The Best and Worst Big Ten Draft Picks Since 2010

By Mike Young on May 5, 2014 at 11:00a

The history of strong defensive play in the Big Ten is unparalleled, but not just on the college level. 

As we've seen in the past four NFL seasons, B1G linebackers, in particular, go on to have tremendous professional success. There may not be a hefty amount of first-round draft picks in that span, but several former-Big Ten talents are among the best in the NFL – at any position. Conference spokesman Nick Saban might not agree, but there were several poor draft selections, as well.

Last week, The Gazette compiled a list of the top draft-producing Big Ten schools. Iowa stunningly topped the list with 19 NFL draft picks this decade. Ohio State trails them by two, and only produced one first-rounder since 2010. 

Neither school is represented on the first half of this list, the best of the 139 total NFL draftees to come out of the Big Ten in the last four years.

The Top Five

1. J.J. Watt – Houston Texans (2011, Round 1, No. 11)

Seven years ago, no one could've imagined that a bad college tight end in the MAC would turn into the most feared defensive player in the NFL.

After transferring to Wisconsin from Central Michigan, Watt converted to defensive end and quickly ignited his rise. It takes a lot to get a decent return on the value of the No. 11 overall pick, but Watt's now  a two-time Pro Bowler, a winner of the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award and has amassed 31 sacks in the past two seasons. 

2. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks (2012, Round 3, No. 75) 


If only attending grad school at a college makes you an ambassador for that university, then Ted Kaczynski is Michigan's greatest product. 

Also, Russell Wilson probably considers himself more of a Badger than a member of the Wolfpack. Since leaving Wisconsin, Wilson has ascended to superstardom as the quarterback of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. He's thrown 26 touchdown passes in each of his two seasons and is now the go-to comparison for all undersized quarterbacks in college.

3. Lavonte David – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012, Round 2, No. 58)

Like Wilson, Lavonte David only spent a year in the Big Ten.

Still, the conference can take credit for him and add his name to the illustrious history of linebackers to come from the Big Ten. He left Nebraska as a highly regarded outside linebacker, although there were "concerns" about his size. He quickly struck those notions down and has been a force on a strong, young Tampa Bay unit.

David has 219 career solo tackles and, in his rookie season, led all linebackers in run stop percentage. Combine that with his pass rushing abilities and he should continue to dominate under new head coach Lovie Smith.

4. NaVorro Bowman – San Francisco 49ers (2010, Round 3, No. 91)

While he's behind David on this list, NaVorro Bowman's numbers and value are on par with David's.

As an anchor for one of the best defenses in the NFL, Bowman has been a dominant presence on the inside. The Penn State product has 482 combined tackles in his career and is as good in pass coverage as any linebacker in the NFL (save for, maybe, his teammate Patrick Willis). Don't let that overshadow his abilities to pressure the quarterback, as he ranked in the top eight in Pro Football Focus' pass rushing productivity, last season.

Bowman's legacy will include a play that changed the NFL rulebook, but it doesn't help his knee heal. 

5. Sean Lee – Dallas Cowboys (2010, Round 2, No. 55)

Rounding out the list is another Penn State linebacker – Dallas' Sean Lee.

If not for injuries, he might be higher on this list. In the last two seasons, he's only played 17 games. Still, in only 11 games, he combined for 99 tackles and four interceptions. Before his neck injury, Lee owned the third best run-stop percentage among inside linebackers and won October's Defensive Player of the Month.

The Bottom Five

1. Gabe Carimi – Chicago Bears (2011, Round 1, No. 29)
Carimi going full Bert

You know it's bad when one of the top Google searches for your name includes the word "bust" (Kate Upton Brooklyn Decker notwithstanding).

Had the Bears hit on their 2011 first round pick with an offensive tackle, perhaps Jay Cutler wouldn't get so rattled behind his line. Carimi came into the draft as one of the highest ranked players at his position, with his toughness in run blocking being his key trait.

The former Badger never evolved into a franchise left tackle, so Chicago recoginized their mistake and traded him to Tampa Bay. One year later, he's now a member of the Atlanta Falcons.

