In preparation for the 2014 NFL Draft, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top draft-eligible prospects from FBS-level programs. This summer series will run until the start of the college football season.
OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 23
2013 NFL Draft picks: 3 – DT Johnathan Hankins (2nd round, New York Giants), DE John Simon (4th round, Baltimore Ravens), OT Reid Fragel (7th round, Cincinnati Bengals)
No Big Ten team has produced more NFL players than the Buckeyes and as Urban Meyer's squad prepares for a National Title chase in 2013, Ohio State will again boast over a dozen future pros this fall. The Buckeyes haven't had multiple top-20 picks in the same year since 2006 (AJ Hawk, Donte Whitner, Bobby Carpenter), but if cornerback Bradley Roby and linebacker Ryan Shazier, both juniors, declare early for the NFL, Ohio State should have a pair of early first round picks once again.
Top Ohio State prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft
1. CB Bradley Roby (5-11, 193, 4.42)*
Arguably the best cornerback at the college level, Roby passed up the first round to return to Ohio State for his junior season, but the vibe around the program is 2013 will be his final in Columbus. He has started 23 games the past two seasons for the Buckeyes with five career interceptions, leading the nation in passes defended per game last year with a 1.73 average. Roby has elite speed, range and closing burst, displaying an explosive gear to eat up grass in a hurry with the make-up speed to recover and chase down ballcarriers. His foot quickness is above average, easily getting out of his breaks with the read-react quickness to anticipate routes and arrive before the ball. Roby has a natural feel in coverage with very good vision and timing to get his hands on the ball and disrupt the catch point. He lowers his pads and is an aggressive hitter in run support, but needs to control himself and be more consistent breaking down at the point of attack. Roby's lack of size and strength will show up at times as he struggles to quickly disengage blocks, especially against bigger receivers on the outside. He has improved his footwork and upper body technique the past two seasons, but his hand use is still a work-in-progress, attracting too many penalties downfield for defensive holding and pass interference. Roby has supreme confidence for the position, but is also susceptible to double-moves and overaggressive angles due to his fiesty nature. Although he still has some wrinkles he needs to iron out, Roby is one of the more exciting defensive prospects for next year's class based off of film study and it won't be surprising if he ends up as a top-10 prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft.
2. OLB Ryan Shazier (6-2, 226, 4.63)*
Simply one of my favorite players to break down on tape, Shazier is an easy prospect to appreciate with his play speed and aggressive nature to blow up blocks and chase down the ballcarrier. A Florida native, he appeared destined for Gainesville to be a Gator, but Ohio State swayed him to move north to be a Buckeye. After a promising freshman season in 2011, Shazier was arguably Ohio State's top defender last season as a sophomore, leading the team with 115 tackles (45 more stops than the Buckeyes' second-leading tackler). He has an explosive first step with instant acceleration, playing with the range to cover both sidelines and make stops in the backfield, also leading the team in tackles for loss (17) last year. Some might be turned off by his lack of ideal size and strength, but Shazier shows better take-on toughness than many linebackers bigger than him. He is instinctive with excellent field vision and recognition skills, rarely making mistakes, but he does have room to get stronger and improve his awareness in pass coverage. A smart, goal-oriented linebacker, Shazier has a good head on his shoulders and is fueled by his football passion and desire to be the best. If he continues to grow and takes another step forward as a junior in 2013, Shazier could join Roby as a top-20 selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.
3. OT Jack Mewhort (6-6, 308, 5.24)
The leader of the Buckeyes' veteran offensive line, Mewhort bounced around to different positions during his freshman and sophomore seasons, but when he earned the left tackle job as a junior, it seemed to stabilize Ohio State up front. He has a tall, well-proportioned frame with adequate length and while he's not the most athletic blocker in space, Mewhort sets up quickly with his wide base, sits in his stance and stays balanced through contact in pass pro. During film study, it was obvious that Mewhort has grown considerably over the years with his recognition skills and awareness, better anticipating defenders and putting himself in position to succeed. He flashes a nasty demeanor on the field, but needs to work harder to sustain and engage blocks through the whistle, especially in the run game. Mewhort provides a strong leadership presence on offense and although he isn't the loudest, everyone stops and listens when he does talk. He leads by example on and off the field, earning praise from the coaching staff for his impeccable work ethic in the weight and film rooms. Mewhort did get in a little bit of trouble last summer when he was arrested and suspended for urinating in public and evading the police, but that was considered an isolated incident. When discussing the top senior tackle prospects for next May's NFL Draft, Mewhort doesn't belong in the same conversation as Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan, but with a strong senior season, he could be a NFL Draft riser over the next nine months.
