The 2012 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday evening from the familiar confines of Radio City Music Hall at 8 p.m. in New York, NY, but there won't be the usual multitude of Ohio State early rounders as there have been in years past.
While the Buckeyes can claim 399 total draftees from the school over the years (good for 3rd best all-time), this year's crop of professional football bound Buckeyes lack the top heaviness of some recent groups.
Though you could arguably include Terrelle Pryor's third round supplemental draft choice by the Oakland Raiders this past late summer with this class, the remainder of Pryor's classmates (and a majority of the so-called Tatgate 5) don't carry quite the pedigree of some recent pro prospect ex-Buckeye stars.
Expected to go highest from the group is left tackle Mike Adams. While Adams has the make up to be a starting left tackle in the league, his off the field track record (including suspensions for positive drug tests, testing positive at the combine itself, and of course the aforementioned bartering/tattoo controversy) is likely to keep him from the draft's Thursday first round. Adams also didn't do himself any favors by only putting up 225 pounds 19 times at the league's combine (he managed 21 at Ohio State's pro day). Despite the rap sheet and a number of consistency related questions surrounding the former five star offensive tackle, Adams is likely to land sometime in the middle of Friday's second round.
The next highest regarded ex-Buckeye is wide receiver DeVier Posey. The target of extreme scrutiny from the NCAA over the past year plus, Posey found himself ultimately only eligible for two games during the 2011 season. Immediately upon being inserted into the lineup, Posey made an instant impact and helped open the field up for then freshman quarterback Braxton Miller. Posey's on the field intelligence, strong route running, and high effectiveness after the catch could see him go as high as the third round Friday evening. The wide receiver notoriously drew criticism (and an unfair amount of revisionist history) after a crucial would be TD drop late in the season last year for the Buckeyes, though aside from an inclination to "hear footsteps", was overall a mostly reliable target for the Buckeyes over the years.
The third highest graded Ohio State prospect from this year's group is running back Daniel "Boom" Herron. Boom's immediate impact upon returning from being suspended for the first five games of last season speaks for itself, but a second-half-of-his-career break out season and a half should also appeal to teams looking for value running backs starting at the third and potentially on in to the sixth round. Boom's ability to run between the tackles was criticized at times in the past, but his agility and reliable hands should make him appealing to a team looking for a strong #3 on the depth charts.
Grading out fourth highest (though due to his position could potentially go sooner than some of the previous mentioned players) is the former Brew Crew grand master himself, Michael Brewster. While Brewster arrived in Columbus with a splash as the architect of arguably Jim Tressel's most prestigious class, his career tapered off at the end as he ran into serious struggles midway through his senior season. After righting the physical/mental shortcomings that were keeping him from playing at the high levels he'd demonstrated his previous three years as a Buckeye, Brewster finished the season strong and in addition to providing some lucky team immediate death, could factor in as a potential starting center sometime down the road. Brewster's greatest adjustment will be the tempo of the NFL game as quick interior lineman often frustrated him at the collegiate ranks.
The extreme outsiders from the departing group of Ohio State players with but a fringe shot of hearing their name called this weekend include linebacker Andrew Sweat, lineman J.B. Shugarts, and safety Tyler Moeller. Sweat provided expert leadership for the Buckeyes in a season they sorely needed it, but is widely thought to lack the size and sideline to sideline mobility necessary to play linebacker at the next level. Shugarts was a human false start last season (and the year before and the year before and the year before) despite coming to Ohio State out of the Houston area highly decorated. Moeller, while a gritty, intelligent player, is arguably too much of a 'tweener' for NFL scouts, and also likely lacks the requisite athleticism necessary to make a 53-man roster. He also struggled to find his game last year after returning from injury in what was his sixth year in the football program. All three of these young men should get free agent offers to make an impression in someone's training camp, but will certainly have to beat the odds in order to have any real staying power.