Ten final thoughts on Ohio State football's 10 NFL draft picks

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Josh Myers, here helping quarterback Justin Fields get off the turf after a sack, could start in Green Bay.

Ohio State saw 10 of its players selected in the NFL draft for a second consecutive year.

The total matched Alabama for the most among all schools, a fitting outcome after the teams met in the national championship game in January and were ranked near the top of the polls throughout the fall.

It’s rare for a Buckeyes draft class to be as deep as it was last week. Only six other times since the common draft era began in 1967 did the program have double-digit players picked. The previous drafts included 2020, 2016, 2004, 1976, 1975 and 1971.

Closing the book on this year’s draft, here are 10 final thoughts on Ohio State’s 10 draftees and their place with their new teams.

1. One day following his selection by the Chicago Bears with the No. 11 overall pick, Justin Fields did little to hide his ambition. “I expect myself to be a franchise quarterback,” he said, “and one day, hopefully, a top-five quarterback in this league.” If successful, he will buck convention. Chicago has been a quarterback wasteland. Its last All-Pro quarterback was Johnny Lujack in 1950. Fields will at least work with coach Matt Nagy, who has a more established track record with quarterback development, working with Patrick Mahomes as a rookie when he was the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator in 2017.

2. After linebacker Pete Werner was picked by the New Orleans Saints in the second round, he acknowledged the franchise as “almost the capital for guys coming out of Ohio State.” It’s true they have drafted a lot of Buckeyes, including 10 the past two decades, but it’s as noteworthy that most have fared well recently too. Wide receiver Michael Thomas has twice earned first-team All-Pro honors, and cornerback Marshon Lattimore has made three Pro Bowls.

Linebacker Pete Werner joins a host of other former Buckeyes in New Orleans.

3. Josh Myers is poised to compete for the starting center position in Green Bay, which took him in the second round after Corey Linsley left in free agency. But he could also line up elsewhere on the interior of the offensive line, as the team listed him as both a center and guard following his selection, and Matt Malaspina, the Packers’ director of college scouting, noted Myers would not be limited to center. “He played center at Ohio State,” Malaspina said, “but he’s an athletic kid. He's big. He's really strong. That’s not an issue at all.”

4. Over two seasons starting at Ohio State, Wyatt Davis lined up as a right guard, but he could play at either guard spot with the Minnesota Vikings.  “We talked to our coaches, does it matter where they line up on the left side or the right side?” general manager Rick Spielman said. “Coaches don’t think it’s a big issue where they line up. They can line up on either side.”

5. Trey Sermon could be a plug-and-play option in the backfield for the San Francisco 49ers, who grabbed him late in the third round after Jerick McKinnon, their third-leading rusher in 2020, left in free agency. As a physical runner, Sermon offers a complement to Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson, smaller, speedier running backs who remain on the roster.

Running back Trey Sermon might be in line for immediate playing time in San Francisco.

6. Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio said he expects Baron Browning to start out as an inside linebacker after he played both inside and outside spots with the Buckeyes. It’ll be worth watching if he is able to settle in at one position. Looking back on Browning’s college career, Fangio said, “Sometimes, his versatility has kind of hurt him a little bit in his development.

7. How common is Tommy Togiai’s I-71 path from Ohio State to Cleveland? Since the Browns were reborn in 1999, they had drafted only three other Buckeyes in tight end Darnell Sanders in 2002, wide receiver Brian Robiskie in 2009 and cornerback Denzel Ward in 2018. Over the same stretch, the Cincinnati Bengals, the other in-state franchise, have selected five players from Ohio State, and all of them since 2012.

8. While tight end Luke Farrell wasn’t a major part of Ohio State’s passing game the past two seasons, catching a combined 12 passes as a senior and junior, he could make an impact right away in Jacksonville because of his blocking. He received a run blocking grade of 80.8 from Pro Football Focus last season that was the highest among all Big Ten tight ends.

Ohio State center Josh Myers listens to quarterback Justin Fields call out a play during a game against Indiana.

9. Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta made it clear where the team sees cornerback Shaun Wade fitting into the secondary, referring to him as a nickel cornerback or slot cornerback during a post-draft news conference and pointing to his success inside in 2019. “Really excelled as one of the best corners in football,” DeCosta said, before Wade switched to outside cornerback. The move back shouldn’t be viewed as a demotion. As NFL offenses get increasingly reliant on passing deep, defenses are countering with more defensive backs on the field.

10. A defensive end throughout his career with the Buckeyes, Jonathon Cooper might fit as an outside linebacker in Fangio’s 3-4 base defense in Denver. He was preparing for a potential position switch at Ohio State’s pro day in March when he went through linebacker drills and would still maintain a role on the edge of the line of scrimmage.

11. An additional note on this draft class. Five Buckeyes, including linebacker Tuf Borland, punter Drue Chrisman, place-kicker Blake Haubeil, tight end Jake Hausmann and linebacker Justin Hilliard, signed with teams as undrafted free agents, meaning all of the players from last season’s team that entered the draft will have opportunities to make a 53-man roster or practice squad.

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman

Inside

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