How NFL draft picks from Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers might fit with their new teams
In April’s draft, the Big Ten churned out 47 draft picks through the seven rounds. That still trailed the SEC’s 51, but it beat out every other league and topped the previous year’s total by 12.
This is the fifth part of a series that takes a look at the Big Ten’s draft picks and how they might fit in early on with their NFL teams.
Today, we finish out the Big Ten East with the Hoosiers, Terrapins and Scarlet Knights:
Indiana — 3 draft picks
Round 2, Pick 17: Jason Spriggs, OT, Green Bay Packers — Spriggs became one of those late risers after an impressive Scouting Combine, so much so that the Packers leap-frogged the division-rival Bears in a trade to take the 6-foot-6, 301-pound tackle. Packers general manager Ted Thompson never does draft-day trade-ups, so his infatuation should say something about the potential. Spriggs posted the second-best 20-yard shuttle among offensive linemen at the NFL Combine and came in fourth in the bench press, although at this point, he’s thought to be much more about athleticism than power. That will suit the pass-happy Packers, who are ready to contend with a healthy offensive line but have four linemen with only a year left on their contracts. In particular, left tackle David Bakhtiari enters a contract year, and with right tackle Bryan Bulaga locked up long-term, that left side seems to be the spot waiting for Spriggs, once he can add some strength and improve at shifting it in leverage.
Round 5, Pick 11: Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears — Howard had an impressive and interesting college career, rushing for 1,587 yards and 13 scores as a sophomore for UAB before it dropped its football program, and then piling up 1,213 yards and nine scores for the Hoosiers last season. Injuries cost him four and a half games last season and hurt his draft stock, but he landed in a favorable situation in Chicago with a run-first offense and no established feature back as of yet. Jeremy Langford, a fourth-round pick out of Michigan State last season, will take the stretch-back role from the departed Matt Forte, but the inside bruiser job is open. Chicago has said it wants to continue to run with multiple heads again this season, so if he can stay healthy, the 230-pound Howard should find scoring opportunities even in just his rookie year.
Round 6, Pick 12: Nate Sudfeld, QB, Washington Redskins — Sudfeld returned from a junior-year shoulder injury to light it up with 3,573 yards and All-Big Ten honors last season, which he rode to a chance in the NFL. Coming from the spread, he has some mechanical issues to fix — namely field vision and decision-making — but his size (6-foot-6, 234 pounds), arm strength and functional mobility were always going to be intriguing to pro teams. Kirk Cousins in the clear starter this season in Washington under the franchise tag. Colt McCoy seems to be snuggled into the second-string role, so Sudfeld’s current outlook is just to try to make the team as a third-stringer and learn his way from there.
Maryland — 3 draft picks
Round 2, Pick 27: Sean Davis, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers — Davis was considered one of the bigger reaches of the draft, a talented project who went in the second round to a contender in need of a starter in the secondary right now. He’ll take the opportunity, although a chance to develop his woeful man coverage and re-acclimate to safety play after a year playing cornerback would perhaps have been a better situation. His size (6-foot-1, 201 pounds) and hit stick give him lots of potential as an in-the-box safety, but that’s a position the Steelers currently hand to Mike Mitchell without another player on the roster who can adequately cover the deep ball. Davis will have to prove himself in new areas this season, and for a team with all the offense in the world, he might have to do it quicker than he ever expected.
Round 3, Pick 6: Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars — Ngakoue was one of those prospects who had scouts all over the board, some wowed by his speed and athleticism and others wondering if his lack of length will prevent it from flourishing in the NFL. Now, he’ll compete in the most loaded position group the Jaguars have. They pumped the No. 3 overall pick in 2014 into Dante Fowler Jr. and $40 million guaranteed this spring into free agent Malik Jackson, the two guys who will man the starting end spots this season. Fowler is coming off an ACL tear, so Ngakoue will serve as insurance with the potential to grow.
Round 5, Pick 8: Quinton Jefferson, DT, Seattle Seahawks — At 6-foot-4 and 291 pounds, Jefferson boasts better upper-body strength than he does lower-body, making him more of an asset against the pass than the run. He has nice power moves and should be able to fight for a role on passing downs, but he seems cut for a rotational role if he can make the Seahawks. Seattle has needed beef in the middle of the defense in recent years but spent its second-round pick on mammoth Alabama prospect Jarran Reed. Jefferson should hope to become one of the organization’s under-the-radar picks who flourishes in a specific role.
Rutgers — 1 draft pick
Round 3, Pick 23: Leonte Carroo, WR, Miami Dolphins — Carroo has some of the best hands in the entire draft to go along with attractive NFL size (6-foot, 211 pounds) and the ability to run routes all over the field. His speed doesn’t project him as quite the productive deep threat he was in college, and he’ll need to work out some personal issues regarding the two suspensions he endured at Rutgers. In Miami, he’ll join a young and talented receiving corps with 2015 first-round pick DeVante Parker, 1,100-yard receiver Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, who had better than 900 yards in 2014 with the Saints. The depth behind those horses is incredibly unproven, so Carroo will have somewhere to work in during his early days.