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Buckeyes Going Pro - NFL Draft Preview

2023 Ohio State University

Just about every year Ohio State will send more players to the NFL than almost any other team in the nation and they typically have multiple players get drafted in the first round. That has been the standard in Columbus for decades and Ryan Day did not break tradition this year as the Buckeyes have 11 athletes available to be drafted in next Thursday's NFL Draft in Kansas City. Let's run down that list and predict where these 11 Buckeyes will be drafted next week.

Quarterback - C.J. Stroud

The Buckeye quarterback has been blessed during his time in Columbus with some of the most gifted wide receivers that college football has ever seen. He was also behind a massive offensive line and next to a deep depth chart of running backs. His life was made easy at Ohio State and one thing is for sure entering draft week. Wherever he goes will not be the cakewalk that was Ohio State. He is a projected top five pick and is a potential candidate to go No. 1 overall. He will likely be sent to a bottom dweller team with hardly any good players and be forced to make due with what he has available. He has one of the best arms in the 2023 class and his accuracy is second to none. Scouts and coaches all seem to love what Stroud can do on the field, but with recent media stories attempting to push certain negative character traits and his bad grade on the NFL's Wonderlic test, he scored an 18%, there is a chance Stroud may fall out of the top five. Which might be a blessing in disguise. The farther he falls in this draft will likely mean he has a better chance of success since he would more than likely end up in the hands of a better team. If he falls out of the top two I think he slides all the way down to Atlanta who holds the No. 8 pick in the draft.

Wide Receiver - Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Smith-Njigba was an incredible player to watch back in 2021 and it's a shame we never saw more of him in 2022. Injuries slowed down what could have been a Heisman caliber season for Smith-Njigba. These injuries also hurt his draft stock as we barely saw what he could do this past year. Despite that GM's and coaches from around the NFL have come out and said that he is the only wideout in this class that they have a first-round grade on. With that being said I think he goes in the top fifteen next Thursday. If the Texans select Stroud with the second pick there is almost no way they don't try and bring in his top wideout from 2021 in Smith-Njigba with the No. 12 pick. If Stroud was to fall down out of the top five however, I think this would push back Smith-Njigba's draft timing as well and he would likely fall back to a team picking 20-32. But I don't think he falls out of the first round.

Offensive Tackle - Paris Johnson Jr.

Upon being drafted Johnson Jr. will be one of the largest offensive linemen in the league. His massive size and incredibly long arms make him a top-15 lock. He has some of the best footwork in the class and will be a day one starter for whoever drafts him. While a lot of teams are searching for a QB this year, the rest of the field are looking to protect theirs and you won't find a more NFL ready linemen that Paris Johnson Jr. I have him projected to the Tennessee Titans with the No. 11 overall pick.

Offensive Tackle - Dawand Jones

What makes Jones such a promising prospect is his size. He measures larger than Paris Johnson Jr. in every category and has an extra year of college experience that his teammate. However, his massive size also comes with a slight downsize. He is not the most agile linemen in the draft and with defensive ends and edge rushers becoming faster and stronger every year that is an important trait for someone on the offensive line to have these days. We saw a number of times this past season Jones getting beat when having to go against a hyper athletic pass rusher. I think Jones is a great prospect, but he is raw and needs to work with an NFL coaching staff to mold him into a great player. I have Jones as an early second round pick with a potential landing spot being the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are in need of improvements up front, but since they have a young quarterback I think they would be willing to allow Jones to develop over for a few years alongside Kenny Pickett and potentially earn a starter that would provide a lot of size for many years.

Center - Luke Wypler

Another offensive lineman from Ohio State that made a quick leap to the NFL after his redshirt-sophomore season. Compared to his o-line counterparts in this draft Wypler is tiny for an offensive lineman. But he makes up for his lack of size with incredible athleticism, a trait that is very important for a center that has to move quick after the snap. With 29 reps on the bench press at the Ohio State Pro Day he also showed that he has more than enough muscle to be worthy of a high draft pick. I would give him a second round grade with a chance he falls to the third. At this point in time I think a probable landing spot is Washington with the No. 47 pick.

Cornerback - Cameron Brown

He is a talented defensive player with great intuition and a feel for the game, but injuries have derailed his draft stock as he has been injured in every season. As a result I think Brown is likely a guy that drops back into the late rounds of the draft with a chance that he goes undrafted. The NFL has seen so many injuries in recent years and guys that come in injury prone don't typically make it in the league. He is a really great player but teams are going to be very cautious drafting Cameron Brown.

EDGE - Zach Harrison

He is what some people have called the steal of the draft this season as he comes in with elite athleticism and a body size that should probably be on the offensive line. He is 6'5 1/2, weighs 274 pounds, has a 10 inch wide hand, and arms that measured over 36 inches in length. He bench pressed 25 reps in his most recent professional test and has impressed a lot of scouts since the end of the season. His size and athleticism keep him out of the bottom rounds, but he hasn't put together enough stats in his time at Ohio State to put him in the first two rounds. I think Harrison is a third round draft pick with a high ceiling that could become a great rusher working alongside an experienced NFL coach.

Safety - Ronnie Hickman Jr.

Another hyper athlete coming out of Ohio State that has had problems with coverage breakdowns throughout his career. Scouts have his defensive coverage grade fairly low and he doesn't have any special characteristics or stats that would make him an early draft pick. His run defense will be what a team drafts him for, he has always excelled against the run and is an extremely hard hitting tackler. Those two factors get him drafted but I don't think he comes off the board before the fifth round.

Defensive Tackle - Jerron Cage

Few fans will remember Cage at Ohio State considering he had only seven starts throughout his five year career in Columbus. Scouts have nothing good to say about him and most of what they do have down is that he is an average player. He likely goes undrafted and winds up on a practice squad next Fall due to his larger than average wingspan.

Defensive Tackle - Taron Vincent

Another five year Buckeye, Vincent goes to the NFL Draft with high aspirations as he tries to live up to his father's legacy. His father Troy Vincent was a five-time Pro Bowl corner and is now executive vice president of football operations with the NFL. His bloodline and quick hands keep him in the draft, but his size likely holds him back despite some decent stats during the 2022 season with the Buckeyes. He likely heads off the board in the sixth or seventh round.

Kicker - Noah Ruggles

No one will ever forget Noah Ruggles' tenure at Ohio State after his missed last second field goal against Georgia. But he should be remembered for all the games he saved at Ohio State during his 2022 season. He was such a huge factor in their success he was awarded the Believeland Buckeye of the Month award back in October for scoring over 25% of the teams points that month. He was a guaranteed lock for points every time he was point on the line and his one miss will be the one everyone talks about. While kickers aren't generally taken in the NFL Draft he has been in the discussion this offseason of potentially being take as this years Mr. Irrelevant, which is the last player taken in the draft. Whether he is drafted or not he will likely find his way onto an NFL roster next season as every team has been searching for a reliable kicker since the extra point try was moved back to the 15-yard line in 2015.

It's a very top heavy class for Ohio State and still a relatively small one as a handful of eligible Buckeyes decided to return to Columbus in search of completing unfinished business that was left out there last year. But nearly everyone of these guys can make day one impacts for their teams. Ohio State has been known for decades for their high caliber players and you never know who the top dog of a class will end up being.

NFL Draft Information:

When: Thursday, April 27th (8 p.m. ET) | Friday, April 28th (7 p.m. ET) | Saturday, April 29th (12 p.m. ET)

How to Watch: ESPN, ABC, NFL Network, fuboTV, CBS Sports HQ


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