Haskins hopes to elevate Buckeyes' QB standing in NFL

Bill Rabinowitz

As Dwayne Haskins Jr. prepares for the NFL combine this week in Indianapolis, he is on the precipice of something achieved by only one other Ohio State quarterback.

Barring a shocking drop down draft boards, Haskins will join Art Schlichter as the only Buckeyes QB to be taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Schlichter went fourth overall to the Baltimore Colts in 1982 before his career and life derailed because of his gambling addiction.

Haskins is expected to go in the top half of the first round. Speculation already is swirling that the New York Giants want him with the sixth pick.

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It is a remarkable rise for someone who hadn’t started a college game until last season. It is also remarkable that a program like Ohio State has failed to produce standout NFL quarterbacks. The Buckeyes have had 48 first-round picks at other positions since the Colts took Schlichter.

It’s not just OSU quarterbacks that haven’t gone in the first round. Since Carolina took Penn State’s Kerry Collins with the fifth pick of the 1995 draft, no Big Ten quarterback has been selected in the first round.

In some ways, that speaks more to the NFL’s failings than the Big Ten’s. There is reason to think that Michigan’s Tom Brady and Purdue’s Drew Brees might sneak into the first round if teams could do a re-draft for 2000 and 2001.

But Ohio State quarterbacks who went later in the draft also have failed to make much of a mark.

Here’s a sampler: Troy Smith, a fifth-round pick in 2007 after winning the 2006 Heisman Trophy, started only eight games in a four-year career.

Terrelle Pryor, a five-star prospect out of high school, was taken in the third round of the 2011 supplemental draft and later switched to receiver.

Cardale Jones has played in only one game since he was taken in the fourth round of the 2016 draft.

The most productive Ohio State quarterback in the NFL wasn’t drafted. Mike Tomczak lasted 15 seasons and had a 42-31 record as a starter. But he also threw more interceptions (106) than touchdown passes (88) and had a completion percentage of 53.4 percent.

The next-best career probably belonged to Kent Graham, an NFL journeyman who had 38 starts spread over nine seasons.

Ohio State’s unimpressive pedigree is of little concern to Haskins.

“I’m not really worried about that as far as not having a sure-fire NFL quarterback from Ohio State,” he said in December. “I know what I can do. I know how great I can be and how much work I can put in to get where I want to be. I want to be the first (to succeed).”

It could be important for Ohio State that he does. Part of the reason for the lack of top OSU quarterbacks in the NFL is that historically, the Buckeyes’ offensive schemes haven’t been designed to produce them. Schlichter, under coach Earle Bruce, was the first OSU quarterback to play in an offense that used the pass extensively.

Woody Hayes famously regarded the pass as a necessary evil, the less used the better. John Cooper, Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer generally didn’t use quarterbacks the way they typically play in the NFL.

Haskins’ skill set and Meyer’s decision to let Ryan Day take more command of the offense in 2018 allowed for the record-breaking statistics that Haskins produced.

With Day, who was a quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, the expectation is that Ohio State will continue to air it out. That was a major factor in Justin Fields’ decision to transfer to Ohio State from Georgia.

“I think I made kind of a business decision,” Fields said, “and coach Day, he’s been in the NFL so he knows what it takes to get there. The offense and how successful it was last year, I just hope to kind of do the same thing (Haskins) did.”

As a true sophomore, Fields will be at Ohio State a minimum of two seasons. The same goes for Matthew Baldwin, if the redshirt freshman wins the job.

Day’s system, and the talent that surrounds the Ohio State quarterback, should result in more gaudy numbers from that position. Success begets success, on the field and in recruiting. The Buckeyes have a 2020 pledge from Arizona quarterback Jack Miller, ranked third among pro-style passing prospects in his class.

So as Haskins readies for the NFL, the Buckeyes hope he clears space for a Buckeyes quarterback pipeline that has been stunningly empty.


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