Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, April 7, 2017
The NFL Draft is coming up, running from April 27-29 in Philadelphia. So, let?s take a look at how Big Ten teams have fared in the last 10 drafts, from 2007-2016.
First up is Illinois.
NFL talent hasn?t been prolific in Champaign in recent years. In fact, Illinois had no picks in 2014 and 2015 before having three last year for a program with just four bowl trips since 2007. But there have been some nice defensive players matriculate to the pros in recent years. And that number could rise in coming seasons with Lovie Smith at the controls.
The school?s best prospects this year are on defense. In fact, DE Dawuane Smoot may be a first-round selection. OLB Carroll Phillips also should be tabbed, likely in the middle rounds. LB Hardy Nickerson, Jr., DE Gimel President and DT Chunky Clements also may go, but very late-if at all.
An absence of top offensive skill-position talent is evident. In the last 10 years, Illinois hasn?t had a quarterback selected in the NFL draft. And just two receivers and two running backs have been picked in that span. The last RB (Mikel Leshoure) tabbed was in 2011; the last WR (A.J. Jenkins) came in 2012.
It?s a long shot, but perhaps QB Wes Lunt will be picked this April. If so, he?d be the first Illini signal-caller tabbed since Kurt Kittner was a fifth-round pick by the Falcons in 2002.
Other Illinois players who may be picked are WR Justin Hardee, C Joe Spencer and OT Austin Schmidt.
ILLINOIS DRAFTS (2007-16)
Highest pick: DT Corey Liuget, No. 18 overall/Chargers, 2011
Most fertile draft: Four picks in 2013; 2012; 2011; 2010
Total first-round selections: Five
Total picks: 24
? Offensive line: 5
? Defensive back: 5
? Defensive line: 5
? Linebacker: 4
? Running back: 2
? Receiver: 2
? Tight end: 1
Seventh Round: CB Alan Ball, Cowboys
First Round: RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
First Round: DB Vontae Davis, Dolphins
Fifth Round: OT Xavier Fulton, Buccaneers
Sixth Round: LB Will Davis, Cardinals
Second Round: WR Arrelious Benn, Buccaneers
Third Round: G Jon Asamoah, Chiefs
Fifth Round: TE Michael Hoomanawanui, Rams
Seventh Round: NT Josh Brent, Cowboys
First Round: DT Corey Liuget, Chargers
Second Round: RB Mikel Leshoure, Lions
Third Round: LB Martez Wilson, Saints
Seventh Round: LB Nate Bussey, Saints
First Round: LB Whitney Mercilus, Texans
First Round: WR A.J. Jenkins, 49ers
Second Round: OT Jeff Allen, Chiefs
Second Round: FS Tavon Wilson, Patriots
Third Round: G Hugh Thornton, Colts
Fourth Round: DT Akeem Spence, Buccaneers
Fifth Round: CB Terry Hawthorne, Steelers
Seventh Round: DE Michael Buchanan, Patriots
Second round: DE Jihad Ward, Raiders
Sixth round: G Ted Karras, Patriots
Seventh round: S Clayton Fejedelem, Bengals
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