Northwestern receiver Austin Carr signs with Patriots as undrafted free agent

Northwestern receiver Austin Carr signs with Patriots as undrafted free agent

A somewhat undersized, pass-catching machine. Sounds like Tom Brady's new favorite target.

Jokes were flying before this year's NFL Draft that Northwestern wideout Austin Carr would somehow end up with the Patriots and turn into a Pro Bowler.

Well, the first half of that prediction came true shortly after the draft came to a close, as Carr, the reigning Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year, signed with New England as an undrafted free agent.

It was a pretty big head-scratcher when the draft ended and Carr's name hadn't been called. After all, he was one of college football's best receivers last season, named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award after leading the Big Ten in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.

Less of a surprise is where Carr did eventually end up, as the former walk-on looked like a stereotypical Brady target all along. Now Carr is a part of the defending Super Bowl champs.

Northwestern did get two players drafted on Day 3 of the draft, with linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. going to the Indianapolis Colts and defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo going to the Minnesota Vikings.

Eight Big Ten thoughts at the conclusion of the NFL Draft

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Eight Big Ten thoughts at the conclusion of the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is over and done with, and while a flurry of undrafted free agent signings are announced, here's a look at eight Big Ten takeaways from this year's selection bonanza.

1. Michigan has an awful lot to replace

It was a great few days for Jim Harbaugh's team as he watched a program-record 11 players get selected in this draft. But in sending so many players to the pros, it's an unnerving signal for the upcoming campaign, in which Michigan will have replace a whole host of talent. That includes the majority of what was one of the best defenses in college football last season. Four members of the Wolverines' 2016 secondary, three defensive linemen and one linebacker were chosen in the draft, as were three pass-catchers (two receivers and a tight end). A high number of players picked obviously shows how strong Michigan's program is, and it shouldn't be a surprise to see them reload again — just like Ohio State did this past season after last year's draft exodus — but it's a lot of work to do for Harbaugh & Co.

2. Should be a big year for Penn State

The flip side of what happened to Michigan is what happened to Penn State. The Nittany Lions, the reigning Big Ten champs, had just one player picked in seven rounds: wide receiver Chris Godwin. It's a good indication of why James Franklin's team is going into the 2017 as one of the favorites to win the national championship. Not hearing many names called this weekend means those names are all in Happy Valley, ready to work toward what could be an even better campaign than last year's 11-win stunner. Running back Saquon Barkley, quarterback Trace McSorley, tight end Mike Gesicki and a host of others could be in this position a year from now. But the lack of Nittany Lions mentioned this weekend means you'll hear a whole lot about them this fall.

3. Ohio State is DBU

The first three Big Ten products off the board in Thursday night's first round were Ohio State defensive backs. Even as injuries and off-the-field issues raised some red flags, these three guys were the best Big Ten players from wire to wire in the leadup to the draft. Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker and Gareon Conley are going to go make a ton of money after brief college careers. The first two of those three were just one-year starters in Columbus. That speaks to the defensive back factory Urban Meyer has going at Ohio State. Eli Apple was a top-10 pick a season ago, and Vonn Bell was a second-round pick. The year prior, it was Doran Grant getting picked, and Bradley Roby and Christian Bryant were selected in 2014. The Buckeyes might not have the No. 1 defense each and every season, but it's a good bet that offenses will be going up against future pros every single down.

4. Illinois is DLU

While Illinois isn't the type of program Ohio State is by a long shot, it does have an incredible track record when it comes to sending defensive linemen to the NFL Draft. Dawuane Smoot was a third-round pick this year, going to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 68. He was the sixth Illini D-lineman taken in the draft since 2011, joining Corey Liuget, Whitney Mercilus, Akeem Spence, Michael Buchanan and Jihad Ward. Four of those guys, Smoot included, are defensive ends. And Carroll Phillips, another pass-rushing defensive linemen, was expected to be drafted this year but ended up an undrafted free agent. The Illini haven't found wins easy to come by in recent seasons, but they have a terrific track record of NFL guys to sell to recruits, something that should carry even more weight coming from Lovie Smith.

5. Interesting future for bowl games

Michigan tight end Jake Butt made some of the biggest headlines this weekend after he fell to the fifth round. Butt was one of the best tight ends in college football the past couple seasons but suffered a serious leg injury in the Orange Bowl. An insurance policy means Butt will get more than half a million dollars after his fall down the board, but it ties into the bigger question of the future of stars playing in bowl games. Star running backs Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette were first-round picks this weekend, and both sat out their bowl games back in the winter. Michigan played in a high-profile Orange Bowl, but even that game had significantly less juice after the Wolverines were left out of the College Football Playoff. It seems to show that future NFL stars could start sitting out of non-Playoff bowl games en masse. But we'll see how things play out.