2. A.J. Jenkins – San Francisco 49ers (2012, Round 1, No. 30)

As well as the 49ers have drafted under head coach Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke, they haven't picked a solid deep threat for Colin Kaepernick. 

Former Illinois wideout A.J. Jenkins is a recent example of their failure to surround Kaepernick with more weapons. He spent only one season in San Francisco, dropping the only pass targeted for him.

Now, Jenkins is on the Chiefs, who traded the disappointing Jon Baldwin for him. In his only season with Kansas City, he caught only eight passes. For a first round pick, that is incredibly disappointing.

3. Arrelious Benn – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2010, Round 2, No. 39)

To Benn's credit, he didn't have a quarterback like Kaepernick. 

It takes an incredible amount of talent to reel in a Josh Freeman pass, and Benn caught around 50 of them in his career. Blame injuries – he's missed most of the last two seasons with various health issues – but an early second round wide receiver should be playing at or near an All-Pro level.

Instead, the Illinois product finds himself on the Eagles after getting traded for a seventh round pick. Not quite the return the Bucs expected.

4. Pat Angerer – Indianapolis Colts (2010, Round 2, No. 63)

While it's difficult to judge players with such a small sample size, it doesn't bode well for someone's career when he's still a free agent in May.

Pat Angerer is still searching for a job after four seasons with the Colts. He played in 54 games, a great opportunity for someone who has shown only a few flashes. To be fair, he's missed five regular season games in each of the past two seasons, but he still didn't show much when he was healthy.

5. Brandon Graham – Philadelphia Eagles (2010, Round 1, No. 13)

He's the only player on this portion of the list still with the team that drafted him. 

However, Brandon Graham has not proven himself worthy of the No. 13 overall pick. Graham, a Michigan man, has less than 350 snaps in his four seasons with the Eagles. In that span, he's accumulated 11.5 sacks, not enough for a first round edge rusher. He's been solid at generating pressure, but his 31.1 percent sack conversion rate is below the league average.


Comments Show All Comments

flying-banana's picture

I'd make a point to add Vernon Gholston to the list of "the bottom five", drafted 6th overall and played two seasons with the Jets and one each with the Bears and Rams practice squads before exiting the NFL. It's difficult to do worse than that.

Edit: I'm a moron, totally glossed over the 2010 in the title

+3 HS
slippy's picture

Gholston was drafted in 2008.  This list is 2010+

+4 HS
chirobuck's picture

I am still surprised that he didn't catch on with a team running a 4-3.....I knew when the Jets took him trying to make him an OLB in the 3-4 that it was not a good fit and that he needed to have a hand in the dirt but when he didn't catch on even as a back up with a 4-3 team I was really shocked


^ best post ever ^

seafus26's picture

Amen. Just watch his film vs Jake Long.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

NW Buckeye's picture

Watt is quite the story.  A 2 star prospect out of HS! 

+1 HS
WC Buckeye's picture

Just goes to show you that the "experts" don't know everything, and especially in Watt's case, that coaches don't always exactly match talents, intellect, and tendencies to positions. Have to give Wisconsin some credit on that aspect.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

OSUpawn's picture

Cant coach heart and determination. Watt had both

I believe the SEC players put their pants on one leg at a time like we do.

+2 HS
Brandon26841's picture

As well as being an absolute freakish athlete.


I know all kinds of guys slip through the cracks / get overlooked all of the time, but his story is still pretty unique. I'm assuming he wasn't even that dominating of a high school player, and yet he's now THE most dominating defensive player in the NFL. Must have just been a very late bloomer, because he always had to have been extremely athletic, especially back when he was 230 or whatever he was as a TE instead of the 295 he is now. Hell, the Wisconsin J.J. Watt and the NFL Watt aren't even in the same stratosphere either. 

+1 HS
Will in Arizona's picture

Those vitamins in college will do that.  Ask Brian Cushing.

+4 HS
You can't spell chump without UM's picture

He also was a Tight End at Central Michigan before he transferred to Wisky. 

