2012 NFL Draft: Big Ten Prospects Prepare for First Round

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2012 NFL Draft: Big Ten Prospects Prepare for First Round
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Projected first-round pick Whitney Mercilus works his way across a Jack Mewhort block.

Finally, the 2012 NFL Draft is upon us, and tonight we'll hear some Big Ten stars' names called as the first round of picks is made. Here's a look at some players who'll probably be first-round picks. All name links go to the players' Big Ten Blog draft profiles.

Riley Reiff, Iowa

Reiff is pretty much the consensus first Big Ten pick, although where he goes in the draft could be anywhere from 7th to somewhere in the 20s. Arizona seems like a good fit at No. 13, since Reiff can play right away on that line, but if the Cardinals go another direction there aren't many suitable destinations in the draft order for a while. We might see a trade up for Reiff shortly thereafter if Arizona passes on him. 

 Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

The Big Ten's most fearsome defensive player of 2012 is a legitimate first-round prospect at the next level, and he works out to roughly the 20th-best player in the draft. That's good news for the teams clumped around there, as he's been projected as a fit with No. 18 San Diego, No. 19 Chicago, and No. 20 Tennessee. It's hard to imagine he could last much longer than that. 

Peter Konz, Wisconsin

Konz's ceiling at the next level isn't the highest, but the fact is that there are a few otherwise successful teams late in the first round that could use some help at center, and that would provide Konz with a great opportunity to step in and shore up protection. Baltimore in particular is relying on 35-year-old Matt Birk at center for now; that's not a long-term solution.

Devon Still, Penn State

Still's breakout 2011 season solidified what was obvious from the start of his Penn State career: physically, he can play at the next level. Still's size is unimpeachable at 6'5" and 305 pounds, but his workouts weren't fantastic and PSU's elite defensive linemen have been rather hit-and-miss in the NFL lately. He's definitely got first-round potential and could go anywhere from the last 10 picks of the first round to sometime early in the second.

Jerel Worthy, Michigan State

Worthy was utterly unblockable at times for the Spartans last year, but he was neutralized by blocking schemes a little too easily and his workouts haven't been amazing. Nonetheless, he's a prototypical 4-3 DT with the bulk at 310 pounds to switch to a 1-technique in some situations, and he's even been mentioned as a 5-technique DE in some 3-4 situations. That's got to be tantalizing for Denver, New England, or even Green Bay, who must be wondering how many more seasons 12-year veteran Ryan Pickett can hold up.

 

Likely second-rounders who are darkhorse picks for the the late first round: Mike Adams, Ohio State T; Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin G; A.J. Jenkins, Illinois WR; Lavonte David, Nebraska LB

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