It’s the time of the year when good – and some not so good – decide whether to leave school for the National Football League. Here’s what we know so far on some of the Big Ten’s biggest stars:
Whitney Mercilus, Illinois, defensive lineman
Mercilus – who I always want to call Mercilus Whitney – is leaving Illinois after a beast of a junior season with a school-record 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles. His logic is sound:
“My stock may not be as high coming into next season,” the junior said Tuesday. “This was probably the best opportunity to help out my family.”
The Tribune noted that Mercilus is the seventh Illini player in the last five years to enter the draft early.
Reilly Reiff, Iowa, offensive lineman
Like Mercilus, Reiff is leaving college with little to reason to return:
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., projected Reiff to be a top 10 NFL pick.
Reiff was a first-team all-Big Ten Conference selection, and a second-team pick as a sophomore. He started all but two games (37 total) during his career.
When asked last week what he had left to prove by returning, Reiff said: “I never think of what I have to prove. It’s about getting better every day and being the best player I can be.”
Montee Ball, Wisconsin, running back
Ball has made up his mind, but isn’t sharing:
Ball, a junior, said he made his decision on whether or not to enter the draft on Dec. 31, and the outcome of the game did not affect it. He declined to share what he’ll do but said he will announce his intentions in the next 48 to 72 hours. He has already told a few teammates.
“Basically, I looked myself in the mirror and told myself what I needed to do for me, what I needed to do for my family and for my teammates,” Ball said. “And that’s what it came down to.”
Denard Robinson, Michigan, quarterback
He previously announced he expects to be back at Michigan, after exploring his draft status.
Kawaan Short, Purdue, defensive lineman
Purdue Rant let us know via Twitter that Short, who would be a redshirt senior, has a big decision to make as well:
Short had big shoes to fill when Ryan Kerrigan graduated. Although Short didn’t replicate Kerrigan’s statistics, he still had a strong junior campaign with 54 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 17.5 tackles for a loss.
Various websites have long been writing their predicted selections for this April’s NFL draft. In one mock NFL draft, Fox Sports writer Peter Schrager went out on a limb and opined that Short would be drafted as the 28th pick in the 1st round by the Denver Broncos. While this is the highest projection for Short (so far), it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Short could be taken in the first round.
At 6-3 and over 300 pounds, Kawaan Short has the size to play defensive tackle in a 4-3 NFL defense. His good feet and quickness, however, may enable him to play as a defensive end in a 3-4 NFL defense (think Ziggy Hood of the Pittsburgh Steelers). This versatility may increase his odds of being taken on the first day of the draft.
Please let us know if you see any others.