With the unfulfilling, bowl-less end to a perfect season, there is one bright side: we have more time to discuss the NFL Draft. In the past few years, Ohio State (and the rest of the Big Ten in general) has had difficulty producing big-time superstars. At this point, the only Buckeye who is playing at an All-Pro level in the NFL is probably James Laurinaitis, the struggles of Nick Mangold and the Jets notwithstanding. There have been plenty of first round draft selections, however, and the talent pool is certainly there. We'll take a look at this year's notable draft-eligible players and try to project where they'd go if they left. Selfishly we certainly hope that players such as Carlos Hyde and Bradley Roby won't leave, but you never know.
Johnathan Hankins, DT, JR(RS), 6'3, 322 - First Round, Top 15. Big John Hankins has commanded respect and double teams all season long from every team the Buckeyes have faced and yet he has still produced, recording 55 tackles, 4 for loss and one sack. Hankins is used mostly to clog up the middle of the field and would be a valuable piece for any team in the top 15 of the draft running a 3-4 scheme. Comparison: B.J. Raji, Green Bay Packers.
John Simon, DE, SR, 6'2, 263 - Third Round. Simon is a beast in the weight room, brings leadership, and has a motor that just doesn't quit. His physical talents are not eye-popping, and his measurables probably won't be worthy of a typical high-round defensive end unless he runs a super 40 (which isn't likely). Critics will complain about his lack of elite athleticism, but he can be an unstoppable force at times. He finished with 44 total tackles and an insane 14.5 tackles for loss with a team-leading 9 sacks despite playing through injuries much of the year. The most important aspect of his game is that he gets the most out of his talent, and NFL scouts do like that. Comparison: Aaron Kampman without the injuries.
Garrett Goebel, DT, SR, 6'4, 290 - Sixth or Seventh Round. Goebel played well this season next to Hankins, and he did reap some benefits. He had 42 tackles (4 for loss) and a sack on the year. Goebel at this point looks like a solid rotational defensive end who will play a few downs per game if he makes a roster. Comparison: Doug Worthington.
Bradley Roby, CB, SO(RS), 5'11, 190 - Third Round. It seems unlikely that Roby will leave, but if he does he will probably not go as high as Buckeye fans think he ought. His box scores last year did not quite match up to his talent although he certainly showed off his coverage skills when tested. Teams just don't throw to him and that certainly reflects in his stats, as he only had two interceptions. He did have 62 tackles with two for loss and even threw in a sack, so he definitely displayed he's not afraid to come up and hit someone. Roby grades out as a #2 corner with #1 type ability who needs more development. If he stays next year he can be as good as Leon Hall was for Michigan. Comparison: Kareem Jackson, Houston Texans,
Travis Howard, CB, SR, 6'1, 200 - Fifth/Sixth Round. Howard was thrown at more this year and contributed four interceptions. He had a much better senior year than many including myself expected and that has pushed him right back into Day 3 consideration. Howard is a bigger, physical corner who isn't afraid to mix it up and is stout against the run, making 39 tackles. The entire Buckeye secondary seemed to struggle with communication this year, and leaving him out on "Howard Island" is nerve-wracking because he lacks top-end speed and the ability to stay with quicker receivers. He's a late-round prospect, but did well to get himself into the conversation this year. Comparison: Brandon Carr, Dallas Cowboys.
Jake Stoneburner, TE, SR, 6'5, 245 - Fourth Round. Based on physical measurements and abilities alone, Stoney is a first-round pick. But he really tends to disappear in games and being a tight end for Tressel's offense his first two years didn't help. Some team will take a flyer on him pretty early even though he caught only 16 passes for 269 yards and 4 TDs. He is a redzone threat and teams love having that mismatch. Comparison: Martellus Bennett, TE, New York Giants.
Carlos Hyde, RB, JR, 6'0, 232 - Sixth/Seventh Round. Due to the general decline in value of running backs in the NFL, Hyde should probably stay in school. A running back who was the second best threat on the team but did not reach 1000 yards will raise some questions. He did have 16 touchdowns on 180 carries, but only had a long run of 29 yards. Hyde is a powerful, physical runner who really should come back for his senior year to put more carries on tape. Comparison: LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay.
Nathan Williams, DE, SR, 6'3, 249 - Seventh Round/UDFA. Nathan Williams is definitely one of the more athletic defensive ends to come out of Ohio State in quite some time, but his injury issues will absolutely terrify NFL scouts. He did have 2 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss, but overall found his production lacking as he came back from his knee and foot issues. Williams is also a bit undersized, which could potentially lead some teams to stand him up as a 3-4 rush linebacker. He may be best off on special teams if he makes a team to start off with, and knowing his work ethic, it shouldn't be long before he's on an NFL roster. Comparison: Paul Kruger, Baltimore Ravens.
Reid Fragel, RT, SR, 6'8, 310 - Fourth/Fifth Round. I'm just as surprised as you are, but the things I'm hearing from knowledgeable folks that I talk to is that NFL scouts absolutely love former tight ends that convert to tackles because they combine size and athleticism. Fragel is a mammoth with quick feet - I didn't realize he was 6'8 either - who could be a serviceable backup NFL right tackle right now and certainly has the tools to have a nice career in the league. Comparison: Jeremy Trueblood, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Etienne Sabino, LB, SR, 6'3, 237 - Sixth/Seventh Round. Sabino is going to be an excellent special teamer and spot starter for someone down the line. He has lots of physical gifts and brings leadership to the table, but in the end does not have the thump that an NFL linebacker needs despite his size. He can be a playmaker, having amassed 2 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and an interception in 2012, but he'll need to improve his block shedding and downhill play if he wants to start in the league. He is not really the most instinctive player either. For the first year in his career he'll be relegated to mostly kick coverage – something he proved he's excellent at anyway. Comparison: Dan Skuta, Cincinnati Bengals
There are more draft-eligible juniors on the roster – C.J. Barnett, Corey Brown and Christian Bryant pop readily to mind – but in my mind, it is highly unlikely that these players will head for the pros. Brown would probably be the only player out of those three sure to be drafted this year if they all left school.