4. ATH Braxton Miller (6-1, 215, 4.56)*
The engine that makes the Ohio State offense go, Miller was one of the top quarterback recruits to come from the high school ranks two years ago and he hasn't disappointed. An explosive, dynamic dual-threat signal caller, he has shown the ability to win with his rocket arm or athleticism, already totaling 5,184 total yards in his first two seasons in Columbus. Miller set career-bests last season as a sophomore, leading the team with 1,271 rushing yards, 2,039 passing yards and 28 total touchdowns (15 passing/13 rushing). He has explosive footwork and a fluid body type to get himself out of trouble with his legs and vision, making defenders miss with the acceleration and long-speed to finish runs. As a passer, Miller is still a work-in-progress. He has all the arm strength necessary to be productive at the college and NFL levels, generating torque through his hips to make snap throws, but his accuracy and touch have been shaky. Miller, who is still looking for his first 250-yard passing game in college, boosted his completion percentage as a sophomore, but in 12 games last season, he finished north of 60% just three times. He has the bad habit of prematurely vacating the pocket before he needs to, but he can adjust his throwing platform on the move with a quick set-up and delivery. Right now, Miller is the type of athlete that will garner early round consideration in the draft, but he still has a lot of work to do before scouts are convinced he has the passing consistency to start at quarterback in the NFL.
Other Ohio State prospects worth watching:
RB Carlos Hyde (6-0, 242, 4.56)
The Buckeyes leader in rushing touchdowns last season, Hyde is well-built from head to toe and is at his best running with a head of steam, lowering his pads and pounding forward. He tends to have an identity crisis at times, not breaking as many tackles as expected, but can also turn on the jets when he needs to win the edge. Hyde, who will miss the first three games of 2013 due to an off-field incident, isn't an early round type of prospect but certainly draftable.
RB Jordan Hall (5-8, 198, 4.54)
The ballcarrier expected to play the “Harvin role” in Meyer's offense, Hall has a compact build with a good mix of quickness, power and vision to pick through the defense. He has strong durability concerns and routinely seems to be shaken up, recording only 40 carries last season due to various injuries. Overall, Hall is a good athlete when healthy but lacks special ability, taking what he's given but little after that.
WR Devin Smith (6-1, 198, 4.55)*
Best known for his one-handed touchdown grab in the season opener last season, Smith finished 2012 with only 30 catches (half of Corey Brown's 60 receptions), but he led the conference with a 20.6 yards per catch average. He is an exciting player who can create with the ball in his hands, but reliability and focus are concerns. Smith has an immense amount of talent, but consistency has kept him from reaching his full potential thus far.
WR Corey Brown (5-11, 187, 4.37)
Ohio State's leading receiver from a year ago, Brown has speed to burn, but despite his jets, he has struggled to escape the grasp of defenders and still needs to prove he's more than just a track guy in pads. Brown has shown improved confidence over his career and has become more reliable catching and securing the ball with his hands, but he still has room to grow before he's ready for the NFL.
OG Andrew Norwell (6-5, 320, 5.21)
After starting his career at left tackle, Norwell found a home inside at left guard where he has started 20 games the past two seasons for the Buckeyes. He has tight hips, heavy feet and looks more comfortable in small areas, but is a patient grinder who squares his shoulders and wins with proper positioning to stay in front of defenders. Norwell has room to improve his hand work, both his placement and punch, but he gets results.
OG Marcus Hall (6-5, 315, 5.18)
A physically impressive blocker, Hall enters his third year as a starter on the Buckeyes offensive line and is expected to man the right guard spot for Ohio State in 2013. He has been up-and-down over his career, but has steadily improved and reportedly looked leaner and meaner this spring after losing 15 pounds, showing improved movement skills. If Hall takes another step forward during his senior season, the NFL will be a real possibility for him.
C Corey Linsley (6-2, 298, 5.24)
A native of Youngstown, Linsley is an easy guy to like with his tough-as-nails attitude and football smarts on the field. He bounced around the offensive line his first two seasons at Ohio State, but settled in as the starting center last year and is arguably the top player at his position in the conference. Linsley is strong, but not overpowering, and athletic, but not overly explosive – he rarely stands out, but usually gets the job done.
ILB Curtis Grant (6-2, 241, 4.59)*
While Shazier receives most of the credit (and deservedly so), Grant is poised for a breakout season in 2013 and could emerge as one of the top linebackers in the Big Ten. A former five star high school recruit, his production hasn't matched the hype yet, but the coaches have been pleased with his progress and he should start next to Shazier as the Buckeyes starting middle linebacker in the fall.
FS CJ Barnett (6-0, 203, 4.52)
After a promising sophomore season, Barnett struggled to take the next step in his development as a junior in 2012 and had a very average year on tape. He is a fast, aggressive downhill striker who isn't shy about attacking the ballcarrier, totaling 140 tackles over his Ohio State career. Barnett shows good timing in coverage to make plays on the ball, but too often is a step late in coverage, losing sight of his man and giving up big plays.
SS Christian Bryant (5-10, 192, 4.46)
Although he's not the biggest or fastest, Bryant is a tough and talented football player who is one of the more underrated Big Ten senior prospects entering the year. A former cornerback, Bryant has lined up mostly at strong safety and nickel defensive back over his time in Columbus and makes his presence known with his aggressive nature and range to cover a lot of ground, playing with a chip on his shoulder.