The NFL draft is a week away and Michigan's offensive tackle Jake Long may yet go #1 overall. The Miami Dolphins have opened negotiations with Long's agent, although Long could still go anywhere in the top five. The Detroit Free Press reports how Bill Parcells is sending out mixed signals on where his team might be going.
Long isn't the only Big Ten lineman who will hear his name called early. On the other side of the ball, Ohio State defensive end Vernon Ghoulston is a surefire Top 10 pick and may go in the top five. Looking at the draft order, the New England Patriots hold the #7 pick (this one is through a trade, it's the #31 choice overall the Pats must forfeit as a result of Spygate) and would be a nice place for top young player to land--certainly better then Arizona, Detroit or any of the usual wastelands the highest picks must start their careers.
Last year's conference MVP, Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois is the one other guaranteed first-rounder. Mendenhall has been projected anywhere from 10-15 in the mock drafts I've seen. The Lions & Bears are both in this part of the selection sequence, making it possible Mendenhall could stay close to his collegiate home.
The interesting wild-card out of the Big Ten is Michigan State receiver Devin Thomas. He's being projected as a late first-rounder, although he's shaping up as the kind of player some team could roll on the dice on much earlier, or he could slip out of the first round altogether. Rivals.com rates him as the #2 wide receiver on the board, ahead of James Hardy at Indiana and ahead of renowned national players like DeSean Jackson (Cal) and Early Doucet (LSU).
It will be interesting to see how it shakes out. Big Ten Country will have one more preview post before Roger Goodell steps to the podium in New York City next Saturday, where we look at some of the players in this league who have a good chance to go in the first two rounds.