Brady Hoke ate my comment

Buckeyeneer's picture

I'll never forget him having a breakout performance against us. They could not keep him out of the backfield.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

seafus26's picture

And a model citizen. Dude does everything for the kids down here.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

+2 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

meh, that'll be changing very, very soon. Id expect OSU to churn out a few prospects over the next few drafts that make a great impact at the next level. I think Mewhort will be a beast in the NFL and Hyde and Shazier being very good players. Roby has the potential if he stays out of trouble. I am not trying to say I have any clue what Roby's character is like, but given the two situations in less than a year and the addition of millions of dollars, he has to handle his business like a professional if he is to achieve what the level of play he is capable of playing at. Another guy to watch is Barnett, he is frequently in the right place at the right time. There will be plenty of Buckeyes entering the NFL in this draft and subsequent drafts. 

Will in Arizona's picture

Ray Lewis was an undersized linebacker when he came to the NFL.  He was too small to be great, but worth a flyer since he made so many plays in college.  Reminds me of someone...

+1 HS
BassDropper's picture

2008-2012 Buckeye Draft picks

Top 5

1.Brian Hartline-4th round 259 rec / 3,769 yards / 10 TDs

2.James L-2nd round 634 tackles / 1 FF 6 FR / 9 INTs / 12 sacks

3..Malcolm Jenkins-1st 358 tackles / 6 FF / 6 INTS

4.Cam Heyward-1st 90 tackles / 7.5 sacks

4.Malcolm Jenkins-1st 358 tackles / 6 FF 4 FR / 6 INTS

5.Nate Ebner-6th 23 tackles / 2 FR


Top 5 Bust

1.Vernon Ghloston-1st 42 tackles

2.Beanie Wells-1st 2,471 yards / 24 TDs 

3.Brian Robiski-2nd 43 rec / 485 yards / 4 TDs

4.Mike Adams-2nd watch a Steelers game in which he starts/plays

5.Devier Posey-3rd 21 rec / 242 yards


+2 HS
InTressITrust's picture

Man Malcolm is doing work.  On the list in 3rd and tie for 4th.

"I'm not going to lie. We're anxious to be a part of a matchup like that. It's two states that love the game of football." -Jim Tressel

+3 HS
1MechEng's picture

Tough to judge Posey after only 2 years. He was starting to gain momentum in the playoffs of his first year before the torn achilles put him on the DL for the rest of the season (and a good chunk of the 2013 season).

+1 HS
BassDropper's picture

true on Posey, Mech...but it was hard to pick a 5th bust.

also on Jenkins...had him at 4th originally, then switched him to 3rd.


James Mee's picture

I don't know if Beanie is a bust, he just got hurt. I don't really like classifying guys as busts simply because their knees give out at a position where that's the new trend. And Posey is on a team that has essentially no QB, hard to catch passes like that. Arguably TP has done less. 

Other than that, good list.

+2 HS
seafus26's picture

Too early to say on Posey. Had some flashes before tearing Achilles (on a play that he scored a touchdown in the playoffs). Texans are high on him. Should be the 3 behind Andre Johson (just about everyone except megatron is behind him),and last year's first rounder Deandre Hopkins. When 'Dre retires he should be a solid number two. All that changes if the Texans trade down and take Sammy Watkins, though(shhhh did I say that out loud?). 

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

bigDbuck's picture

Bobby Carpenter #20 overall to cowboys was a bust as well.

+3 HS
gm3jones's picture

But I love him on 97.1 buckeye show lol

There is nothing more remarkable as learning to think better.

+1 HS
kareemabduljacobb's picture

Pat Angerer had one solid year for the Colts, I think he was top 5 in the league in tackles one season.

BUCKfutter's picture

As an AZ Cardinals fan, the worst B1G draft pick of the last 10 years (going back further than this list I know) is Levi Brown.  In their desperation for a serviceable OL, Cards passed on names like Adrian Peterson, Darrelle Revis, and Patrick Willis for a guy that anybody who watched B1G football knew was a turnstyle against good defenses.  I remember multiple Buckeyes repeatedly torching Brown, especially in the 2006 PSU game in the 'shoe.

the kids are playing their tail off, and the coaches are screwing it up! - JLS

+1 HS
BME_Buckeye's picture

It wasn't too long ago that Roby called out the Illinoiw WR in 2011. Guess he was right. 

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.