Earlier this week we looked at how the Leaders division of the Big Ten is still rooted in smash mouth power football. Today we are going to look at the Legends division which includes new member Nebraska who is known for their big play system. This trend shows throughout the division as 5 of the 8 sleepers in this article are skill position players.
WR Brandon Kinnie-Nebraska
6’3, 225 lbs.
3 Star WR-Rivals
Kinnie is one of the players that is stuck in a system that does not play well to his strengths. Similar to the system Demayrius Thomas was stuck in at Georgia Tech, Nebraska’s attack is dependent on the run game to churn out big yards, while the passing game is there to keep teams honest. Kinnie as a prospect has great size, and strength for the position. He is a force to try and press at the line and can deliver a solid blow to smaller CB’s.
He doesn’t have great speed and you don’t see that explosion off the line of scrimmage that most NFL WR’s have. One thing he does do well is block. He is effective both at the line of scrimmage and down field. He uses his size well to control smaller DB’s, and has the power to run them down the field and maintain his block.
OT Marcel Jones-Nebraksa
6’7, 320 lbs.
3 Star OT-Scout
A big strong OT prospect who has ideal size to play either tackle spot. He has those nice long arms that scouts love to see in pass protectors and he does a decent job of getting them extended in protection. He has some athleticism to his game and shows the ability to use his kick step to stay with speed rushers and run them out of the pocket.
We would like to see Jones get a little bit nastier at times. He fails to finish off his blocks and that can get him into a trouble. Also he is still growing as a prospect and will have trouble against a pass rusher who has multiple moves. He can be set up, and beat when a rusher employs a good counter move.
WR Keshawn Martin-Michigan State
5’11, 185 lbs.
3 Star WR-Rivals
The super athletic Martin has been somewhat buried on the Spartan depth chart behind guys like Mark Dell, and Blair White but if you watch Michigan State enough you’ve seen flashes of a kid who can absolutely fly out there. Martin is a matchup nightmare, he will line up both outside and inside WR positions along the line, and he will also see some time in the backfield as both a RB or even as a wildcat QB.
Due to his versatility he has yet to really develop his routes and at times has a tendency to drift. Martin is a player who is able to consistently make big things happen when the ball is in his hands.
LB Tyler Nielsen-Iowa
6’4, 235 lbs.
4 Star LB-Scout
Nielsen is an interesting story because of what he is attempting to come back from this year in order to play. Last year Nielsen literally broke his neck, and missed the remainder of the 2010 season. He is back now and the athletic LB is ready to once again make plays for this Hawkeye defense.
He is an excellent read and react LB who does a good job playing the angles and beating players to the spot. We would like to see him become more instinctive so he can start making stops behind the line as opposed to a yard or two past it.
OT Al Netter-Northwestern
6’6, 310 lbs.
2 Star TE-Rivals
A rock at LT for the wildcats, Netter has fantastic size for the position and shows good enough athleticism to potentially stay there in the NFL. He has solid strength which allows him to do well v. power rushers and he is light enough on his feet to stay with speed rushers.
We would like to see him use his hands a little better, as he does not always get proper placement with his hands which allow defenders a greater chance to disengage. Also Netter has a tendency to pop up while anchoring and this can cost him valuable leverage and allow the defender to get more push.
See Netter’s In-Game Scouting Report (v. Michigan State)
CB Jordan Mabin-Northwestern
5’11, 185 lbs.
4 Star CB-Rivals
Mabin is a feisty CB who was a huge get for Pat Fitzgerald and his staff in recruiting. Mabin has ideal speed and athleticism for the position and does a good job of staying in the WR’s hip pocket all the way down the field.
He isn’t the most physical CB but he is not afraid to mix it up and will not back down from a bigger WR. He lacks ideal size and we’d like to see him add some bulk to his frame in order to not be pushed around so easily.
See Mabin’s In-Game Scouting report (v. Michigan State)
WR Junior Hemingway-Michigan
6’1, 225 lbs.
4 Star WR-Scout
A well built WR prospect, Hemingway has the size-bulk ratio you want in an outside WR. His weight is well distributed and he generates very good power when blocking or when trying to escape the jam. He’s not just a big bulky WR who can’t move either, he’s shifty in the open field with loose hips and has the ability to make people miss.
The two areas we would like to see Hemingway work on, is with his acceleration and his consistency. Hemingway doesn’t have that ideal burst off the line that you like in your WR and he also struggles to maintain his speed in and out of cuts. He also has a tendency to disappear for stretches of games and while this may be a factor of Rich Rod’s offense or the instability Michigan has had at QB, it’s still a trend worth noting.
6’3, 214 lbs.
2 Star DB-Rivals
I saved the best for the last in my opinion as I plucked quite possibly the deepest sleeper in the Big 10. Its not often that a double digit TD WR goes unnoticed but McKnight has for the most part. He has ideal size to play outside in the NFL and his ability to go up and get the ball is terrific. He shows great body control in the air and does a good job of concentrating on the ball so that he can make the catch.
He is a bit of a strider who takes a while to get to full speed, and he’s very stiff in the hips. He’s going to be a possession based target in the NFL, but he has a good frame and has already shown off reliable hands.
Make sure you also check out NEPD’s Big Ten Legends: Top 2012 Draft Prospect piece!