NFL teams have posed the question frequently to Larry Johnson, and in one sense it’s an honor.
It also puts Johnson in a nearly impossible quandary.
In his six seasons as Ohio State’s defensive line coach, Johnson has recruited and developed an impressive number of linemen into NFL players. Until now, two stood above the rest: the Bosa brothers, Joey and Nick.
Joey went No. 3 overall in the 2016 draft to the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers and became the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. Nick did the same for the San Francisco 49ers last year as the No. 2 overall pick.
Now comes Chase Young, and well, you can guess the question Johnson gets: Which of the three is the best?
Johnson is wise enough to deflect.
"I'm not saying," Johnson said with a laugh. "All three have the potential to be the best."
But he did give a breakdown of the defensive ends.
"Nick is very strong and powerful, a great bender," Johnson said, referring to his flexibility. "Joey’s a great technician. He stays in his wheelhouse to do exactly what he does best."
Young, he said, might be the most physically gifted of the three.
"Those are all great athletes, (but) Chase is a different breed," Johnson said. "He can run. He has great get-off. He can bend. He can drop into coverage. He’s got great hands. So he has a little more things in his toolbox that he can use, but they’re all great players."
The Washington Redskins are expected to take Young with the No. 2 overall pick on Thursday after the Cincinnati Bengals presumably take former Buckeyes teammate Joe Burrow, who won the Heisman Trophy and led LSU to the national championship last season.
The Redskins are Young’s hometown team, and he would join fellow Maryland native Dwayne Haskins, the quarterback Washington drafted out of Ohio State in the first round last year.
"Me and Dwayne talk all the time," Young said in February at the NFL combine. "I've known Dwayne since high school. He definitely loves the organization and obviously wants me to come play with him. We'll see how this whole thing turns out."
Young was a five-star prospect coming out of DeMatha Catholic High School and showed flashes of his immense ability as a freshman. He was productive as a sophomore but was slowed by sprains in both ankles.
Healthy in 2019, he was virtually unblockable as he combined his physical gifts with improved technique.
"As we say at Ohio State with coach (Ryan) Day, you're really drinking the Kool-Aid," Young said. "My sophomore year, I was sipping it, but I think my junior year I was drinking gallons all the time. It goes out to coach J. Extra work with him. Film study. And my play recognition was through the roof junior year, and that's one of the main things that helped me through this season."
The only thing that stopped him was a two-game suspension in November after it was revealed that he’d taken out a loan for airfare for his girlfriend to the 2019 Rose Bowl, an NCAA violation.
His mom, Carla, said that was the first real adversity Young has faced.
"Chase was always a good kid, always good academically, never been one to get in trouble ever," she said. "He dealt with it very well, very maturely, and just took all the steps he needed to take to do what was needed."
Johnson said it would have been easy for Young to have left the team to start preparation for the draft after his suspension.
"Don't get me wrong," Johnson said. "He struggled from the inside because he thought he let a lot of people down. But for him to stay resilient and stay resolved and continue to move forward in his career, I think it spoke volumes about who he was and his character."
Young had three sacks against Penn State in his first game back to give him 16½ for the year, but he didn’t have any in Ohio State’s final three games against Michigan, Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and Clemson in the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff semifinal loss in the Fiesta Bowl.
For those looking to nitpick, that’s their best ammunition.
"He didn’t play that dominant brand of football in the final three games after the suspension," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "I don’t know if he was protecting himself from injury or what have you, but he wasn’t (dominant)."
It’s not as if Kiper is down on Young. He described him as a "game-wrecker" and has him going to Washington in his mock draft.
Johnson and Young said it’d be unfair to judge his play in Ohio State’s final three games based solely on the lack of sacks. Johnson said there were several times against Clemson that Young was within inches of making a potentially game-changing play, and that the Tigers altered their offensive game plan to account for Young.
Johnson said that Young’s influence extended beyond the field. He gushed about him as a person.
"Outgoing, bubbly, genuine, sincere," Johnson said. "He loves kids, loves people. He'll stay forever to sign autographs if he needs to. That's the kind of guy he is. Big smile on his face. Makes everybody feel welcome. He's not afraid to touch anyone or touch their lives."
After the season, Young trained in Los Angeles before returning home to Cheltenham, Maryland, when the pandemic hit. Instead of traveling to Las Vegas for the draft, he’ll have a small celebration with his parents and older sister, Weslie.
"It’s disappointing, of course," Carla Young said of missing out on draft festivities in Las Vegas. "But it's still something to be so excited about because it's still a life-changer, and it's the goal that he's had since childhood. He's still going to reach that. It’s still going to be an exciting time."