COLUMBUS, Ohio — With seven players selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, Ohio State capped an impressive stretch in which 19 Buckeyes have been picked in the past two drafts.
And Ohio State’s pipeline to the pros isn’t showing signs of slowing down. In fact, the best of the Buckeyes might be yet to come.
Thanks to the return of a strong senior class and a crop of rising juniors, Ohio State could break its record of having 14 players picked in a single draft, which the Buckeyes did in 2004.
Looking at the list of NFL prospects still on Ohio State’s roster, the Buckeyes appear poised to reach double digits when it comes to players picked in next year’s draft. And that’s before taking into account players capable of enjoying breakout seasons, as first-round picks Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker did in 2016.
Obviously, a lot can change, but for now, here’s a look at Ohio State’s prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Sure-fire draft picks
Many were surprised to see Lewis, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, return to Ohio State for his senior season. In the past two seasons, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound defensive end has totaled 16 sacks and 24.5 tackles for loss. Should his production continue at that pace, he possesses the potential to be picked in next year’s first round.
Like Pat Elflein, Price opted to return to Columbus for his senior season. The former guard will start for the Buckeyes at center in 2017. With his versatility, strength and status as a four-year starter at Ohio State, Price could be the top interior offensive lineman in next year’s draft.
After passing on this year’s draft, Hubbard will likely be one of the top defensive linemen a year from now, assuming he passes on his senior season. At 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, he possesses the versatility to play in any scheme and has recorded 9.5 sacks in the last two seasons. WalterFootball.com projects the Cincinnati native as a first-round pick.
An All-Big Ten selection in his first season as Ohio State’s starting left tackle, Jones could see a rise similar to that of former Buckeye and current Detroit tackle Taylor Decker. At 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, Jones possesses the size — and ability — to become a first-round pick.
Although he may not technically be a starter, Holmes is an integral part of Ohio State’s defensive line. With the versatility to play end, tackle or outside linebacker, it will be interesting to see how pro teams view the 6-foot-5, 270-pound senior, who possesses potential first-round talent.
Likely draft picks
No Ohio State prospect will be talked about more in the next year than Barrett, who will go down as the most accomplished quarterback in Buckeyes — if not Big Ten — history. After a sluggish finish to his junior campaign, the two-time Big Ten Quarterback of the Year is hoping a big senior season will help bolster his draft stock. While he may not possess prototypical size for an NFL passer, it’s hard to imagine a quarterback with Barrett’s resumé going undrafted. Where he’s picked will depend on what he does in the next 12 months.
One of the leaders of the Buckeyes defense, Worley will move to middle linebacker as a senior, replacing Raekwon McMillan. While he may be undersized (6-foot-2, 230 pounds), Worley’s versatility and ability will make him attractive to NFL teams next spring.
Baugh’s 24 catches for 269 yards and 2 touchdowns last season were more than former Ohio State tight ends Jeff Heuerman or Nick Vannett compiled before they were drafted in 2015 and 2016, respectively. The California native’s athleticism is appealing and one reason why a team will likely call his name next year.
After a breakout season in 2016 (83 tackles, 9.5 for a loss), Baker could be primed for bigger things in his junior campaign. At 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, the Cleveland native possesses the type of speed NFL teams covet at the linebacker position.
It seems irresponsible to talk about Ohio State’s draft prospects without mentioning a cornerback. After all, Buckeyes cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs has produced four first-round picks in the past four years, including two this year.
The next man up is Ward, who is viewed by Coombs as a returning starter. The fastest player on Ohio State’s roster, the junior has all the makings to become the Buckeyes’ next first-round corner.
While Webb struggled at times in his first season as a starting safety, Ohio State defensive coordinator and safeties coach Greg Schiano has vouched for the former 4-star prospect‘s offseason development. With two seasons as a starter in one of the nation’s top defenses, it’s tough not to give Webb the benefit of the doubt as a draft prospect.
Possible draft picks
Now playing H-back in Urban Meyer’s offense, Campbell possesses the potential to land on NFL radars in the coming year, just as Curtis Samuel did a season ago.
Should he manage to stay healthy after missing most of the 2016 campaign, Booker could become the Buckeyes’ third linebacker prospect in the 2018 draft.
If the redshirt sophomore can build on the 1,096 yards and 9 touchdowns he compiled in his debut campaign, he could make the jump to the pros in 2018. At 5-foot-10 and 214 pounds, Weber possesses ideal NFL size.
Damon Arnette/Kendall Sheffield
Whoever winds up starting opposite Ward at cornerback will likely have a shot to make a jump to the NFL next spring, whether it’s the redshirt sophomore Arnette or JUCO transfer Sheffield.
In order to ensure he’s picked a year from now, the defensive tackle will need his 2017 production to match his NFL size (6-foot-3, 305 pounds).
Sprinkle served as one of Ohio State’s starting defensive tackles in the 2016 season opener before missing the rest of the year due to injury. A strong return could make him a potential mid-round pick a year from now.
While he struggled in his first season as a starter, Prince possesses the size (6-foot-7, 310 pounds) and talent to transform into an NFL-type talent. It’s more likely, however, that he returns as a senior in 2018 to showcase his skills as a left tackle after Jones’ eligibility expires.
Should Smith stay healthy and earn regular playing time, the former 4-star safety’s hard-hitting style could translate well to the next level.