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Eagles 2023 NFL Draft prospects: Big Ten players to monitor

Are there any players from the Midwest’s mightiest conference that could help the Birds next year?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 01 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I watch what many might consider an “unhealthy” amount of college football. When you combine that with all of the time I spend consuming college football content via other media you can see why my children already know that they won’t get to watch Bluey on Saturdays ever.

I was hoping to turn this “problem” into something useful for Eagles fans, so I started compiling a list of players, one from every Power 5 team plus some Group of 5 and FCS prospects too, that I think the Birds should at least kick the tires on come NFL Draft weekend.

Here is the first, and sadly my favorite, conference in the series, the Big Ten:

Illinois: S Sydney Brown, 6-foot-0, 205 pounds (2nd or 3rd round)

  • 2022 stats: 59 tackles (3.5 TFL), 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 6 interceptions, 7 pass breakups
  • 2022 honors: USA Today 2nd Team All-American; PFF 3rd Team All-American; CBS honorable mention All-American; 1st Team All-Big Ten (coaches); 2nd Team All-Big Ten (media)
  • Not the ideal size for an NFL safety, but he is a solid tackler and is good in man coverage. There’s also something to be said for a guy who always seems to be around the ball and “makes things happen” with it.

Indiana: DB Tiawan Mullen, 5-foot-10, 181 pounds (7th round)

  • 2022 stats: 58 tackles (1 TFL), 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions, 8 pass breakups
  • 2022 honors: honorable mention All-Big Ten (coaches/media); 2020 honors: FWAA 1st Team All-American; Phil Steele 1st Team All-American; 1st Team All-Big Ten (media); 2nd Team All-Big Ten (coaches)
  • After his breakout 2020 season, Mullen suffered through injuries in 2021 but bounced back in 2022. He won’t be able to play on the outside in the NFL due to his size, but could be a useful DB in the slot and is worth taking a flier on late or as an UDFA.

Iowa: ILB Jack Campbell, 6-foot-5, 246 pounds (3rd round)

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • 2022 stats: 128 tackles (5.5 TFL), 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions, 3 pass breakups
  • 2022 honors: Butkus Award winner (best LB in nation); unanimous consensus 1st Team All-American; Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year; Big Ten Linebacker of the Year; 1st Team All-Big Ten (coaches/media)
  • A literal tackling machine in the middle of the field; fast for his size; decent at disrupting plays through the A/B gaps. Plays like a bigger, stronger T.J. Edwards.

Maryland: OT Jaelyn Duncan, 6-foot-6, 320 pounds (3rd round)

  • 39 career starts; Honorable Mention All-Big Ten 2022, 2021, 2020
  • Prototypical size for an NFL offensive tackle, but is probably going to be drafted based on potential upside as opposed to outstanding college production. Could Jeff Stoutland turn him into an above average tackle?

Michigan: CB DJ Turner, 6-foot-0, 180 pounds (3rd round)

  • 2022 stats: 36 tackles (1 TFL), 1 fumble return, 1 interception, 11 pass breakups, 1 touchdown
  • 2022 honors: 2nd Team All-Big Ten (coaches); 3rd Team All-Big Ten (media)
  • One of, if not the, fastest guys in the draft. Absolute freak of nature in that regard. Not a great run defender, but good in coverage with the ability to make up ground quickly if beaten initially.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 30 Michigan at Michigan State
Jayden Reed may have won the battle for the ball against D.J. Turner here, but Turner will almost certainly be drafted ahead of Reed.
Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michigan State: WR Jayden Reed, 6-foot-0, 190 pounds (7th round)

  • 2022 stats: 55 catches, 639 yards, 7 touchdowns; 13 punt returns for 114 yards (8.8 yards per return)
  • 2022 honors: 2nd Team All-Big Ten (coaches, WR); 3rd Team All-Big Ten (media, KR/PR)
  • Reed would be a high-upside waiver on a slot receiver that could also handle some special teams duties. He isn’t a burner, but he can get yards after the catch and is probably “fast enough” for what he’d be asked to do in the NFL.

Minnesota: IOL John Michael Schmitz, 6-foot-4, 320 pounds (late 1st round)

  • 35 career starts (played in 57)
  • 2022 honors: AP 1st Team All-American; FWAA 1st Team All-American; Walter Camp 2nd Team All-American; 1st Team All-Big Ten (coaches/media)
  • Everything about Schmitz (except for his pass blocking which is merely above average) screams future All-Pro NFL center. He was the best player on one of the best offensive lines in the country and if the Eagles picked him, they could shift Cam Jurgens to guard and have their next set of leaders for a dominant o-line. He’s old for an NFL prospect (24 by the time season starts) but he’s a plug-and-play option from practice one, especially if Jason Kelce opts to retire.

