5 things to know about Ohio State Buckeyes, NFL Draft

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The 88th NFL Draft is scheduled to take place Thursday through Saturday, and Ohio State football figures to be a big part of it as usual.

How big remains to be seen, but somewhere between six and 10 Buckeyes are likely to be drafted.

The former number is much more likely, and it would represent the low end as far as recent history.

An average of 7.5 Ohio State players were taken annually in the past 10 drafts, including six last year. That snapped a streak of six consecutive years in which at least seven Buckeyes were drafted, including a high of 10 twice (2020 and ‘21).

Here are five things to know about Ohio State and this year’s draft:

1. Three Buckeyes have been invited to the draft in Kansas City.

Quarterback C.J. Stroud, receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. are among 17 players the league has invited to the big event.

They are all heavily expected to be picked in the first round on Thursday night, although speculation the Carolina Panthers traded up to use the No. 1 pick on Stroud has recently turned into a general expectation they will go with Alabama quarterback Bryce Young instead.

2. Stroud might slide to No. 3 — or later.

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah is among those hearing the Houston Texas are not going to use the No. 2 pick on a quarterback.

“Those were kind of the whispers, and now I think that whisper has kind of turned into a roar,” Jeremiah said. “There’s a lot of people around the league that believe that that’s the case that they aren’t going to take a quarterback.”

The reigning Big Ten Quarterback of the Year is a sure-thing to be picked early Thursday night regardless.

Young and Stroud are the most accomplished signal-callers in this draft, but Kentucky’s Will Levis, Anthony Richardson of Florida and Hendon Hooker of Tennessee are also though to be in the running to go early based more on raw talent.

“From my tape study and the homework I’ve done watching these guys, I think there is a gap between C.J. Stroud and then that next group with Richardson and Levis,” Jeremiah said.

3. Smith-Njigba’s stock is hard to peg.

Despite a hamstring injury limiting the junior from Texas to five catches in three games last season, he is widely expected to go in the first round. That would make him Ohio State’s third first-round receiver in two years (joining Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave) after the school had none from 2008-21.

A year ago, it was fashionable for analysts to say Smith-Njigba might be better than Wilson and Olave, but he was unable to back up those claims.

“Jaxon is a really good player,” Jeremiah said. “I think he will be a high volume slot receiver. There wasn’t a time where I was watching him where I fell out of my chair like you did with those two other guys with how explosive and electric they are.”

4. Johnson is seeking to be Ohio State’s first-round offensive tackle since 2016.

He is part of a well-regarded group that includes Peter Skoronski of Northwestern, Darnell Wright of Tennessee and Broderick Jones of Georgia.

“My order there would be Skoronski and then Wright, but I have in my final ranking Paris Johnson, Darnell Wright, Broderick Jones,” Jeremiah said. “They’re literally 16, 17, 18 on my list.”

The last Buckeye tackle to go in the first round was Butler High School grad Taylor Decker, who went to the Lions with the No. 16 pick.

Prior to that, the last first-round tackle from OSU was No. 1 overall pick Orlando Pace (Rams) in 1997.

4. Dawand Jones is also one of the draft’s men of mystery.

The 6-foot-8, 374-pound senior from Indianapolis is a two-year starter at right tackle who might yet be far from reaching his ceiling, and he plays a position for which there are not enough good players to go around.

He is No. 46 in a consensus draft board assembled by The Athletic but ranked No. 35 overall by Pro Football Focus.

If Jones rises to a first-round pick, Ohio State would have two first-round offensive linemen for the third time (Rufus Mayes and Dave Foley in 1969 and Kurt Schumacher and Doug France in 1975). That would also make Ohio State the first school in the common era to have a quarterback, receiver and two offensive linemen drafted in the first round in the same year.

5. The next-most-likely-to-be-drafted players are Luke Wypler, Zach Harrison, Cam Brown and Ronnie Hickman.

Wypler’s surprise decision to enter the draft appears to ready to pay off as the Buckeyes’ two-year starter at center is No. 86 on The Athletic consensus board and ranked 48th by PFF.

The 6-3, 303-pounder from New Jersey is rated a likely starter in the NFL by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein while Harrison, Brown and Hickman are rated as players “with traits or talent to be above-average backups.”

Harrison is a defensive end who might also slide inside at the next level while Brown is a cornerback and Hickman started at safety the past two seasons for the Buckeyes.

Also in the running to be drafted or likely to sign as free agents if they are not are defensive tackles Jerron Cage and Taron Vincent.

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