Two years ago, just one Big Ten player was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft with the No. 31 pick. Thursday night, three went in the top 15 picks.
Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff, Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon were all picked in the top half of the first round on Day 1 of the 2015 NFL Draft on Thursday night at the Auditorium Theater.
It was the first time three players from Big Ten schools were selected in the draft's top 15 picks since 2007, when Wisconsin offensive lineman Joe Thomas, Penn State defensive lineman Levi Brown and Ohio State return man Ted Ginn Jr. were all picked in the top 10.
Here's a look at the three players who got to pose for pictures on stage with commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday.
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No. 5: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa — Washington Redskins
Scherff was expected to come off the board early, and he did, becoming the first top-10 pick from a Big Ten school since 2008, when Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long went No. 1 overall. He joins a long line of Iowa O-linemen picked in the first round, with Riley Reiff being the most recent in 2012. Scherff is enormous at 319 pounds, and he always projected as an NFL offensive lineman. Now he is one, and he’ll be blocking for Alfred Morris in our nation’s capital.
No. 11: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State — Minnesota Vikings
Waynes was the first defensive back selected, another predicted outcome. His selection by the Vikings gave the Spartans two first-round cornerbacks in back-to-back drafts after Darqueze Dennard was picked by the Bengals with the No. 24 pick last year. Waynes and Dennard were the two starting corners on Michigan State’s 2013 team, which had the top-ranked defense in college football. Waynes now goes to Minnesota, where he’ll be defending the pass against the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford in the NFC North.
No. 15: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin — San Diego Chargers
Gordon wasn’t the first running back picked Thursday — Georgia’s Todd Gurley was the No. 10 pick of the Rams — but he still earned rave reviews while being selected by the Chargers. He’s the latest in a line of Badgers running backs drafted into the pros, but the name he’ll be attached to for a while will be LaDanian Tomlinson. Tomlinson is arguably the greatest Charger of all time, and now Gordon looks to become the best San Diego running back since Tomlinson left town. Coincidentally, Gordon broke Tomlinson’s FBS single-game rushing record this past season. Both were top-five finishers in voting for the Heisman Trophy.
Interestingly, Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory was not selected in Thursday's first round despite being projected by many to go in the first 32 picks. Nebraska has yet to have a first-round selection since joining the Big Ten. Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith was also considered a fringe first-round possibility, but he remains on the board heading into Round 2. In fact, Ohio State had zero players selected, becoming the first national champion without a first-round pick since the 2002 Ohio State team.