2022 Big Ten Championship Game: Top NFL Draft Prospects To Watch Include Blake Corum, Charlie Jones

As the 2022 Big Ten Championship game between Michigan and Purdue nears, here are the top 2023 NFL Draft prospects to watch in the big game.

Who are the top 2023 NFL Draft prospects to watch in the 2022 Big Ten Championship game? While it’s not Michigan-Ohio State, the clash between Michigan and Purdue pits a surprising amount of 2023 NFL Draft talent against one another.

Top NFL Draft Prospects To Watch in 2022 Big Ten Championship Game

Purdue’s Draft Prospects

Purdue may be lesser by prestige, but the Boilermakers are a well-coached team and quietly have an abundance of 2023 NFL Draft talent. That talent is mainly clustered on offense, but there are prospects to watch on the defensive side as well.

WR Charlie Jones

Charlie Jones has been one of the most prolific breakout receiver prospects in 2022, with 97 catches for 1,199 yards and 12 touchdowns through the regular season. He’s a former return specialist for Iowa, who morphed into a dominant separator and receiving threat for the Boilermakers. At 6’0″, 188 pounds, the Senior Bowl commit has decent size, but Jones’ pure high-level nuance in all phases is what makes him a constant tough cover.

QB Aidan O’Connell

Aidan O’Connell has fans in the NFL community. As an over-aged rookie without much functional mobility, O’Connell’s ceiling is a bit limited, but he has the feel of a signal-caller who’ll stick around a long time in a professional QB room.

MORE: Top 10 Quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft

Qualities like pocket poise, accuracy, touch, and active ability as a distributor can make him dangerous for defenses. O’Connell gets the ball out quickly against pressure, but he can also stress downfield with his placement.

TE Payne Durham

Set to join his teammates O’Connell and Cory Trice at the Shrine Bowl, Payne Durham is one of the most productive tight ends in college football. His stat line of 54 catches for 550 yards and eight touchdowns is a reflection of his surefire skill set.

Durham’s a solid athlete who’s shown that ability both as a separator and after the catch, but his play strength at the catch point — deriving from his 6’5″, 255-pound frame — is another big bonus.

CB Cory Trice

A season-ending injury suffered early in 2021 prevented Trice from showing out a year earlier. But now healthy, the 6’3″, 215-pound cornerback has been a breakout star on the Boilermakers’ defense.

He has two interceptions and nine pass deflections after having faced a gauntlet of a schedule. For his size, Trice has very impressive fluidity, which serves to build off his length and grating physicality at the catch point.

LB Jalen Graham

The Wolverines’ offense has a lot of potential threats, both in the running game and passing game. By extension, versatile hybrid linebacker Jalen Graham will shoulder a lot of the load when it comes to stopping Michigan’s attack.

At 6’3″, 220 pounds, Graham blends the line between positions. He plays best in the box, where he can loom in zone coverage and explode downhill with physicality. But he also has the athleticism and coverage ability to play overhang slot and break on short passes.

Michigan’s Draft Prospects

It’s no surprise that Michigan is a 2022 Big Ten Championship contestant, and a guaranteed playoff team if they win. The Wolverines are stacked with talent on both sides of the ball, with future NFL playmakers across all levels.

C Olusegun Oluwatimi

No player has been a more frequent PFN Team of the Week mention than Michigan center Olusegun Oluwatimi this year. After transferring from Virginia, Oluwatimi put up an absolutely dominant season for the Wolverines — capped off by a big-time showing against Ohio State.

Interestingly, Oluwatimi doesn’t have elite physical traits, but he’s a strong, powerful interior blocker with great awareness, physicality, and discipline with his assignments.

RB Blake Corum

At times invoking memories of the Muscle Hamster, Blake Corum inspires awe with his natural running ability and enticing playstyle. That’s been the driving force behind his 247-carry, 1,463-yard, 18-touchdown season, and it’s a very translatable style to the next level.

MORE: Top 10 Running Backs in the 2023 NFL Draft

Corum is explosive, agile, and fleet-footed, but also incredibly dense, physical, and well-leveraged in contact situations. He also has the vision to splice through tight lanes and get into space.

DT Mazi Smith

The traits are alluring with Mazi Smith, who’s a freak athlete at 6’3″, 330 pounds. It’s eye-catching watching his flashes as a pass rusher. Players his size shouldn’t have the level of juice that he does.

Smith is still seeking more consistency in both phases. Especially as a run defender, even with his frame, he can give up leverage and positioning at times. But his raw combination of athleticism, strength, and power is almost too much to deal with 1-on-1.

CB DJ Turner

Purdue’s Jones has frequently provoked the ire of quality cornerback prospects this season, including Syracuse’s Garrett Williams and Northwestern’s Cameron Mitchell. He’ll be a tough test for DJ Turner as well, but Turner can truly boost his stock with a standout game against Jones.

Turner has been streaky at times this year, but all the building blocks are there for him to be a starting NFL CB. He offers elite recovery speed, foot quickness, and fluidity, and has flashed playmaking ability in both phases.

WR Cornelius Johnson

He’s a deep sleeper in the 2023 NFL Draft WR class, but all eyes will be on Cornelius Johnson against a fellow 6’3″ athlete in Trice, after Johnson’s breakout game against Ohio State.

Johnson logged 160 yards and two touchdowns on four catches versus the Buckeyes, using his smooth route-running ability and explosive athleticism to frequently find gaps downfield. He and J.J. McCarthy are starting to click, and Johnson has the high-end traits and well-rounded skill set to benefit and be a late-cycle riser.

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