Michigan's Rashan Gary has a chance to establish himself as a first-round pick this fall
If the theme for the 2019 NFL Draft is defensive linemen, then the Big Ten will be heavily involved in the draft fun. A handful of the top defensive linemen that will take the field in the Big Ten this fall, including Ohio State’s Nick Bosa and Michigan’s Rashan Gary, may not have to wait too long to hear their names called during the NFL draft next spring.
Of course, the Big Ten also is likely to be good for a good number of offensive linemen, and there are a few quarterbacks that will be fun to follow this season. From Northwestern’s already-hyped Clayton Thorson, to Michigan transfer Shea Patterson, and the return of Penn State's Trace McSorley, the Big Ten will have a little bit of everything to keep NFL scouts busy.
Here’s a list of 25 players around the Big Ten to watch in the 2019 draft.
1. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State (Jr., 6-4, 263)
Ohio State provided no relief for opposing offenses from the Bosa family, and another one appears to be heading to the NFL next spring. Nick Bosa, the younger brother of Joey Bosa, will be one of the top defensive linemen in the country. The reigning Big Ten defensive lineman of the year will not be easy to slow down.
2. Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan (Jr., 6-5, 281)
If any defensive lineman in the Big Ten is going to challenge Bosa to be first off the board next spring, it will be Michigan’s Gary. A physical beast in the trenches, Gary has already made an impact on the Big Ten as one of the top defensive linemen in the conference. The ability to play linebacker adds some versatility to his profile, but he will shine most on the line.
3. Beau Benzschawel, OL, Wisconsin (Sr., 6-6, 322)
Wisconsin didn’t have an offensive lineman drafted in 2018, but that just means the Badgers will be loaded on the line this fall. It begins with Benzschawel, a first team All-American who started all 14 games for Wisconsin last season. Arguably the top offensive linemen in the Big Ten, his stiffest competition may come from his teammates.
4. David Edwards, OL, Wisconsin (R-Jr., 6-7, 319)
Another All-American player on the offensive line is Edwards, who lines up next to Beau Benzschawel on the right side. Together, the two players will be tough to get by, and that should bode well for Edwards’ draft outlook in the spring. Edwards still has a year of eligibility, but he could be ready to go to the next level.
5. Shea Patterson, QB, Michigan (Jr., 6-2, 203)
Now cleared to play this fall for Michigan, the Ole Miss transfer will get a chance to lift a Michigan offense in need of a spark. If he does, Patterson will quickly build more to his professional outlook as one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten.
6. Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern (Sr., 6-4, 225)
Already being hyped for his potential by draft analysts, Thorson (right) brings a solid frame and basic skills that NFL franchises and coaches may feel they can work with. Thorson lacks in the stat department but many will give him the benefit of the doubt for playing at Northwestern and the talent he has to work with.
7. Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State (R-Sr., 6-0, 198)
McSorley is the Big Ten’s top returning quarterback and he’ll get the chance to be the main attraction in the Penn State offense this season without Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki and with a new offensive coordinator. McSorley also will battle some scouting profiles noting his size, but he has potential to bring similar positives to the field as Baker Mayfield.
8. Michael Deiter, OL, Wisconsin (Sr., 6-6, 321)
The third Wisconsin offensive lineman with All-American accolades, Deiter lines up at left tackle. Deiter started all 14 games for Wisconsin last season and should continue to be a fixture on the line in 2018.
9. Michael Jordan, OG, Ohio State (Jr., 6-2, 204)
A two-year starter for the Buckeyes, Jordan will continue to cement a strong offensive line for Ohio State this fall. Jordan has started 27 games and would be an early entrant to the draft should he decide to declare.
10. Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa (R-Jr., 6-8, 295)
Iowa’s third-year defensive end may prove to be Iowa’s top NFL prospect this fall. Nelson made 41 tackles last season and will be one of the top defensive players returning for the Hawkeyes in 2018.
11. Isaiah Prince, OT, Ohio State (Sr., 6-7, 310)
Another extremely experienced starter on Ohio State’s offensive line, Prince has started 27 games for the Buckeyes along with Michael Jordan. Unlike Jordan, however, Prince is a senior and will be moving on no matter what this season.
12. Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State (R-Jr., 6-3, 290)
One of four returning starters for Ohio State’s defense, Jones has started two years at defensive tackle has already started 23 games for the Buckeyes to make him the most experienced starter in Columbus on defense.
13. Connor McGovern, OG, Penn State (Jr., 6-5, 320)
Penn State has been improving its quality on the offensive line in recent years, and McGovern will look to be the first offensive lineman from Happy Valley drafted since 2015. Helping to protect Trace McSorley and run blocking will be under the microscope for his draft outlook this fall.
14. Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State (R-Sr., 6-1, 208)
One of the top wide receivers in the Big Ten, Campbell brings speed to the offense. He also has the ability to return kickoffs, which adds some value to any team considering adding him to their roster.
15. Chase Winovich, DE Michigan (R-Sr., 6-3, 253)
Another high-quality defensive lineman for Michigan, Winovich has been recognized as one of the top players in the Big Ten. As long as he continues to create pressure on the outside of the line, he will remain in solid position for the draft.
16. Shareef Miller, DE, Penn State (R-Jr., 6-5, 256)
Miller could be a name to watch this fall as he looks to establish himself in the upper tier of Big Ten defensive linemen. After earning third-team All-Big Ten honors last season, Miller will lead the way on Penn State’s defensive line this fall.
17. T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin (Sr., 6-1, 248)
One of four returning starters on defense, Edwards (right) will captain the Badger defense and carry on Wisconsin’s solid tradition of linebacker play in more recent years. Edwards recorded 81 tackles and intercepted four passes last season.
18. Devin Bush, LB, Michigan (Jr., 5-11, 222)
As a sophomore last season, Bush led Michigan’s defense with 102 total tackles. If he does that again, he could very well move his game to the next level next spring. Bush earned All-American honors last season and could refine himself enough to be considered one of the top linebackers in the draft next spring.
19. Stanley Morgan Jr., WR, Nebraska (Sr., 6-1, 195)
A year after leading the Big Ten in receiving with 89.6 yards per game and a Big Ten-best 10 touchdowns in the regular season, Nebraska’s Morgan will provide a reliable set of hands for the Scott Frost offense in Lincoln. Look for some big numbers once again.
20. Karan Higdon, RB, Michigan (Sr., 5-10, 190)
Michigan’s leading rusher from 2017, Higdon figures to remain the go-to rusher for the Wolverines this fall. After coming close to 1,000 rushing yards, getting to the century mark is plausible for this fall and that should keep him in the mix for the NFL running back pool next spring.
21. Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State (R-Jr., 5-10, 214)
With K.J. Hill on the rise in Ohio State’s offense, Weber may not get to be the front man for the running game. He will, however, prove to be a valuable piece and he brings a good amount of experience with him to back it up. Like Parris Campbell, Weber also adds special teams returns to his repertoire.
22. Matt Sokol, TE, Michigan State (Sr., 6-6, 255)
The Spartans’ tight end may leave his mark in his final season in East Lansing. His numbers may not overwhelm compared to other tight ends, but Sokol should be a reliable target and will work to prove he has good blocking skills this fall.
23. Rodney Smith, RB, Minnesota (R-Sr., 5-11, 210)
One of the Big Ten’s leading rushers coming back in 2018 should continue to be ready to carry the football. If Smith can improve his touchdown total, that would help. He had just three rushing touchdowns and one touchdown on a kickoff return in 2017.
24. Jared Weyler, OG/C, Minnesota (R-Sr., 6-4, 296)
Weyler is coming off a season-ending injury from last season but is expected to be ready to return to a starting role for the Gophers. Weyler started six games at center and has the flexibility to play guard, which should make him an attractive lineman prospect.
25. Byron Cowart, DE, Maryland (Jr., 6-4, 270)
A former top-rated recruit out of high school, Byron Cowart has transferred to Maryland from Auburn after a year at the JUCO level. If Cowart can bounce back and live up to his potential out of high school with a clean slate at Maryland, he could jump back on the radar for draft scouts and analysts. He’s worth watching just for that reason.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.