Ohio State's senior class has some work to do to improve their 2013 NFL Draft status. - John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
With John Simon and Reid Fragel sidelined by injuries, and Travis Howard, Nathan Williams, and Orhian Johnson underwhelming, the Buckeyes' 2013 NFL Draft class seems unlikely to rank amongst the Buckeyes' better ones.
College football's post-career all-star game circuit was supposed to be a chance for some of the Buckeyes' best and brightest seniors to showcase that they had what it took to play at the next level. Instead, in part because of injury, in part because of underwhelming individual showcases, Ohio State's 2013 class of departees is unlikely to go down amongst the best in recent memory.
Beginning with the 2013 Senior Bowl, the prize jewel of the college all-star game tour, many Buckeye devotees wishing their departing seniors the best had high hopes that this game would provide ample opportunity for Ohio State captain (and spiritual leader) John Simon to showcase his flexibility, unrelenting work ethic, and high motor against some of the best college football grads around the country. Instead, it turned into a worst case scenario for Simon's draft stock.
After a day and a half of practice which saw Simon, whom the North Team's coaches from the Oakland Raiders had pegged as more of an outside rush linebacker, struggle immensely in the transition to the new position, things went from bad to worse. Most Buckeye fans and amateur scout types alike would know from having seen Simon in action for so many years, that while he playing a 3-4 OLB role might be a stretch, doing so from a 4-3 package was certain to be unfavorable for the long time d-lineman.
To add injury to insult, Simon pulled up lame during Tuesday's practices and ultimately pulled out of the event with what he referred to as a lingering injury. Given what we know about Simon, it's fully well and possible that he was dead determined to play through the pain, but either it proved to be too much and/or the combination of ineffectiveness while trying to learn a new position on the fly with the impairment encouraged he and his advisors to pursue a different course of action. Now there's whispers that Simon will be consulting with famed sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews about what his options are (which is almost never a sign that the injury is minor). We wish Simon the absolute best; he played through a ton of adversity this year and despite much physical hardship, still managed to garner honors as the Big Ten's 2012 Defensive Player of the Year.
The only other Buckeye expected at the event, former tight end turned tackle Reid Fragel, was suffering an injury and elected to not take any chances by preemptively skipping the event. Fragel, who had an excellent senior year during his first on the offensive line, was said to have but a minor injury and should be ready to make the interview rounds to best position himself to be chosen in this April's draft.
Shifting from Mobile to St. Petersburg, two additional Buckeyes were in town last weekend to attempt to make their names known at the second most prestigious college all-star game, the 2013 East-West Shrine Game. Ohio State defensive back, Travis Howard, the artist formerly known as Howard Island, and the injury-resilient-in-his-own-right defensive end Nathan Williams, were both on hand to show off their skills. While both made it through the week relatively unscathed, neither failed to grab much attention, either positive or negative. Neither exactly stuffed the box score, though, to be fair, they weren't criticized vocally for their relative inactivity either.
Scouts on hand said of Howard that while he showcased good instincts, he failed to distinguish himself athletically in the secondary; the consensus was that Howard would need to be drafted to a team that employs a primarily zone defense to be best utilized. Williams was far more damned with faint praise, with many saying while he "looked good in his uniform" (to borrow one from our friend Kirk Herbstreit), he didn't always play as such on the edge. Neither were first two day picks going into the event, but without either particularly distinguishing themselves, short a monster combine, it's likely they stay as such.
Finally, in the last several weeks' final all-star exhibition, Ohio State safety Orhian Johnson was the lone Buckeye to represent the school at the 2013 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. As we mentioned earlier in the week, Johnson received the highest praise amongst any of the Buckeyes participating in all-star events to that point, and the same still holds true following the Senior Bowl. Unfortunately for partisan Buckeyes' sake, Johnson still didn't exactly set the world on fire with his performance. He may have practiced and played his way into a third day draft selection, but that remains no sure thing.
All in all, given the lukewarm exhibition put on by the graduating Buckeyes (excluding former tight end turned wide receiver Jake Stoneburner, punter Ben Buchanan, and fullback-converted-into-linebacker Zach Boren), it's unlikely that anyone had their draft status impacted in any meaningful way. The lone exception might be Simon, with whom the added injury woes only goes to lengthen an already relatively long list of concerns about the tweener former Buckeye. At one point, Simon was thought to be as early as a second or third round pick, but given the injury trepidations and his brief struggles at 4-3 OLB, it's possible he'll now find himself a third day selection.
Up next for all those previously mentioned is the 2013 NFL Draft Scouting Combine, which takes place in Indianapolis February 23rd to February 26th. Boren has already spoken of receiving his invitation (which given his not exactly other worldly measurables could be present a mixed bag for he in particular). Those that participated in the all-star games are also likely to receive invitations. Whether any of the aforementioned others do remains to be seen, as a finalized list of invitees won't see the light of day until early February. Even if any of these former Buckeyes do not (or elect because of injury otherwise to skip the event), they'll still have a shot to catch eyes at Ohio State's annual pro day, which is set to take place at the beginning of March.
Correction: An earlier version of this article suggested Reid Fragel departed the Senior Bowl after just one day there. This was inaccurate; Fragel was never in Mobile.