Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, April 15, 2018


The NFL Draft is coming up, running from April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas. So, let?s take a look at how Big Ten teams have fared in the last 10 drafts, from 2008-2017.

First up is Illinois.

Illinois hasn?t had much success on the field the last four years, winning a combined 16 games and has been to one bowl since 2011. That lack of success has followed in the NFL draft, as the Fighting Illini have had just four picks total in the last four years. As a point of comparison, Alabama had four first-round picks in the 2017 NFL draft.

Ron Zook brought some good talent to Champaign during his run as coach from 2005-11, signing players like RB Rashard Mendenhall, Vontae Davis, LB Whitney Mercilus, WR A.J. Jenkins and DT Corey Liuget who all would go on to be first-round selections. But the well has dried up.

Last season, just one Illinois player was tabbed, as DE Dawuane Smoot went to the Jaguars in the third round. Illinois had no players taken in 2014 and 2015. The last first-round pick was in 2012, when Mercilus and Jenkins went.

There has been a lack of skill-position talent on offense selected the last 10 years. Jenkins was the last wideout picked, and Mikel Leshoure was the last running back (2011). The last QB picked? You have to go back to 2002, when Kurt Kittner was a fifth-round pick by the Falcons.

This year?s draft outlook for the Illini looks bleak. The guys to watch are cornerback Jaylen Dunlap and offensive tackle Christian DiLauro, who at best figure to be late-round selections.

Here is a look at Illinois over the last 10 NFL drafts.


Highest pick: DT Corey Liuget, No. 18 overall/Chargers, 2011

Most fertile draft: Four picks in 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010

Total first-round selections: Five

Total picks: 24

Position breakdown:

  • Defensive line: 6
  • Offensive line: 5
  • Linebacker: 4
  • Defensive back: 4
  • Running back: 2
  • Receiver: 2
  • Tight end: 1


  • 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


  • Third round: DE Dawuane Smoot, Jaguars