Top 3 Players from the Big 10 (Defense)
Our third installment of a top prospects from a Power 5 conference brings us to northern and midwestern America as we take a look at the Big 10 conference. The Big 10 is routinely one of the best conferences in football as top-to-bottom, they’re right up there with the SEC.
Rashan Gary ( Michigan) – Rashan Gary is a very very versatile player, able to play anywhere on the defensive line. There’s a lot more hype about Gary for his athletic ability and not much about his play. I’m not a big fan of his, but I won’t knock the talent that he possesses. So I’ll highlight his strengths. Gary has very powerful hands that he uses effectively when engaging the blockers off the line of scrimmage.His ability to understand how to leverage blockers allows him to win at the line vs blockers, a lot of times just tossing them off the their position. If Gary can put all of his abilities together and lands with a coaching staff that doesn’t tolerate taking some plays off then he could be a very dangerous toy to have on that defense.
Dre’Mont Jones (Ohio State) – Dre’Mont Jones was a prospect that I wanted to watch before the season started. All the talk was about Nick Bosa, for good reason, but nobody really talked about Jones. It wasn’t really until Bosa went down with a hamstring injury that people started to notice Jones. In some games he was pretty unstoppable where teams started to focus on him. The problem is the Buckeyes Dline is pretty talented so they couldn’t just focus on Dre’Mont. Jones racked up 43 tackles 13 of them were tackles for loss and also notching 8.5 sacks for the Buckeyes. He has some impressive pass rush skills and isn’t a slouch in the run defense. Jones’ competitive motor is unmatched and would make an NFL team very happy. Jones should be talked about more in the days leading up to the draft.
Kevin Wilkins (Rutgers) – Kevin Wilkins is a big interior lineman who weighs over 300 pounds and projects as a nose tackle in the NFL. He totaled 46 tackles with 5.5 coming behind the line of scrimmage. Wilkins was a nice rotational player at Rutgers and could be a nice pickup in the later rounds if he gets drafted. He’ll be a name to circle in training camp and preseason as he competes to earn a spot on the roster.
Nick Bosa (Ohio State) – There’s not much I have to say about Nick Bosa being #1 on this list. He’s the best prospect in the entire draft. He’s likely going #1 overall to Arizona barring something stupid like Kingsbury taking Kyler Murray instead.
Chase Winovich (Michigan) – Chase Winovich has been sliding down draft boards because he’s limited with his athletic ability…because he lacks athletic ability. However, he has a great understanding of the game and knows how to handle his assignment. He can definitely be a capable starter or rotational player at the next level, but his ceiling isn’t very high.
Anthony Nelson (Iowa) – I won’t lie, I didn’t know much about Anthony Nelson until recently, but I came away very impressed after watching his tape. He’s a relentless defender using his heavy strong hands to beat into the chest of the offensive lineman. He’s a big dude at 6’7 and 271 pounds. In 13 games Nelson had 45 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Hopefully I have the chance to watch more of Nelson as I’m already falling in love with his game. My rankings could definitely change as the draft process continues.
Devin Bush (Michigan) – Devin Bush is a top linebacker in this draft class behind Devin White. Bush is an intelligent player capable of playing in any scheme. He has few flaws in his game and should be an early pick in the draft, ending up anywhere from a late first rounder to early second round pick. Bush should step in right away for his team and start.
TJ Edwards (Wisconsin) – TJ Edwards could be a nice mid round pick and could help out on the field right away. Maybe won’t be a starter, but could contribute in some packages and on special teams. He has a god build that helps him get off blockers. Edwards has impressive ball skills when dropping back into coverage, however he is limited to zone coverage due to his lack of speed.
Ryan Connelly (Wisconsin) – Ryan Connelly’s talent isn’t close to his teammates TJ Edwards, but he does work well next to him. He takes advantage when other backers set the edge which allows Connelly to shoot through the lanes to make the tackle. Connelly tends to overrun some tackles, which is coachable, but still a consistent problem in his game. Connelly could be a late round flier and could make the team as a special teamer.
Amani Oruwariye (Penn State) – Oruwariye measured at 6’1 ¾ with 32 inch arms during Senior Bowl week. That is a BIG corner that combines his size with speed and athleticism while maintaining pretty good technique. Oruwariye, to me, has the highest ceiling in terms of potential and could definitely find himself in the bottom half of round with. Look for Oruwariye to have a big weekend at the Combine.
Amani Hooker (Iowa) – Amani Hooker jumps off the screen when watching the Iowa Hawkeyes. He’s one of the most versatile, if not the, most versatile player in this entire draft. Like Minkah Fitzpatrick, Hooker can play anywhere on the field. He can cover in the slot he can play in the box and he can go outside and cover your best receiver if he has to. Hooker, however, doesn’t believe he’s that good in coverage as he considers himself “decent” at covering opposing slot receivers. Hooker tied the team lead with four interceptions and led the team with seven pass break ups. When Hooker comes into the box he rarely misses a ball carrier in space. Hooker is weapon on defense that every team in the NFL should want.
Kendall Sheffield (Ohio State) – When watching Kendall Sheffield I wasn’t overly impressed. When I first got the assignment to watch Sheffield before the 2018 season I was excited, as a Buckeye fan, but also because there was a lot of talk about Sheffield as a potential top corner in this draft class. On some plays you get all the hype. He has the speed and short area quickness to close in on the receiver to get that PD in the stat sheet, but then in press coverage fails to knock the receiver (even a little bit) off his route. The big takeaway is Sheffield just needs to add some strength to his frame, if he does that then Sheffield has a good chance to be an above average corner in the NFL.