Sean Merriman, web editor, May 5, 2014

Le'Veon Bell, Russell Wilson and J.J. Watt. All three are former Big Ten standouts, and all three are current stars in the NFL. With the 2014 NFL Draft starting Thursday night, I was wondering if there any future NFL stars in this year's Big Ten draft class? If so, how does this year's class compare to recent Big Ten classes?

Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the top prospects in this year's NFL Draft and a look at how they stack up to the past three Big Ten NFL Draft classes.

[ MORE: Dienhart: My Top 10Big Ten NFL Draft Prospects ]

Top offensive prospects in this year's NFL Draft

Quarterback: Kenny Guiton, Ohio State
Projected Draft Round: Late to Undrafted

Running Back: Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
Projected Draft Round: 2

Wide Receiver: Cody Latimer, Indiana
Projected Draft Round: 1-2

Tight End: C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
Projected Draft Round: 3-4

Offensive Line: Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Projected Draft Round: 1

Top defensive prospects in this year's NFL Draft

Defensive Tackle: Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Projected Draft Round: 1-2

Defensive End: Ethan Hemer, Wisconsin
Projected Draft Round: Late to Undrafted

Linebacker: Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Projected Draft Round: 1-2

Cornerback: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Projected Draft Round: 1

Safety: Brock Vereen, Minnesota
Projected Draft Round: 4-5

Top draft pick in 2013 NFL Draft


Quarterback: None
Running Back: Le'Veon Bell (Michigan State), Round 2, 48th overall
Wide Receiver: Denard Robinson (Michigan), Round 5, 135th overall
Tight End: Dion Sims (Michigan State), Round 4, 106th overall
Offensive Line: Travis Fredrick (Wisconsin), Round 1, 31st overall


Defensive Tackle: Kawann Short (Purdue), Round 2, 44th overall
Defensive End: William Gholston (Michigan State), Round 4, 126th overall
Linebacker: Gerald Hodges (Penn State), Round 4, 120th overall
Cornerback: Terry Hawthorne (Illinois), Round 5, 150th overall
Safety: Damion Stafford (Nebraska), Round 7, 248th overall

Summary: This 2013 draft class still has plenty of time to prove itself, however, none of these rookies, outside of Bell, really made waves during their rookie season. Bell won the starting tailback role for the Steelers and concluded the year with 860 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. Fredrick also enjoyed a solid rookie season, starting all 16 games at center for the Dallas Cowboys. On the defensive side of the ball, Short and Gholston saw action on the d-line and should play larger roles next season.

Top draft pick in 2012 NFL Draft


Quarterback: Russell Wilson (Wisconsin), Round 3, 75th overall
Running Back: Bradie Ewing (Wisconsin), Round 5, 157th overall
Wide Receiver: A.J. Jenkins (Illinois), Round 1, 30th overall
Tight End: Drake Dunsmore (Northwestern), Round 7, 233rd overall
Offensive Line: Riley Reiff (Iowa), Round 1, 23rd overall


Defensive Tackle: Jerel Worthy (Michigan State), Round 2, 51st overall
Defensive End: Jared Crick (Nebraska), Round 4, 126th overall
Linebacker: Whitney Mercilus (Illinois), Round 1, 26th overall
Cornerback: Shaun Prater (Iowa), Round 5, 156th overall
Safety: Travon Wilson (Illinois), Round 2, 48th overall

Summary: Russell Wilson is the obvious star of this group. The former Badger quarterback led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl title this past season. Jenkins has struggled in his first two seasons in the league, despite being one of two first-round draft picks in this class. The other, Reiley Reiff, has found a home in Detroit and appears to be settled in at the left tackle spot. On the defensive side of the ball, Mercilus and Wilson have been solid contributors in their first two NFL seasons.

Top draft pick in 2011 NFL Draft


Quarterback: Ricky Stanzi (Iowa), Round 5, 135th overall
Running Back: Mikel Leshoure (Illinois), Round 2, 57th overall
Wide Receiver: Tandon Doss (Indiana), Round 4, 123rd overall
Tight End: Lance Kendricks (Wisconsin), Round 2, 47th overall
Offensive Line: Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Round 1, 29th overall


Defensive Tackle: Christian Ballard (Iowa), Round 4, 106th overall
Defensive End: J.J. Watt (Wisconsin), Round 1, 11th overall
Linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Round 1, 16th overall
Cornerback: Prince Amukamara (Nebraska), Round 1, 19th overall
Safety: Amari Spievery (Iowa), Round 3, 66th overall

Summary: The offensive side of this draft was pretty weak, as zero of the players are starting on their respective NFL team. However, the defensive side has been the exact opposite. Watt and Kerrigan have developed into two of the best pass rushers in the NFL, while Amukamara is one of the league's top young cornerbacks.


About Sean Merriman web editor Sean Merriman covers football and men's basketball and provides original content for You can follow him on Twitter @BTNSean.