Nebraska: DB Omar Brown, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds (7th round)

  • 2022 stats: 5 tackles
  • This would be another upside gamble pick and, honestly, you could probably get him as an UDFA. Brown didn’t play a ton for the Huskers last year, but he was an All-American and FCS Freshman Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 at Northern Iowa. He had 77 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 3 fumble recoveries that year. 2020 was the weird COVID year and he was playing well in 2021 before suffering a season-ending injury.

Northwestern: OT Peter Skoronski, 6-foot-4, 315 pounds (early 1st round)

  • 33 career starts
  • 2022 honors: 1st Team All-Big Ten (coaches); 2nd Team All-Big Ten (media)
  • Started every game in his career since he was a freshman and only gave up five career sacks. Was the best player on some bad NU teams, but don’t hold that against him. He’s really good at just about everything although some teams may wonder about his size and whether or not he can excel at tackle in the pros. He’s a really good player and passes the eye test in that regard too, like, you notice him taking defensive players out of a play. You also can’t discount his perfect offensive lineman last name.

Ohio State: EDGE Zach Harrison, 6-foot-6, 272 pounds (2nd round)

  • 2022 stats: 34 tackles (8 TFL), 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 interception, 5 pass breakups
  • 2022 honors: 1st Team All-Big Ten (media); 2nd Team All-Big Ten (coaches)
  • If you were building an EDGE player in a lab, Harrison is what you’d come up with. He has the potential to be as good as past OSU pass rushers Chase Young or either of the Bosa brothers. While he still has some work to do on the technical side of things, Harrison could be an ideal replacement for Brandon Graham.

Penn State: CB Joey Porter Jr., 6-foot-2, 194 pounds (early 1st round)

  • 2022 stats: 27 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 11 pass breakups
  • 2022 honors: 2nd Team All-American (AFCA, Associated Press, FWAA, Walter Camp Football Foundation and CBS Sports); 1st Team All-Big Ten (coaches/media)
  • This may shock you, but yes, he is the son of former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter Sr. Porter Jr. had the kind of development arc that NFL teams love to see. He came in as a highly regarded recruit, struggled slightly to adjust to the college game, and then got better every season until he was one of the best defensive backs in the country. He’s a good tackler and when teams foolishly deigned to throw his way, he often broke the pass up. If James Bradberry priced himself out of Howie Roseman’s plans, Porter Jr. would be an excellent replacement.

Purdue: TE Payne Durham, 6-foot-5, 255 pounds (3rd round, trade into 4th/5th if he falls)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 04 Reese’s Senior Bowl
Payne Durham could be too good to pass up if he falls during the draft.
Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • 2022 stats: 56 catches, 560 yards, 8 touchdowns
  • 2022 honors: 2nd Team All-Big Ten (coaches/media)
  • Do the Eagles NEED a tight end in the draft this year? No, probably not, but if Durham is falling during draft weekend I think they should take a long look at him. He’s a good blocker, a great red zone target, and has soft hands. At a certain point he becomes too good of a value pick, regardless of positional need.

Rutgers: P Adam Korsak, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds (7th round)

  • 2022 stats: 32 punts downed inside the 20, forced 35 fair catches on 75 punts, 14 punts were longer than 50 yards (long of 77), had zero punts blocked and only 2 touchbacks
  • 2022 honors: Ray Guy Award winner (best punter in nation); Sporting News 1st Team All-American; Phil Steele 3rd Team All-American; 2nd Team All-Big Ten (coaches); 3rd Team All-Big Ten (media)
  • How did the best punter in the nation not even make the 1st team in his own conference? Buddy, you must not watch a lot of Big Ten football because EVERY punter is good in that conference and making 1st Team All-B1G as a punter might be the most hotly contested spot in the country. Korsak set multiple NCAA and school records while at Rutgers and he’s also Australian. I don’t know what else you could even want in a punting prospect.

Wisconsin: NT/DT Keeanu Benton, 6-foot-4, 315 pounds (3rd round)

  • 2022 stats: 35 tackles (10 TFL), 4.5 sacks, 2 QB hurries, 2 pass breakups
  • 2022 honors: 3rd Team All-Big Ten (coaches)
  • Benton is a much better athlete than he is given credit for and he can disrupt plays by himself from the middle of the defensive line. He was a state champion high school wrestler and has the hand strength to prove it. Over his career at Wisconsin he greatly improved his pass rushing and even developed a couple of good moves to get past offensive linemen. He is a high-upside prospect that may have played too well at the Senior Bowl to be considered “under the radar” anymore.

Others to keep an eye on: RB Mohamed Ibrahim (5-foot-10, 210 pounds, Minnesota); DB Riley Moss (6-foot-1, 193 pounds, Iowa); WR Dontay Demus Jr. (6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Maryland); OL Jack Nelson (6-foot-7, 310 pounds, Wisconsin); RB Chase Brown (5-foot-11, 205 pounds, Illinois)

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