Ohio State Buckeyes: What to know about OSU and the NFL Draft

The 2021 NFL Draft is set to begin Thursday night, and a dozen or so Ohio State football players could hear their names called before it is over Saturday afternoon.

While the first night is expected to include one Buckeye — and perhaps lots of drama — the most action could come Friday night and early Saturday.

Here is a look at Ohio State and the 2021 NFL Draft before it gets underway in Cleveland:

1. Justin Fields should be picked in the first round.

The two-time Big Ten Quarterback and Offensive Player of the Year gives Ohio State an opportunity to have a top five pick for the fourth straight year, something done only once in the common era (since 1967). USC pulled off that feat from 1994-97.

College football writers have had Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Fields ranked 1-2 since they were both high schoolers in Georgia.

Media draft analysts picked up that baton and ran with it until January, when real NFL scouts started to dig in and form their opinions.

Shortly thereafter, BYU’s Zach Wilson reportedly became the apple of the New York Jets’ eye, and they are expected to select the Cougar QB after Jacksonville selects Lawrence first overall.

Who comes next from a group of Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Alabama’s Mac Jones has been the subject of a great deal of conjecture.

Fields is looking to be just the third Ohio State quarterback drafted in the first round, joining Art Schlichter in 1982 and Dwayne Haskins in 2019.

If Fields is chosen in the top 10, he will be the third Buckeye offensive player to go that high since 2000, joining Ezekiel Elliott and Ted Ginn Jr.

2. NFL.com rates six players as at least “good backups with the potential to be starters.”

That group consists of Fields, linebackers Baron Browning and Pete Werner, running back Trey Sermon and offensive linemen Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis.

Defensive back Shaun Wade and defensive tackle Tommy Togiai are rated in the “backup/special-teamer” range with defensive lineman Jonathon Cooper, tight end Luke Farrell, punter Drue Chrisman and linebacker Tuf Borland given “chance to make the end of a roster or practice squad” status.

Linebacker Justin Hilliard and kicker Blake Haubeil are considered priority free agents.

3. There is some variance in the rankings of the Buckeye prospects.

The Athletic crunched the numbers from more than 50 prospect ranking sites and analysts and found Fields as the consensus No. 5 pick, including the No. 2 quarterback behind Lawrence.

Davis checked in next at 55 followed by Browning (65), Myers (72), Werner (77) and Togiai.

Pro Football Focus ranked Davis the No. 61 prospect while on NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has the All-Big Ten guard just outside his top 100 (at 101).

On the flip side, Jeremiah has Myers ranked No. 57 among all players while PFF rates the Miamisburg graduate nearly 100 spots lower (154).

Jeremiah also has Werner higher than the consensus (64th as opposed to 77th).

At No. 97 on its board, PFF has Werner 20 spots lower than the consensus but ranks Hilliard and Cooper much higher.

4. Injury histories could muddy the waters for three former five-stars prospects.

Hilliard and Cooper present interesting situations as both were five-star recruits coming out of high school who had to overcome multiple injuries before making an impact later in their careers.

Neither ever became a star, though, and what an NFL team can expect to get from either is understandably uncertain.

PFF has Hilliard ranked No. 113 (compared to 222 in the composite ranking) while Cooper checks in at No. 122 (vs. 199).

Wade is also a former five-star who missed his entire freshman year with an injury before finding a role at nickel or slot safety as a redshirt freshman and a sophomore. He returned for a fourth season with the stated goal of showing he could also play outside cornerback, but that seemed to backfire as he struggled in multiple high-profile matchups against talented receivers (Penn State, Indiana, Alabama). After the season, it was revealed he was playing through turf toe, so teams have to decide who the real Wade might be.

He did not make Jeremiah’s top 150 but is 103rd in the consensus rankings compiled by The Athletic and No. 132 on PFF’s board.

5. Some trends are not likely to continue.

Ohio State has had at least two first-round picks in each of the past five drafts. That streak figures to be snapped.

Ohio State leads all schools in defensive players taken in the first round with 24 since 2000. That number figures to stay the same, but it will also remain the most. Miami (Fla.) is second with 17 while Alabama has 16.

Ohio State also leads with eight first-round defensive backs since 2010, but Alabama (seven) could match or surpass that mark.

Also worth watching: How many first-round picks come from USC.

The Buckeyes and Trojans are tied with the most (71) in the common era (since 1967).

USC has one potential first-rounder in offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker.

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