Thursday, June 25, 2009

Top 10 Big Ten Senior Prospects

1. DE Brandon Graham, Michigan - Graham is the best returning pass rusher in the Big Ten, he has had 18.5 sacks over the last two seasons. The issue with Graham is he is short, standing in at around 6’0 and some NFL teams want defensive ends that are 6’3 or taller. But Graham has proven over the years that he is able to get off the line of scrimmage and not only make plays rushing the passers, but also against the run behind the line of scrimmage. He tied for the Big 10 lead in tackles for loss with 20 last season.

Graham could play in the 3-4 defense as an outside pass rusher, but is probably better suited for the 4-3 as a defensive end, where he could play both the right and left defensive end position.

2. DE Corey Wootton, Northwestern – The question mark with Wooten heading into his senior season is how well he responds from a torn ACL sustained in the Alamo Bowl against Missouri. As a junior he had 42 total tackles, 10 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, one interception and a blocked a kick.

Wooton is an all around good defensive end and plays with outstanding leverage. He does a good job creating problems with passing lanes because of his size and possesses the ability to use his power and bull-rush, as well as some counter pass rushing moves. The biggest question is Wootton’s health, if he was healthy going into the season he would be the number one overall senior prospect in the Big Ten.

3. DE Greg Middleton, Indiana - Middleton has good size for a defensive end at around 6’3, 285 pounds, along with good but not great speed and an excellent first step off the line of scrimmage. He can use his strength to bull-rush you, but does have an array of pass rushing moves to beat opposing blockers and is extremely strong. He is best-suited on obvious passing downs when he can explode off the line and bull rush over helpless tackles.

Middleton was much better as a sophomore then he was a junior. As a sophomore he led the nation in sacks with 16, adding 50 total tackles and 17 tackles for loss. Last season had 18 total tackles, five tackles for loss and four sacks, he was dinged up with some injuries so the hope is that was the reason for the lack of production. This is a huge season for him, if he get back to his sophomore season he could be a first round pick, if he plays more like last season he drops down huge in the draft.

4. TE Garrett Graham, Wisconsin - Last season because of some injuries, Graham became the focal point of the Wisconsin passing attack. He led the Badgers with 40 receptions, 540 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns. Graham has good size at 6’4, 248 pounds and should be Wisconsin’s most reliable target again this season.
Graham has the ability to be similar to Seattle’s John Carlson at the next level, a reliable blocker and a sure handed receiver. He isn’t going to wow you with either, but is going to get the job done and when the season is over he is going to have around 50 catches.

5. WR Eric Decker, Minnesota - Decker had a good sophomore season catching 67 passes for 909 yards and nine touchdowns, and followed that up last season with 84 catches for 1,074 yards and seven touchdowns. Decker has good size at 6’2, 215 pounds and a good overall athlete. While he isn’t a super fast, he does a good job coming in and out of his breaks and has good hands. Decker is a player that most likely won’t be a number one receiver in the NFL, but will be a great number two receiver, in the mold of Vincent Jackson of San Diego or Anthony Gonzalez of Indianapolis. Not a guy who will wow you with the big plays, but will make all the catches and will be there to make that catch on third down to keep the drive alive.

6. ILB Sean Lee, Penn State - Missed all of last season following surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that occurred last April. Lee was a heck of football player before his knee injury and the question will be can he get back to his form in 2007 where he had 138 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, three recovered fumbles and one interception. The plan was for Lee to go from the outside linebacker spot to the middle linebacker. Before the injury Lee was a very good overall linebacker who make plays all over the field and many thought that he would have been a later first round pick with his ability and football IQ. Now, there are a lot of question marks that come up with Lee, but expect him to answer them and start to rise up draft boards come April.

7. S Kurt Coleman, Ohio State - Coleman thought about entering the NFL draft before returning to Ohio State, which was a good move for him. Last season he had 78 total tackles, and has 11 total tackles in the Fiesta Bowl against Texas, and finished the season with four interceptions. Coleman has decent size at 5-11 190 pounds and good overall speed. In addition, he has good range in pass coverage and seems to be able to read and react well, in both the run and the passing game. Coleman needs to come on a have a big senior season and show scouts that he can be a big time play maker at the next level.

8. S Anderson Russell, Ohio State - Russell is the other safety prospect at Ohio State, and last season had a productive season with 67 total tackles and two interceptions. He is bigger then his teammate Coleman at 6’0, 205 but wasn’t as productive last season. Russell needs to get better in coverage as a senior to be able to show NFL scouts that he can play free safety at the next level because that is what most teams are projecting Russell to be. He needs to be more consistent in his man-to-man coverage and also needs to be able to read where the quarterback is going with the ball in the passing game.

9. DT Jared Odrick, Penn State - Last season Odrick emerged into one of the nation's top defensive linemen with 41 total tackles, 9.5 for loss, and 4.5 sacks. His 2007 season was cut short by ankle and hand injuries, so he had a lot to prove last season. Odrick has great size a 6’5 306, and almost always commands double teams, which allows other players to make plays. He plays the run well, but also has the ability to rush the passer, and can both inside on the edge. He is a hard worker and doesn’t take plays off.

10. LB Pat Angerer, Iowa - Angerer came out of nowhere to lead the team in tackles last season with 107 total tackles, after recording just six tackles in his first two seasons. Angerer tied for the Big Ten lead with five interceptions to go along with three pass breakups, to help him earned All-Big Ten second-team honors.
Angerer has good size at 6’1, 235 pounds, and not only is a good run defender but also proved to be effective in pass coverage (both man-to-man and zone). He should be productive for Iowa this season, but the really answers will come when he reaches the combine and post season workouts.

Photo Credit: Northwestern, Iowa Sports Information, University of Minnesota Athletic Communications