The snow has melted. Spring is here. And that means the much-anticipated NFL draft is just around the corner. ESPN NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. released his most recent NFL Mock Draft 4.0 this week, and there is plenty of Big Ten love. Six Big Ten players appear in the first round of the mock draft, led by Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, who he has going No. 6 overall to the Atlanta Falcons.
“While (Greg) Robinson and Jake Matthews are both very good players and should be at the next level, there’s a case to be made that Lewan is the most ready tackle for NFL competition, with four good years under his belt,” Kiper said of the former Michigan star. “I think he could start at right or left tackle in Week 1.”
The next Big Ten star to appear on the list is Michigan State senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who Kiper has pegged as the No. 13 pick to the St. Louis Rams.
“Dennard is ready to help an NFL team at a position where rookies tend to get beat up pretty bad early on as they adjust to the speed and talent level of NFL wide receivers,” Kiper says. “But Dennard can play on or off, attacks the backfield as a run defender, and can mirror routes as well as any CB in the draft.”
Four more Big Ten standouts appear in the first round.
LB Ryan Shazier (Ohio State), No. 21, Green Bay Packers
CB Bradley Roby (Ohio State), No. 24, Cincinnati Bengals
WR Cody Latimer (Indiana), No. 27, New Orleans Saints
DT Ra’Shede Hageman (Minnesota), No. 29, New England Patriots
Kiper also added his second round draft projections, which includes three more Big Ten players:
LB Chris Borland (Wisconsin), No. 34, Washington Redskins
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska), No. 45, Detroit Lions
RB Carlos Hyde (Ohio State), No. 62, New England Patriots
Here is Kiper’s complete ESPN NFL Mock Draft 4.0.
Others to consider: WR Allen Robinson (Penn State), LB Max Bullough (Michigan State), OT Jack Mewhort (Ohio State), Jared Abbrederis (Wisconsin), DT DaQuan Jones (Penn State).