INDIANAPOLIS ― When Chase Young settled in to speak with reporters at the NFL scouting combine on Thursday, he carried the confidence of a player projected as one of the top picks in the draft.
“I definitely think I'm the best player in the draft,” Young said. “I think I showed it on my tape. You can go to every game; I think I showed it. I definitely think I'll put my best foot forward this year.”
Young, the imposing defensive end who set an Ohio State record last season with 16.5 sacks, is still unlikely to be taken first. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow of LSU is presumed as the top selection of the Cincinnati Bengals when the draft takes place in April.
But Young won’t be far behind. Most observers expect him to be taken second by the Washington Redskins.
Status as one of the top prospects affords Young extra leverage as he prepares. Unlike most other healthy players ― including a slew of former Ohio State teammates ― who will push through bench-press reps or run in the 40-yard dash this weekend to impress NFL talent evaluators, Young will skip the workouts.
It won’t be much different at Ohio State’s pro day on March 25. Young said he will participate only in position drills. He explained that he wanted his predraft workouts to focus more on preparation for minicamp practices rather than combine drills.
“That first day of camp when I step on the field, I want to be the best player I can be,” Young said. “I don't want to waste time trying to be a combine athlete. When I step on the field, I need to know that I put my best foot forward as far as being the best player I can be.”
Young will look to make an immediate impact, as a former teammate did.
Nick Bosa, who was taken by the San Francisco 49ers with the second overall pick last year, strung together nine sacks and emerged as one of the league’s most promising pass rushers, being named defensive rookie of the year.
“He’s always setting the standard,” Young said. “That's just motivation for me to achieve a lot of real good things. It's definitely been a blessing to watch him grow into the player that he is. He's definitely helped me along this process. He hasn't stopped. I'm just grateful to be able to see him grow.”
The combine is largely a formal step in Young’s journey to the NFL. Without on-field testing scheduled, he will take part only in the physicals and interviews with teams, plus media obligations.
He is scheduled to meet with Washington on Friday. If he is taken by the Redskins, it will mark a homecoming. He attended high school in the area and grew up in suburban Cheltenham, Maryland.
Young expressed no preference for a particular destination, but he sounded appreciative of the possibility of playing for his hometown team.
“It’d definitely be a blessing,” he said. “Everybody who has known me since I was younger could come to a game, and things like that.”
It would also put him in position to reunite with some of his former Ohio State teammates, including quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. and receiver Terry McLaurin, two of Washington’s draft picks last year.
Few significant questions surround Young’s status. If there are any, some wondered about his season-ending sack drought. Young did not drop a quarterback in the final three games, including the loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.
But Young didn’t think the lack of sacks was a fair snapshot of his performance.
“I had a lot of quarterback hits, a lot of pressures,” he said. “If you know football, you would see that, you'll see how they changed their whole offensive game plan for one guy.”
He believed his highlight video showed enough.