Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-6)

  • None  

Purdue Boilermakers (6-7)

  • None  

Maryland Terrapins (5-7)

  • Byron Cowart, redshirt junior defensive end

Indiana Hoosiers (5-7)

  • None

Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-8)

  • None

Illinois Fighting Illini (4-8)

  • None

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-11)

  • None

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