The Big Ten conference has had quite the 2020. From no football at all, to now a winless Penn State, and an Indiana team that almost beat Ohio State. It has been quite the season thus far. In the Big 10 West, there has been some emerging Big Ten NFL draft prospects that have taken advantage of this 2020 season to raise their stock. Through the halfway point of the season, these are the players that have proven to be emerging NFL Draft Prospects.
Northwestern: Paddy Fisher, LB Senior
The Texas native Paddy Fisher was already a highly touted linebacker prospect coming into this season. However, 13 tackles and a forced fumble against a top ten team in Wisconsin always helps. In 2017 and 2018, Fisher made more than 100 tackles in each of those seasons. After 2019 did not go his Fisher’s way production wise, he made a grand return to the Northwestern Wildcat program for 2020. Coach Fitzgerald and company are thankful for it. Northwestern is currently undefeated and have the fourth best scoring defense in the NCAA, only allowing 12.6 points per game.
Fisher and fellow stud linebacker Blake Gallagher are the two team leaders in tackles for the third season in a row. Both of which were ranked in the preseason top 5 linebackers in their conference by PFF. At 6’4″ 240 pounds, Fisher has the size and athleticism to transfer into being a tackling machine at the next level. His physicality and playmaking ability will make himself a valuable asset to whatever team selects him this spring.
Wisconsin: Jack Sanborn, LB Wisconsin
As quarterback Graham Mertz has stolen the spotlight since the season begun, it is Jack Sanborn who was their most heralded player coming into this season. This emerging NFL Big 10 prospect from Illinois came into this season as on the PFF All-American Third-team, Bednarik Award watch list, Butkus Award watch list, and Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list. Sanborn thus far is living up to that billing. Sanborn is the team’s leading tackler thus far this season and is a member of the 2021 PFF Big Board. If he can continue to make plays an improve his tackling, look for Sanborn to shoot up some draft charts.
Iowa: Mekhi Sargent, RB, Senior
Senior Mekhi Sargent has been a staple in this Iowa rushing attack since he transferred in from Junior College. His third season as a Hawkeye has found him in a second running back role on the team. However, that has not halted his effectiveness at all. In 48 carries, Sargent averages 6 yards per carry and has already crossed the goal line 6 times in 5 games. Coming off of a dominant 100 yard, 2 touchdown performance against Penn State look for Sargent to finish the season strong for the Hawkeyes and prove his worth as potentially becoming a emerging Big 10 NFL draft prospect.
Purdue: Alexander Horvath, RB Purdue Junior
Purdue’s dynamic, explosive receiving core of Rondale Moore and David Bell received all of the attention going into this season. Considering their playbreaking ability whenever they touch the ball, it makes perfect sense. However, Zander Horvath is the motor that keeps this offense rolling. Standing at 6’3″ 230 pounds, Horvath is very difficult for defenders to bring down. Add on some quickness and a patented hurdle to go with his imposing frame. He has more than double the touches than any other member of the Purdue offense, with 63 carries and 22 receptions. His size, hands, and athleticism make him a truly intriguing prospect at the next level. If his production continues and he can test well at his pro day or combine, look for Horvath to rise up some draft boards going into the 2021 NFL Draft.
Minnesota: Mohamed Ibrihim, RB RS-Junior
The Minnesota Golden Gophers have gotten off to a shaky start, but no one told that to Mohamed Ibrihim. Through 5 games he has scored 13 touchdowns. He is currently tied for second with the running backs in front of him have played a full season to this point, him just 5 games. Tack that on top of 817 rushing yards which grants him top ten honors in that department as well. Ibrihim is absolute money in goal-to-go situations, always keeping his legs moving and finding the smallest holes in wiggle through. Not to mention, his excellent power as he has the ability to run through defenders, with 22 forced missed tackles in the first three games. Look for more excellent play from Ibrihim as Minnesota continues to turn their season around as he is perhaps the highest emerging Big 10 NFL prospect to this point.
Illinois: Doug Kramer C, Senior
The Fighting Illini have had a rollercoaster season to start their 2020 campaign. From being underdogs going into their Rutgers game, to dismantling conference foe Nebraska this past Saturday. One thing has remained constant thus far, the impressive play from their entire offensive line unit. Illinois was able to rush for 273 yards against Nebraska, 341 yards against Rutgers, and 177 yards against Purdue when they threw it over 30 times and were down most of the game.
This offensive line unit is the heart and soul of the offense and Kramer is the unquestioned leader of that group. Kramer came into this season a 2-time PFF team of the week member, top-10 PFF graded center, and Wuerffel trophy watch list member. There are a handful of draft-worthy players on this offensive line, but Kramer has the opportunity to be one of the first interior linemen off the board.
Nebraska: Dicaprio Bootle, CB Senior
Dicaprio Bootle came into this season as the established leader of this secondary unit, outside of being on the all-name team. Last season, Bootle had the highest forced incompletion percentage from any corner in the Big 10 last season. He has also has the third lowest yards per catch of returning defensive backs of the Big 10 conference. This season he accumulated 16 tackles to go along with 2 defended passes. If he can make a create a couple of turnovers and keep locking down his side of the field, his name will be steady in the mix of other emerging NFL Big Ten Prospects.