6. Where was Austin Carr?

There were plenty of head-scratchers this weekend, but how on Earth did the Northwestern wideout not get selected? Carr is a former walk-on and might not have the size and/or flash of your prototypical NFL receiver, but there were few pass-catchers in all of college football better than Carr last season. The Big Ten's Wide Receiver of the Year, he hauled in 84 passes for 1,196 yards and 12 touchdowns, leading the conference in all three categories and getting named one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, honoring the best receiver in the country. Carr ended up signing with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent — a somewhat predictable landing spot considering he looked like a stereotypical Tom Brady target all along — but you have to imagine his future is bright enough that he should have warranted a draft pick.

7. Is there a quarterback in the house?

Just one Big Ten quarterback was drafted this year, and it was Iowa signal-caller C.J. Beathard, who in his most recent game threw three interceptions in a 30-3 Outback Bowl loss. It's now been 22 years since a Big Ten quarterback was drafted in the first round — Penn State's Kerry Collins in 1995 — and we have to start to wonder if the conference is ever going to boast a quarterback good enough to be someone's first-round, franchise choice. Looking ahead to next season, the pickings remain slim. Ohio State's J.T. Barrett is the least pro-style quarterback you might be able to think of. Northwestern's Clayton Thorson has the style, but will he be good enough or even want to leave school with a season of eligibility remaining? Penn State's Trace McSorley made a lot of big plays last season, but is he NFL material yet? And pretty much every other Big Ten team needs to figure out who's even going to play quarterback before assessing an NFL future.

8. Draft lays out Big Ten power structure

The two Big Ten schools with the most players picked this weekend? Michigan and Ohio State. The two Big Ten schools with no players picked this weekend? Maryland and Rutgers. And the rest of the conference falls in line much like you'd expect. The NFL Draft effectively laid out the Big Ten's power structure in glaring fashion, with the dominant programs obvious and the weak ones obvious. Multiple selections for the likes of Michigan State and Wisconsin. Just one selection for the likes of Illinois and Purdue. There were some irregularities. As mentioned, Penn State only heard one name called. Same for Nebraska. But if you want to know the healthiest Big Ten programs, look at which ones had multiple draft picks this weekend. It also shows the uphill climb facing newcomers Maryland and Rutgers.

Led by 11 Michigan Wolverines, here's a complete list of Big Ten players taken in NFL Draft

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Led by 11 Michigan Wolverines, here's a complete list of Big Ten players taken in NFL Draft

The 2017 NFL Draft is in the books, and as is usually the case each year, the Big Ten was once more well represented.

No school had more players picked than Michigan, which saw a program-record 11 players selected by NFL teams.

Ohio State players also made frequent appearances, with seven of them chosen.

Northwestern had two players picked for the third straight draft, while Illinois sent yet another defensive lineman to the pros, the sixth since 2011.

Here's a complete list of the 35 Big Ten products taken in this year's draft.

First round

11. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State, New Orleans Saints
15. Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State, Indianapolis Colts
24. Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State, Oakland Raiders
25. Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan, Cleveland Browns
28. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan, Dallas Cowboys
30. T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh Steelers
32. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin, New Orleans Saints

Second round

35. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State, Seattle Seahawks
40. Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio State, Carolina Panthers
54. Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State, Miami Dolphins

Third round

68. Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois, Jacksonville Jaguars
70. Pat Elflein, C, Ohio State, Minnesota Vikings
71. Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana, Los Angeles Chargers
74. Chris Wormley, DE, Michigan, Baltimore Ravens
84. Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
92. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan, Dallas Cowboys
95. Delano Hill, S, Michigan, Seattle Seahawks
104. C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa, San Francisco 49ers
106. Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan, Seattle Seahawks

Fourth round

108. Vince Biedel, LB, Wisconsin, Green Bay Packers
109. Jaleel Johnson, DT, Iowa, Minnesota Vikings
120. Ben Gideon, LB, Michigan, Minnesota Vikings
123. Montae Nicholson, S, Michigan State, Washington Redskins
138. Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan, Cincinnati Bengals
139. Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan, Kansas City Chiefs

Fifth round

145. Jake Butt, TE, Michigan, Denver Broncos
146. George Kittle, TE, Iowa, San Francisco 49ers
151. Desmond King, CB, Iowa, Los Angeles Chargers
161. Anthony Walker Jr., LB, Northwestern, Indianapolis Colts
175. DeAngelo Yancey, WR, Purdue, Green Bay Packers
184. Nate Gerry, S, Nebraska, Philadelphia Eagles

Sixth round

197. Jeremy Clark, CB, Michigan, New York Jets

Seventh round

220. Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Northwestern, Minnesota Vikings
222. Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota, Jacksonville Jaguars
239. Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State, Dallas Cowboys