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Denzel Ward is expected to be a first-round pick if he declares for the NFL draft.

Ohio State football: Latest projections for NFL decisions of draft-eligible Buckeyes

Austin Ward

All week long, our Land of 10 reporters following the Buckeyes will address pressing questions on the minds of the Ohio State fan base with our new daily feature. To ask Austin Ward a question, follow along on Twitter and suggest a topic right here. Check back Monday through Friday as we dive into the Ohio State Question of the Day. Go here to see all of our previous answers.

There has only been one early indication so far about a potential decision being made, and that came by accident when Ohio State let it slip that Sam Hubbard went through Senior Tackle before The Game. Other than that, the draft-eligible Buckeyes have been tight-lipped about their decisions heading into the Cotton Bowl ― with even Hubbard emphasizing publicly that he hasn’t made up his mind.

So, that makes it hard to nail down exactly how much talent Ohio State will need to replace at the end of the year, although it’s not impossible. Based on feedback throughout the year, draft stock and the shape of the roster, these are my best educated guesses at the moment for something that is certainly subject to change and will continue to be monitored in the weeks ahead.

Who are the locks to turn pro? I think it’s safe to start with Hubbard, who could have left after the Fiesta Bowl last season and surely would have been drafted. He’s set to graduate and has given plenty to the program, and nobody can blame him for cashing in his stock now. I expect Denzel Ward will be right alongside him, armed with a first-round grade and likely continuing Ohio State’s now annual tradition of having a cornerback picked at the top of the draft. And then even after an up-and-down season, I still think it’s safe to put Jerome Baker and his freaky athleticism at linebacker in this category.

Ohio State-Mike Weber-NFL draft-Buckeyes-running back-projection
Mike Weber will have an NFL decision to make after the season. (Jamie Sabau/Land of 10)

Who is perhaps leaning toward the draft? This is where it gets tricky with some moving parts. Mike Weber is probably a good bet to head to the NFL, considering the pounding running backs take, the injuries he’s already dealt with and the crowded backfield with J.K. Dobbins returning for the Buckeyes next year. Defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones has the physical tools to move on, and there has been speculation that he would get a strong enough evaluation that he wouldn’t need another year at Ohio State to be selected in an early round, making his decision easier.

Who else will weigh the decision? Anybody who is eligible to enter the draft at least will think about the options, and Ohio State has been known to have a few surprise entrants heading to the draft earlier than expected. For a variety of reasons, that means a couple of wide receivers could be candidates to move on, with Johnnie Dixon’s injury history perhaps a factor and Parris Campbell’s breakout season possibly influencing him. Kendall Sheffield has been with the program for only a season, but after playing in junior college following his redshirt year at Alabama, the regular contributor in the secondary is eligible to declare as well. It seems likely that Sheffield would be wise to stick around and develop into the next first-round pick for the Buckeyes, but as with the other players, there’s nothing wrong with weighing the options.

If it plays out as expected, even with a list like that, Ohio State might not feel that it’s been hit all that hard with early departures. But stay tuned. The time for official decisions is coming quickly.

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