Every year, the Big Ten is considered to be one of the nation’s best football conferences with powerhouses like Ohio State and Michigan. Wisconsin has consistently been one of the better teams in the nation, while Penn State has emerged as a threat after the NCAA sanctions.
The Big Ten has always produced great NFL talent, which will be shown on Super Bowl Sunday.
Here are the top 10 players that played at a Big Ten school.
10. Rob Havenstein, OT Los Angeles Rams
The list starts off with Rams’ right tackle Rob Havenstein from the University of Wisconsin. The 2015 second round pick has started 59 games over his four year career and has been a serviceable right tackle. He excels at sealing defensive linemen in the run game as Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson have been very successful running on his side.
Havenstein’s blocking ability is to be expected as the University of Wisconsin have a long tradition of sending talented linemen to the NFL. He struggles at times in pass protection, which makes it hard for him to be any higher on the list.
9. Duron Harmon, S New England Patriots
While Duron Harmon never played a down in the Big 10, Rutgers’ move to the conference before the start of the 2014 season makes him eligible. He is Patrick Chung’s backup, but the Rutgers product was a vital part of the Patriots’ defense all season. Harmon led the team with four interceptions during the regular season and gives Bill Belichick a ball hawk in the backend of his secondary.
He will see extensive playing time in the Super Bowl as the Rams usually play with three or four receivers on the field. The additional playmakers on the outside for Rams means Harmon has to be a secure tackler in space. His regular season production would put him higher on the list, but he has simply not performed well enough to go any higher on the list.
8. Jason McCourty, CB New England Patriots
The second Rutgers defensive back on the list, Jason McCourty is a key piece to the Patriots’ secondary. He mans the cornerback spot opposite First Team All-Pro Stephon Gilmore. McCourty is good in zone coverage as he is able to break on the ball with great timing.
His five postseason tackles are a little low, but his lack of tackles mean that he is doing a good job in containing his side of the field. McCourty will have his work cut out for him as former teammate Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods are both speedy receivers who run great routes. His spot at number eight could be seen as a little low, but he does not have the numbers to move him any higher.
7. Roger Saffold, G Los Angeles Rams
While offensive linemen do not generate any stats, guard Roger Saffold is a vital part of the Rams offensive line. The Indiana product has played all over the line in his NFL career and his versatility has been vital for the Rams. Saffold is at his best in the run game as he mauls defenders out of the way to create running lanes.
His performance against the Cowboys alone earned him a spot on the list as he helped the Rams control the line of scrimmage in the divisional round. Saffold is one of the best linemen playing in Super Bowl 53, but it is hard to judge linemen as the best players on the field without stats.
6. Adrian Clayborn, DE New England Patriots
Another defensive player from the Patriots, Adrian Clayborn has been a key part of the team’s success in 2019. The eight-year pro from Iowa has been a backup for the majority of the season, but he has been disruptive in the playoffs. Clayborn was constantly in the backfield against the Chargers and Chiefs, stalling their run games.
He is a good pass rusher as well as he had 9.5 sacks for the Atlanta Falcons in 2017. If Clayborn continues to play like he did against Kansas City, the Patriots will cruise to victory in Super Bowl 53.
5. Chris Hogan, WR New England Patriots
School: Penn State/Monmouth
Chris Hogan is the biggest controversy on the list as he played a year of football at Monmouth University. He played lacrosse at Penn State before going to Monmouth, making him eligible for the list. Hogan is one of Brady’s favorite targets as he has a knack for getting open over the middle.
He is third on the team in postseason receptions with eight, but should receive more targets with the Rams focusing on Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Hogan’s lack of Big Ten football makes it hard for to be higher on the list, but the guy nicknamed 7-Eleven will make it on any list of top players.
4. Devin McCourty, S New England Patriots
The third and final Rutgers player on the list, Devin McCourty has been a stalwart of the Patriots secondary for nine years. He has started in 139 games over his career and Belichick has used him in a variety of ways over the years. McCourty had seven interceptions as a rookie cornerback, only to transition into a safety later in his career.
He and Chung cover a lot of ground in the backend of the defense, allowing Belichick to be more aggressive defensively. McCourty will have to be on point against the Rams as Cooks and Woods could cause trouble over the middle of the field. He is an unsung hero for the Patriots and his impact will be felt throughout the game.
3. James White, RB New England Patriots
While James White is not the top running back for the Patriots, he is arguably the team’s most important offensive player outside of Tom Brady. White tied the single-game postseason record for most receptions with 15 against the Chargers in the divisional round. His 14 receptions in Super Bowl 51 is a record, earning him the title of a big game player.
White is a great check-down receiver that Brady relies upon to get chunks of yards to move the Patriots down the field. He is a capable runner as he ran for over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in college, despite splitting carries with Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon. White is going to have a big impact on Super Bowl 53 and has justified his spot on the list.
2. Ndamukong Suh, DT Los Angeles Rams
Ndamukong Suh is one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles as he creates disruption on almost every play. His placement on the defensive line alongside Aaron Donald causes offensive coordinators nightmares due to their game wreaking abilities. Suh is dominant in the run game as he is able to hold his ground in the middle and force his way into the backfield.
He is also a capable pass rusher with 56 career sacks from his defensive tackle position. Suh is one of the best players in Super Bowl 53 and should have a big impact in the game. If Nebraska stayed in the Big 12, Suh would have the top spot for sure, but the top spot is reserved for an all-time great.
1. Tom Brady, QB New England Patriots
The clear choice for the top spot, Brady has consistently kept himself at the top of the league with his accuracy and decision making. The 41-year old quarterback is playing in his ninth Super Bowl, which is close to the age gap between him and Rams head coach Sean McVay. Brady is seeking to become the first ever player in NFL history with six Super Bowls with a win over the Rams in Super Bowl 53.
He is also looking to get his fifth Super Bowl MVP, a record that he already has. Brady is not only the best player in the Super Bowl but is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.