COLUMBUS — Ohio State’s brand was all over last year’s NFL Draft.
Three former Buckeyes were picked with the top three picks in 2020, the first time three teammates have ever been selected Nos. 1-2-3. Heisman Trophy Winner Joe Burrow, who won a national championship at LSU after spending three seasons in Columbus, went to Cincinnati with the first overall pick. Defensive end Chase Young was taken at No. 2 by the Washington Football Team and Jeff Okudah went third overall to the Detroit Lions.
On top of that, Ohio State became the all-time leader in most first rounders with 84 picks, edging out USC’s 82. In total, Ohio State had 10 products selected.
And now the Buckeyes are back for more. After having 14 players invited to this year’s NFL Combine — the most of any team — it looks like Ohio State will top last year’s number of selections. Still, with a week until the draft opens on Thursday night, there’s plenty of unanswered questions.
How many will actually be drafted? Where will Buckeyes fall? Lettermen Row has identified the five biggest questions as the NFL Draft nears.
Where will Justin Fields land?
With every mock draft comes a new landing spot for the former Ohio State quarterback. One day, Justin Fields is with the San Francisco 49ers. The next day, it’s the New England Patriots. There’s no sense to the madness, especially when its only ramping up with a week remaining. With nearly every draft analyst projecting Fields to a different team, however, it’s fair to assume he’s sitting at different slots on team’s big boards. He won’t drop outside the top 10, but don’t be surprised if he’s still available after the coveted top-three picks pass. Expect him to land with either the 49ers, Broncos, Falcons or Patriots.
How far will Shaun Wade slide?
Shaun Wade was once projected as a potential first-round pick in next week’s draft. Instead, he probably won’t hear his name until late on Day Two. He made the switch to the outside last year, trying to become a lockdown, one-on-one cornerback. Wade’s project didn’t go as planned; per Pro Football Focus he allowed 16 catches for 230 yards and three touchdowns in Ohio State’s two College Football Playoff games. He’s now projected to be a late-third or early-fourth round pick. Wade could go higher if a team wants drafts him just to play inside at the slot, the same position that hurdled him into the first-round pick conversation. Solid landing spots for him include the Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Can second Buckeyes player be drafted in top two rounds?
Despite having 14 players invited to the NFL Combine this year — the most of any school — the odds are strong the Buckeyes will probably only see one player taken in the top two rounds of the NFL Draft for the first time since 2015. But if there’s one guy who can go in the top two rounds after Justin Fields, Wyatt Davis is the best bet. The offensive lineman was a two-time All-American and member of the most recent All-Decade team in the Big Ten, and he could’ve opted out this fall but chose to return. Connor Hughes, who covers the New York Jets for The Athletic, participated in the publication’s beat writer mock draft and chose Davis with the No. 23 overall pick, calling him the best pure guard in this year’s draft class.
Can Ohio State linebackers find right home?
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Pete Werner and Baron Browning rising up his draft board. Werner had a great showing at his Pro Day, while Browning’s athleticism allows him to fit into a multitude of defensive schemes. But what both need at the next level is to land in the right spots. Werner was initially an outside linebacker in Ohio State’s 4-3 defense, but he also played inside later in his career thanks to his versatility. His ability to drop into coverage suits him well to play the outside at the next level. Browning moved around a bit during his time in Columbus, but he finally found his comfort spot at outside linebacker. Making sure he can show off his pure athleticism and not move back inside could be the key to his success in the NFL. Justin Hilliard has the versatility to be a career special teams player. And Tuf Borland’s natural leadership qualities can be used in any NFL locker room.
Can Trey Sermon be NFL featured back?
All it took was three games for Sermon to become endeared forever to the Buckeyes. His 331-yard performance at Lucas Oil Stadium in December delivered Ohio State a Big Ten Championship and berth in the College Football Playoff. But for everything he showed late in the season, Sermon’s production across a whole season lacked. He possesses the skills teams are looking for in a featured back, but the lack of evidence from his college career won’t help him. If Sermon can land with a team on Day Three that will use his adaptability in situations, he can work his way up the running backs room. And if given the chance, he’ll show the featured back talents he used in the last couple months of his Ohio State career.