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Big Ten Football: 10 Players Who Will Replace NFL Draft Early Entrants in 2022

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State Buckeyes Football

Despite losing a pair of 1,000-yard receivers to the draft, Ohio State has plenty of talent remaining at the position, headlined by Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who closed this past season with a record-setting Rose Bowl performance

The Big Ten is once again set to send off a ton of great talent to the National Football League. The 2022 NFL Draft should be heavy on Big Ten players with Aidan Hutchinson potentially going as high as No. 1 overall and Chris Olave and Jahan Dotson, among others, also projected as first-round draft picks. And without a doubt, those players and more will be leaving behind some big shoes to fill in their place at their respective Big Ten programs.

Related: Early Big Ten Football Predictions for 2022

But the Big Ten also will be sending off some notable underclassmen to this year's draft, which leaves a few more spots to fill on Big Ten rosters and depth charts heading into the 2022 season. The challenge of replacing underclassmen declaring early for the NFL draft may not be quite as perplexing as it usually is due to the NCAA granting extra years of eligibility to every student-athlete as a result of the 2020 pandemic season, but that doesn't necessarily mean every program will have the experience to rely on when filling these key roster spots.

Replacements for NFL Draft Early Entrants by Conference: ACC I Big 12 I Big Ten I Pac-12 I SEC

Here are 10 notable underclassmen from around the Big Ten who have declared for the 2022 NFL Draft and what players may be the most likely candidate to replace them next fall.

Ohio State

Gone: Garrett Wilson, WR

Ohio State is parting ways with a dynamic receiver duo in Wilson and Chris Olave. Wilson's early departure to the NFL was fully expected after being one of the Big Ten's best receivers in 2020 and 2021. He is coming off a 1,000-yard season with 12 touchdowns.

In: Jaxon Smith-Njigba

You won't have to look far to find Ohio State's next big receiver. Smith-Njigba has already proven himself and is coming off a 1,000-yard season after a record-setting performance (15 rec., 347 yds., 3 TDs) in the Rose Bowl. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka will also help fill the void left by Wilson (and Olave).

Related: Way-Too-Early College Football Top 25 for 2022


Gone: David Bell, WR

The Big Ten's best wide receiver will leave big shoes to fill at Purdue. Bell recorded 1,286 receiving yards on 93 receptions in only 11 games. Bell had two 1,000-yard seasons for the Boilermakers and would have likely had a third if not for a shortened 2020 season.

In: Milton Wright

Purdue's second-leading receiver will rise to the leading option in 2022. Wright was a fine complement to Bell in the Purdue offense in 2021 with 732 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns on 57 receptions.


Gone: Daxton Hill, S

One of the key faces in the Michigan defense in their Big Ten championship season was Hill. The junior from Oklahoma had 69 tackles and intercepted two passes for the Wolverine defense.

In: Rod Moore

The Wolverines will have a number of new faces in key positions next season. Moore could be the most likely option to replace Hill after being bumped up the depth chart. The Class of 2021 recruit could take some time to get comfortable at the position.

Gone: Christopher Hinton, DT

Michigan's defensive line will certainly have a new look to it next season. Already losing Aidan Hutchinson to graduation, the Wolverines also lose Hinton. Hinton had just one sack each of the past two seasons and his stats aren't too overpowering, but Hinton is a big body that will be difficult to replace.

In: Kris Jenkins

Michigan may have good competition on hand for filling a number of spots on the defensive line. Jenkins could be a player to keep an eye on starting this spring. Jenkins appeared in 14 games for Michigan in 2021 with 22 tackles.

Gone: David Ojabo, LB

One of Michigan's best defensive players in 2021 is off to the NFL after a stellar season as a leader of the Wolverine defense. Ojabo had 12 tackles for a loss among his 35 tackles overall. Ojabo had 11 sacks for a loss of 88 yards.

In: Jaylen Harrell

Harrell, a former four-star linebacker in the Class of 2020, is the natural successor to Ojabo in the middle of the Michigan defense. Harrell appeared in 13 games in 2021 and recorded 2.5 tackles for a loss in his backup role.

Related: 10 ACC Players Who Will Replace NFL Draft Early Entrants

Michigan State

Gone: Kenneth Walker III, RB

After the kind of season Walker had for the Spartans in 2021, an early departure to the NFL was to be expected. Walker rushed for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns to establish himself as one of the best running backs in the Big Ten and the nation.

In: Jordon Simmons

The most likely player to be Michigan State's next leading rusher may be Simmons. He was the second-leading rusher for the Spartans behind Walker with 278 yards, but no touchdowns. Replacing Walker is no easy task

Gone: Jalen Nailor, WR

Michigan State is fortunate to know they will have leading receiver Jayden Reed returning for another season, but the Spartans' No. 2 most productive target is heading to the NFL. Nailor had 695 yards and six touchdowns in nine games in his final season in East Lansing.

In: Tre Mosley

Stepping up in the receiving ranks in East Lansing should be Mosley. Mosley was the team's third-leading receiver in 2021 with 530 yards and three touchdowns. Mosley will be the most likely player to see an increased role in the Spartan offense, but we'll keep a watchful eye on Keon Coleman and Montorie Foster too.

Penn State

Gone: Brandon Smith, Linebacker

The early departure to the NFL by Smith was a somewhat surprising one given his up-and-down play in Happy Valley. But Smith was the team's second-leading tackler behind Ellis Brooks (who is also heading to the NFL).

In: Jamari Budden

Penn State is lacking in experience at the linebacker position outside of Curtis Jacobs, but Budden should be a player to watch in the spring as Penn State looks to find its next big-play linebacker.


Gone: Tyler Goodson, RB

Goodson has been one of the most consistent running backs in the Big Ten the last few years, and now he's dashing his way off to the NFL. Goodson does so coming off a 1,000-yard season, although he had just six rushing touchdowns for the Hawkeyes in 2021.

In: Gavin Williams

Williams, an in-state recruit in the Class of 2020, appears destined to be the next main running back for head coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes in 2022. Williams was the team's second-leading rusher with 305 yards on 65 rushing attempts while backing up Goodson.

Gone: Tyler Linderbaum, C

Iowa is known for producing some high-quality offensive linemen, and center Linderbaum kept that legacy going strong. The recipient of this season's Rimington Trophy, which goes to the best center in the nation, is heading to the NFL to snap the football at the next level.

In: Mike Myslinksi

While the story of former walk-on Matt Fagan would be fun to see finally step into the spotlight, the player to watch here is Myslinksi. The sophomore and former three-star recruit in Iowa's Class of 2021 has an opportunity to take the next step in his development this spring after getting a bunch of practice time backing up Linderbaum leading up to the bowl game.

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB, on Instagram, and Like him on Facebook.