Sean Merriman, BTN.com web editor, May 7, 2015
Now that the 2015 NFL Draft is in the books, fans can't help but switch their attention to the way-too-early mock drafts for the following season.
[ MORE: View McShay's full 2016 mock draft ]
Just last week, we put together a list of several publications that have already released their 2016 mock drafts. Now, other big-name publications are publishing their mock drafts, including ESPN.
NFL Draft Analyst Todd McShay released his way-too-early 2016 first-round NFL mock draft today, which includes nine Big Ten stars. In fact, three Big Ten players land in the first three picks of the mock draft.
Here is a look at where all nine Big Ten standouts appear in McShay's 2016 NFL mock draft, as well as a tidbit of his analysis on each player, and our take on the pick.
1. CHRISTIAN HACKENBERG, QB, PENN STATE
McShay: "Hackenberg struggled in 2014 with a 12-touchdown, 15-interception season, but he's a big-time talent with a pro-style skill set."
My take: Most mock drafts have Hackenberg going somewhere in the top 10, but this is the first one I've seen him going No. 1 overall. He certainly has the size and skill-set to go this high, but will his offensive line be able to keep him up on his feet this season? If yes, this could be a special year for the Nittany Lion signal caller.
2. CONNOR COOK, QB, MICHIGAN STATE
McShay: "Cook has good size at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and is coming off of back-to-back productive seasons as a starter, including leading the Spartans to Cotton Bowl and Rose Bowl victories."
My take: Cook is the most steady quarterback in the Big Ten, and possibly throughout all of college football. He enters his third season as a starter with a 23-3 record at MSU. With the Spartans working in a new starting running back this season, Cook will be looked at to throw early and often. Small tweaks to his footwork and escaping pressure could certainly lead to Cook being a top pick in the 2016 draft.
3. JOEY BOSA, DE, OHIO STATE
McShay: "Assuming he stays healthy and continues to develop, it's hard to imagine Bosa falling out of the top 10 picks in the 2016 draft — and if you made me choose right now, I'd say he's the top-rated prospect in next year's draft class."
My take: Bosa has been the popular pick to go No. 1 overall in the 2016 draft. He certainly has the talent to do so. At this point, I think it really depends on what the team picking first needs most.
7. CARDALE JONES, QB, OHIO STATE
McShay: "First he has to win the Buckeyes' starting job in 2015. But if he can gain more experience and improve his ability to read defenses and take care of the football, he has the potential to rise up teams' draft boards."
My take: Jones is the most physically-ready quarterback in this draft. He has an absolute cannon for an arm and has shown that he can win on the big stage, beating Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon in his three starts last season.
11. TAYLOR DECKER, OL, OHIO STATE
McShay: "Decker is another long (6-8, 315) offensive tackle prospect who could play his way into first-round territory."
My take: Decker is the top offensive lineman on the best team in college football. If he can stay healthy, I don't see any way he could fall out of the first round.
14. JACK CONKLIN, OL, MICHIGAN STATE
McShay: "He has great size (6-6, 317) and two years of starting experience at left tackle for the Spartans."
My take: To think, Conklin went from being a walk-on to a potential top 15 pick next year. He has outstanding size and footwork, anchoring what should be one of the top lines in the nation in 2015.
15. EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, RB, OHIO STATE
McShay: "Elliott was one of the Buckeyes' star performers during their championship run, scoring four touchdowns in their title game win over Oregon."
My take: Just look at the numbers Elliott put up against Alabama and Oregon. If two running backs were selected in the first round of this year's draft, I would be shocked if Elliott didn't land in the first round of next year's draft.
27. MALIEK COLLINS, DT, NEBRASKA
McShay: "Collins had a very good true sophomore season, leading the Huskers in tackles for loss and trailing only Cowboys 2015 second-rounder Randy Gregory for the team lead in sacks."
My take: This is the first mock draft I have seen that includes Collins in the first round. If he can take another leap like he did from his freshman to sophomore season, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Huskers' talented DT landed in the first round.
30. DARRON LEE, LB, OHIO STATE
McShay: "He was a big-time playmaker for the Buckeyes' defense as a redshirt freshman last season. He lacks ideal size and strength at 6-2, 228, but his combination of athleticism, instincts, savvy and coverage skills is outstanding."
My take: Lee is the top playmaker of the Buckeyes' linebackers. It seems like every couple of years, OSU produces a great linebacker who moves onto the NFL. Lee looks like he will be next in line.
Other names to consider: Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State), Jack Allen (Michigan State), Aldolphus Washington (Ohio State), Vonn Bell (Ohio State), Anthony Zettel (Penn State), Leonte Carroo (Rutgers), Darius Hamilton (Rutgers).