Big Ten and the NFL draft: the last decade

Thursday is the start of the 2012 NFL draft, also known as the most important thing in the history of things.

That got me to thinking about which Big Ten teams have been the most successful in producing draft picks and first-rounders. Which led me to doing some research. Which wound up being this post.

I took a look at the last 10 years of NFL draft results. (Why 10 years? Because it's a nice round number. And it's fairly representative of recent success. Also, this is my game and my rules.)

So let's see which schools are the best at churning out the draft picks. First, here's how each Big Ten team stacks up in overall draft picks since the 2002 draft:

1. Ohio State: 66 total draft picks

2. Iowa: 42

3. Nebraska: 41

4. Michigan: 40

5. Wisconsin: 39

6. Penn State: 38

7. Purdue: 27

8. Michigan State: 25

9. Illinois: 22

10. Minnesota: 14

11. Northwestern: 13

12. Indiana: 12

It's no surprise that Ohio State is on top, since the Buckeyes have mostly dominated the league over the past decade and always have blue-chippers. But the fact that they're so far ahead of the rest of the conference schools is impressive. Ohio State has had more draft picks in the past decade than Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern and Indiana combined.

The mild surprise here, for me at least, is Iowa's success. We know Kirk Ferentz's program has done a great job of producing pros, but I didn't expect the Hawkeyes to have the second-most picks, ahead of Nebraska, Michigan Penn State and others. That speaks volumes to the development of players in Iowa City. And Michigan State's number is lower than I expected, though the amount of draft picks should be on the rise soon with what Mark Dantonio has done in East Lansing.

Total draft picks is one way to view draft success. Another measurement is the number of first-rounders. That's where every player aspires to be picked, and it's the only round that gets its own day in prime time (did you know the draft is on ESPN tomorrow night?).

Here's how Big Ten schools have fared in producing first-rounders the past decade:

1. Ohio State: 14 (Michael Jenkins 2004, Chris Gamble 2004, Will Smith 2004, Nick Mangold 2006, Santonio Holmes 2006, Bobby Carpenter 2006, Donte Whitner 2006, A.J. Hawk 2006, Anthony Gonzalez 2007, Ted Ginn Jr. 2007, Vernon Gholston 2008, Beanie Wells 2009, Malcolm Jenkins 2009, Cameron Heyward 2011).

2. Penn State: 8 (Jared Odrick 2010, Aaron Maybin 2009, Levi Brown 2007, Tamba Hali 2006, Larry Johnson 2003, Bryant Johnson 2003, Michael Haynes 2003, Jimmy Kennedy 2003).

T-3. Michigan: 6 (Brandon Graham 2010, Jake Long 2008, Leon Hall 2007, Braylon Edwards 2005, Marlin Jackson 2005, Chris Perry 2004).

T-3: Wisconsin: 6 (Wendell Bryant 2002, Lee Evans 2004, Erasmus James 2005, Joe Thomas 2007, Gabe Carimi 2011, J.J. Watt 2011).

5. Iowa: 5 (Adrian Clayborn 2011, Bryan Bulaga 2010, Chad Greenway 2006, Robert Gallery 2004, Dallas Clark 2003).

6. Nebraska: 4 (Prince Amukamara 2011, Ndamukong Suh 2010, Adam Carriker 2007, Fabian Washington 2005).

T-7. Illinois: 3 (Corey Liuget 2011, Vontae Davis 2009, Rashard Mendenhall 2008).

T-7. Purdue: 3 (Ryan Kerrigan 2011, Dustin Keller 2008, Anthony Spencer 2007).

T-9. Michigan State: 2 (Charles Rogers 2003, T.J. Duckett 2002).

T-9. Northwestern: 2 (Luis Castillo 2005, Napoleon Harris 2002).

11. Minnesota: 1 (Laurence Maroney 2006).

12. Indiana: 0

Again, Ohio State's success is wildly impressive. The Buckeyes produced more first-rounders in 2006 alone than seven other Big Ten teams managed the entire decade. Half of Penn State's haul came in one year (2003). I expected more from Nebraska, and Michigan State's drought is stunning, though Jerel Worthy might very well end that on Thursday.

How much does it all mean? Like everything with the draft, probably not as much as you think. But this should help get you ready for this weekend's extravaganza.