What would an entire 53-man roster of Big Ten stars look like? Well, it looks like this: (Starters bolded)
- Tom Brady, New England (Michigan)
- Drew Brees, New Orleans (Purdue)
- Russell Wilson, Seattle (Wisconsin)
How do you choose between these three guys? Tom Brady wins as arguably one of the best two or three quarterbacks, if not the best quarterback, of all time. Considering the offensive line you're about to see, he'll also have basically unlimited time to throw which cuts out concerns about his mobility.
- Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh (Michigan State)
- Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas (Ohio State)
- Melvin Gordon, L.A. Chargers (Wisconsin)
- Jordan Howard, Chicago (Indiana)
- Carlos Hyde, San Francisco (Michigan State)
The Big Ten only has 12 running backs in the NFL, but a lot of them are really, really good. Outside of these five guys you also have Tevin Coleman, Ameer Abdullah and James White contributing in the NFL.
- Eric Decker, Tennessee (Minnesota)
- Allen Robinson, Jacksonville (Penn State)
- Terrelle Pryor, Washington (Ohio State)
- Stefon Diggs, Minnesota (Maryland)
- Michael Thomas, New Orleans (Ohio State)
The Big Ten wide receivers are pretty solid. Eric Decker and Allen Robinson have proven to be strong options, and Terrelle Pryor put up big numbers as he solidified the transition to wide receiver. Stefon Diggs and Michael Thomas have both impressed early in their careers.
- Lance Kendricks, Green Bay (Wisconsin)
- C.J. Fiedorowicz, Houston (Iowa)
One of the weakest Big Ten positions in the NFL, there isn't much depth (and Vernon Davis played at Maryland before the Terps were in the Big Ten). Lance Kendricks gets the nod by having the highest career AV stat from Pro Football Reference among eligible Big Ten tight ends.
- Joe Thomas, Cleveland (Wisconsin)
- Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay (Iowa)
- Ricky Wagner, Detroit (Wisconsin)
- Riley Reiff, Minnesota (Iowa)
Talk about an embarrassment of riches. All four of these guys are surefire starters, with Joe Thomas arguably one of the best left tackles in the NFL for the past decade.
- Marshal Yanda, Baltimore (Iowa)
- Kevin Zeitler, Cleveland (Wisconsin)
- Rodger Saffold, L.A. Rams (Indiana)
- Stefen Wisniewski, Philadelphia (Penn State)
Another position with a ton of talent is at guard, where you can't do a whole lot better than Marshal Yanda or Kevin Zeitler, two of the best in the game. Rodger Saffold off of the bench is a luxery.
- Travis Frederick, Dallas (Wisconsin)
- Corey Linsley, Green Bay (Ohio State)
- A.Q. Shipley, Arizona (Penn State)
Center doesn't have as much depth as the other offensive line positions, but you don't really need it with a sure-fire starter like Travis Frederick.
- J.J. Watt, Houston (Wisconsin)
- Joey Bosa, L.A. Chargers (Ohio State)
- Cliff Avril, Seattle (Purdue)
- Cameron Wake, Miami (Penn State)
This is just silly. You could just line these four up on the defensive line if you really wanted to.
- Alan Branch, New England (Michigan)
- Mike Daniels, Green Bay (Iowa)
- Domata Peko, Denver (Michigan State)
- Kawann Short, Carolina (Purdue)
Talk about versatility. Both Alan Branch and Domata Peko are solid nose tackles, while Mike Daniels and Kawann Short are able to play just about anywhere on the defensive line, giving the ability to shift between 4-3 and 3-4 fronts.
- Tamba Hali, Kansas City (Penn State)
- Lavonte David, Tampa Bay (Nebraska)
- Ryan Kerrigan, Washington (Purdue)
On the edge, Tamba Hali and Lavonte David are freaks of nature, and Ryan Kerrigan is an explosive pass rusher off of the bench.
- NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco (Penn State)
- Sean Lee, Dallas (Penn State)
- Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville (Penn State)
Just call this the Penn State portion of the lineup. NaVorro Bowman as been one of the best inside linebackers in football for awhile and Sean Lee isn't too bad, either. Posluszny is getting on in years, but still had nearly 100 tackles last season.
- Vontae Davis, Indianapolis (Illinois)
- Bradley Roby, Denver (Ohio State)
- Marcus Sherels, Minnesota (Minnesota)
- Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans (Ohio State)
- Desmond King, L.A. Chargers (Iowa)
My rule to only use players who actually played in the Big Ten hurts here, because that makes Rutgers defensive backs Jason McCourty and Logan Ryan and Nebraska corner Prince Amukamara ineligible. Vontae Davis is a solid starter, but Bradley Roby and Marcus Sherels have their issues. That's why we take Marshon Lattimore and Desmond King as young players who can step into starting roles soon (Lattimore is slated to start week 1 for the Saints while King is expected to contribute in a hybrid corner-safety role).
- Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia (Ohio State)
- Ricardo Allen, Atlanta (Purdue)
- Micah Hyde, Buffalo (Iowa)
- Malik Hooker, Indianapolis (Ohio State)
- Jabrill Peppers, Cleveland (Michigan)
Another not-so-deep position for the Big Ten that could have benefited from the strength of Rutgers defensive backs during its Big East days. Without Rutgers' Devin McCourty, Malcolm Jenkins and Ricardo Allen slot in as the starters, with Micah Hyde a key contributor as well. The quad has two young stars to develop in first-round draft picks Malik Hooker and Jabrill Peppers.
- Kicker: Robbie Gould, San Francisco (Penn State)
- Punter: Brad Nortman, Jacksonville (Wisconsin)
- Long Snapper: Jake McQuaide, L.A. Rams (Ohio State)
- Returner: Ted Ginn Jr., New Orleans (Ohio State)
Special teams was pretty easy. Robbie Gould is the only kicker from the Big Ten currently in the NFL. Brad Nortman is the only Big Ten punter in the league (Sam Koch from Nebraska didn't play in the Big Ten). Jake McQuaide is one of a handful Big Ten long snappers and has played well heading into his sixth year. Ted Ginn is clearly a strong choice for a return specialist, and he doubles as a wide receiver.