Concluding this past weekend's NFL Draft, Ohio State finished with four players hearing their names called during the draft's three days. With none of these being first rounders (and surprises such as former Rimington Trophy runner up Michael Brewster going undrafted), we thought it would make some sense to look forward to better times and see what after a postseason-less 2012 football season could hold in terms of Buckeyes moving on to the professional ranks.
Amongst the many 2013 NFL Mock Drafts making the rounds, one common denominator is always found in the top third or so of first round projections: one Johnathan Hankins. Hankins, a mountain of a human being, is said to be in even better shape than he was his first two seasons. Rumor has it Mickey Marotti's new strength and conditioning program has had a huge impact on Hankins' cardio and physique alike. Hankins, who just on last year's body of work is already being touted as a premiere tackle in the mold of Gerald McCoy, could have a break out season that sees him leaving school early and winding up chosen in the draft's first three-to-five picks. While it would obviously be a bit of an impediment losing a player like Hankins before he exhausts his eligibility, a mercurial rise like that could serve as a recruiting impetus while also signaling a return to form for the health of the Ohio State football program.
While no other junior or senior are quite burning up the mock draft boards this early with the same velocity, there are a few other names worth keeping an eye on:
John Simon (DL) - While Hankins is the buzz name at the moment, John Simon could see a Ndamukong Suh like senior season catapult in him into the high tier of the draft's first round. Simon by all account has been the best Buckeye this spring and having entered into the new strength and conditioning program already with a mind boggling physique, the sky's the limit for the senior to be. After wreaking havoc for four months next fall, don't be surprised to see Simon go in the first round (potentially high at that) with perhaps a second or third round landing spot if an unexpectedly huge let down season transpires (e.g. an injury shortened one).
Jake Stoneburner (TE) - Other than Simon, no player's garnered high praise in the early goings from Urban Meyer much like Jake Stoneburner. Before even taking the Ohio State job, Meyer had already spoke glowingly as a broadcaster of Stoneburner's ability and football acumen. With a year in an offense that helped make Aaron Hernandez into a fourth round pick (and strong pro), the higher upside Stoneburner could hear his name called as early as the late first with a third or fourth round destination at worst.
Jordan Hall (RB/WR) - Hall is perhaps the most unpredictable from this group. While likely too undersized to play running back at the next level, a season showcasing him in a Percy Harvin type role could convince a team as high as the third or fourth round to pull the trigger on the versatile back. With good hands and an ability to break through into the open field after the catch, a year as a focal point in an otherwise thin receiving corp could help Hall play his way into some of the pre-draft buzz.
Etienne Sabino (LB) - Sabino's physical attributes would put him with a second or third round grade easily, though to point in his career, his play on the field hasn't matched his tremendous upside. With new defensive coaches abound and a chance to finally turn potential into actual on the field results, Sabino could conceivably play his way into as high as a third round grade though the later rounds would seem more apropos based on his previous body of work.
Storm Klein (LB) - Though Klein's consistency has left many Ohio State fans scratching their heads, a breakout senior season could see Klein's NFL draft rise to the point where he goes somewhere in the later rounds. He's put on bulk during his time with the Buckeyes and a year under Marotti's physical reconfiguration system definitely wouldn't do any harm. Perhaps the biggest obstacle for him is more talented fellow linebackers waiting in the wings.
Nathan Williams (DE) - Despite a career that's included injuries and an arrest, a healthy Williams is one that could merit consideration in the middle-to-late portion of the 2013 NFL Draft. His productivity pre-injury was such that a fourth-to-seventh round pick would hardly seem like a stretch. Much like Klein, Williams' largest hurdle could be more freakishly talented, younger ends waiting in the wings.
Travis Howard (DB) - The myth of Travis Island now all but lost (see what I did there?), Howard will have to put together a season of effective play more akin to his expectations going into 2011 than his actual play which saw him diminished at times from an effectiveness standpoint into little more than a collegiate nickelback. His measurables and pro day numbers could keep him a viable option in the draft's later rounds, but it would take an out of nowhere all-conference type run for there to be even a chance for him to sniff the middle-to-early parts of the draft.
Orhian Johnson (DB) - Johnson's on the field play hasn't left many considering him a probable future pro, but with great size and room to grow, given his pedigree, it's not out of the question that a solid senior season transforms him into a later round pick. Being a defensive back from Ohio State will go a long way towards aiding one's resume.
Reid Fragel (OL) - Fragel's a pretty unknown at this point having made the move from tight end to tackle so late in his collegiate career. Given his sheer physical upside, Fragel would be worth a flier by a team willing to coach him up in the later rounds. Should Fragel become a legitimately viable option for the Buckeyes at right (or shockingly left) tackle, it's not out of the question to hear Fragel's name called as early as the sixth round of the 2013 draft.
Zach Boren (FB) - Even though fullbacks rarely go drafted early than the final rounds, a solid showing in more of an h-back type role could see Boren play his way into a late round selection. Boren's already proven his effectiveness as a run blocker while also carrying a reputation for having good hands for someone of his stature. A season showing more of the latter could prove the versatility of his game and prevent him from needing to go the undrafted free agent route.
Ben Buchanan (P/K) - You laugh, but Jacksonville took a flier on a punter in this past weekend's third round. Buchanan by no means has the pedigree or resume to suggest something like that is in the card, but a dominant senior year could mean a sixth or seventh round flyer being taken. Ironically the opposite of Williams and Klein, Buchanan could stumble due to the lack of a younger next best alternative pushing him.
Bradley Roby (DB) - It'd be a shock if Roby departed after his redshirt sophomore season, but given that he was Ohio State's most consistent defensive back in 2011, a huge 2012 could mean Roby would have to at least perform his due diligence and see. If Roby plays his way into mid-round consideration, while his family and financial situation aren't anyone's business but his own, it might become an opportunity cost situation where going pro might make the most sense for him at a personal level.
Corey "Philly" Brown (WR) - Take Hall's name and replace the feature Percy Harvin back type with Philly, and all the sudden you could see similar hype engulf the junior wide receiver. His size is such that without plenty of tape to make folks think otherwise, it's going to be hard to see him go anywhere other than the 5th round or later portion of the draft. However, an explosive, versatile 2012, and all of the sudden we're talking a completely different ballgame.
Carlos Hyde (RB) - Hyde at face value wouldn't seem to be an ideal fit in Urban Meyer's offense, but by all accounts has been working out nicely in the early goings. An early departure would mean a huge season which would probably mean an utter failure at all levels of the passing game. Hyde playing his way into an early departure would probably be pretty far removed from a good thing for the Buckeyes at the team level.