Now that the hoops season has ended and the spring game has come and gone, we'll take a look at some former Buckeyes ready to enter their first season in the NFL. There have been some drastic changes since the end of the football season, as scouting reports, combine performances, pro days, and groupthink have all contributed to opinions and prognostications of prospects. We'll take a look at what progress has been made for each notable Buckeye prospect, and which teams could be interested going forward.
Big Hank has seen his stock fall from mid-first rounder to second-day pick. Judging on physical talent alone he is a first-round prospect. Unfortunately after looking at some tape, some scouts saw a player who took plays off and could not create a consistent pass rush up the middle. With Hankins, the "motor" questions have been too much and have knocked him into second round consideration. Rob Rang of CBS has him ranked as the 6th-rated defensive tackle and 43rd player on his Big Board, while Walter Cherepinsky of Walterfootball.com has him with a second-round grade. That doesn't mean that he couldn't go in the first round to a team needing a defensive tackle, however.
Good Fits: We all know now that there's a pipeline between Ohio State and the Vikings. Just ask our own Ted Glover. The Vikes are a possible landing spot for Big Hank, with Kevin Williams entering the twilight of his career and not a whole lot behind him in the rotation. They could nab him with their second-round pick at 52. The Vikings would probably be an ideal destination for Big Hank, but other interested teams could include some 3-4 teams in need of a gap-plugger who can fit into a rotation immediately. Hankins may have motor questions but he is scheme-versatile, which means that teams running multiple defenses will have no problem drafting him. Don't be surprised if Hankins is in purple on April 28th.
Reid Fragel, T
Fragel's stock has done the opposite of Hankins' and has risen ever since his combine performance. Teams see good athleticism for the position and the ability to keep up with elite defensive ends. His technique needs a lot of work, so teams see him as a project, but according to Rang he "looks the part" and at this point has leaped all the way from a tight end whose football career was over once he left Columbus into a 5th-6th round draft pick. Some tackle-needy team may even take a flyer on him in the 4th.
There are a lot of teams for whom tackle is not a primary need, but with one injury it will be. These teams are looking for depth at the position. Possible fits for Fragel include the Dolphins, Ravens and Browns as all three of these teams lack a lot of depth, especially with offseason losses. The Dolphins just lost Jake Long, so it's possible that they could even groom Fragel to be a starter at the left tackle position over time. Don't expect Fragel to start right away but he can make some contributions as a sub.
John Simon, DE
After the senior bowl, combine and pro day, it was well established that Simon is a classic "tweener" defensive end - one who some scouts think is too small for the 4-3 end but one who showed an inability to play in space and display the coverage skills needed to play an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Simon will need to keep his hand on the ground in the NFL or he'll be completely overmatched, but teams will draft him for his effort and play recognition. Simon could go as early as the late 2nd round, but most prognosticators have him as a 3rd round or early 4th round pick.
Teams with older or less deep defensive lines who need someone to spell them and give great effort off the bench. Simon at this point is a rotational player but a high-end one who could come in for quite a few plays at the defensive end spot in a 4-3. If he does play in a 4-3 system he will be drafted by a team who covets quickness over size and length in their defensive ends. Teams needing this type of player include the Jaguars, Lions (who just lost Kyle VandenBosch and Cliff Avril) and Falcons (who need someone to replace John Abraham). Look for Simon to be in Detroit blue as he is nearly the same size as Avril, and is a better leader. Scouts will like Simon's athleticism and he should get a chance to contribute right away.
Travis Howard, CB
Asking most draft experts about Travis Howard produces a resounding "meh". Howard is big for a corner, can tackle and has great ball skills but there's no denying he needs a lot of work on his technique. At this point Howard is probably a replacement-level cornerback in the league. Rang has him ranked 41st out of all cornerbacks in the draft. Most people think that he'll be a late-round pick if he gets picked at all.
Every year, the Pittsburgh Steelers draft a tall, rangy corner in the late rounds who they think can contribute. Travis Howard is right out of that mold, and I almost expect to see him in black and gold down the road - if not now, then sooner or later if he becomes a free agent. He fits what they like to do almost exactly to a tee.
At this point in the game, it looks like all other Ohio State prospects (namely Zach Boren and Orhian Johnson) will have to be picked up as street free agents. It is highly unlikely that either of these guys will be drafted, and they will have to make their mark on special teams.