Big Ten rankings: No. 17, Kenny Bell

We're counting down our rankings of the Top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2013 season. This list is based on past performance and potential for the upcoming season only. We do not consider NFL potential for purposes of these rankings.

Coming up next is the man known as Afro Thunder ...

No. 17: Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska, junior, 6-foot-1, 185 pounds

2012 postseason ranking: Not ranked

2012 numbers: Caught 50 passes for 863 yards and eight touchdowns.

Why he's here: Bell is one of the top wideouts in the Big Ten and is especially dangerous as a deep threat. His 17.3 yards per catch average last year was tops among all league receivers who had more than 30 receptions.

Bell had three 100-yard games and was on pace to become Nebraska's first-ever 1,000-yard receiver before slowing down a bit in the latter half of the season. Still, he finished with the fourth-most single-season receiving yards in school history, and he's taking aim at that 1,000-yard mark this year.

If Bell were simply a deep target, though, he might not rank as high as he does on this list. But his stats don't tell you how much he has improved as a physical, downfield blocker -- a trait that is incredibly important for Nebraska's receivers to help spring the running game. We'd caution Bell not to try this kind of hit again, given the harsh penalties for targeting that will be implemented this year. But that showed he's not afraid to mix it up, and no one can accuse him of being just a prima donna receiver.

It doesn't influence our rankings, but Bell is one of our favorite personalities in the league. He's also going to be one of Taylor Martinez's favorite weapons yet again.

The countdown

No. 25: Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois

No. 24: Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa

No. 23: James White, RB, Wisconsin

No. 22: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

No. 21: John Urschel, G, Penn State

No. 20: Tyler Scott, DE, Northwestern

No. 19: Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State

No. 18: Deion Barnes, DE, Penn State