David Seigerman
Author

Preseason Top 10 Draft Prospects: Big Ten

Jul 11, 2014 4:21 AM EST

As a father, it is my job to explain the inexplicable. Queries come out of nowhere -- "Daddy, why . . . " and I respond, quickly, with authority and confidence, convincing and credible. For the time being, anyway, my kids believe I have all the answers.

Soon enough, they'll be in middle school and I'll be an idiot in their eyes (no matter how right I actually am). I'm in no rush for that demotion. But it's coming, earlier than I would like.

It's coming because my son is becoming increasingly interested in college football. And while I escaped without ever having to answer why polls determined a champion rather than a playoff, eventually, inevitably, he's going to ask the question, the one for which there is no answer.

"Daddy, why are there 14 teams in the Big Ten?"

In the momentary pause before I begin the tap dance, my infallability will be gone. Idiot status achieved.

I'll try to explain that there was once a league called the Big Eight, and when it expanded by four teams, it became the Big 12. And that the Pac-10 added two teams and renamed itself the Pac-12. Thanks to the Common Core, he has the math skills to follow that logic.

But I won't be able sell to him what I can't fathom. I'll start talking about such football concepts as "brand integrity" and hope that he's still young enough to get distracted by Michigan's cool helmets.

I've said all that to say this . . . the Big Ten, in name only, may be a punchline these days, but its product is not. And there are few people outside the Big Ten footprint -- which now stretches from Nebraska to exit 9 on the Jersey Turnpike -- who have held the league's NFL prospects in higher regard than I have. No matter how flattering Nick Saban's words were to an Ohio audience this spring.

Four players from the Big Ten were taken in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. I had six with first-round grades. 

With the exception of Ryan Shazier (23rd on my final Big Board, and the 15th pick of the draft), each of the six were selected lower than I had them ranked. In fact, seven of the eight Big Ten prospects I ranked in my top 50 were taken later than my grade warranted:

PLAYER MY RANKING WHEN DRAFTED
Taylor Lewan, Michigan 9th 11th
Darqueze Dennard, Michigan St. 14th 24th
Bradley Roby, Ohio State 15th 31st
Ryan Shazier, Ohio State 23rd 15th
Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota 19th 37th
Carlos Hyde, Ohio State 32nd 57th
Chris Borland, Wisconsin 49th 77th
Cody Latimer, Indiana 50th 56th

That makes them all bargains in my book.

Undeterred, I have another half-dozen Big Ten players in my Way Too Early Big Board for the 2015 NFL Draft. Two are ranked among my top four prospects, another is ranked ninth. That's three in the top 10 from the Big Ten, as many as produced by the Pac-12 and ACC. Three times as many as the SEC.

Unlike the name of the leage they are representing, such lofty expectations I am confident in my ability to explain.

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