Five personnel executives for the NFL took some time to take a look at how the 2016 draft might play out based on what they know so far, and there were several notable Buckeyes among the conversation. With just over a month for underclassmen to declare for the draft, that Jan. 15 deadline is quickly approaching.
Here's a look at what the NFL scouts are saying about some of the most likely players to join the NFL.
Ohio State's only quarterback heading into the draft is Cardale Jones. Scouts have debated Jones' NFL stock ever since his run in the 2014 College Football Playoff. When he announced he would stay in school for one more year, some argued he foolishly gave away millions, with others lauding his commitment to the Buckeyes. He might not be a first rounder after sitting the bench for much of the year, but with so many quarterbacks needed right now in the League, he could certainly go in Rounds 2 or 3.
"(Jones) has by far the best arm," said one scout. "Great size. Big hands. Just a natural thrower. He had great stretch last year when he was dominant.
"But he seems a little bit like a knucklehead. He's speaking out. His body language isn't good on the field. But some offensive coordinator will say, 'Oh, I can fix him.'"
The group of executives was shy to name any receiver in the NCAA worthy of a first-round draft pick, citing speed as a big factor, and the lack of it in this draft class. While Michael Thomas has the size of an NFL wideout, they don't see him going in Round 1, "Thomas is not a first-round type pick. Doesn't have dynamic speed." Thomas has yet to announce his plans after the Fiesta Bowl, but he's expected to announce his decision to turn pro following the bowl game.
One of the more obvious first round picks coming out of Ohio State is running back Ezekiel Elliott. Having started the year on the Heisman watch list, the Buckeye was able to keep his stats high despite a struggling offense, with 262 carries on the season for 1,672 yards. With his on-field performance speaking for itself, the biggest concern these scouts noted were regarding his speaking out following the Michigan State loss.
"He's probably the best player," one scout said. "With the comments he made, you have to check his background. Is he a selfish player? Is it all about him?"
"Declaring for the draft and making those statements right after a loss was very disappointing. He's going to have to answer a lot of questions."
Despite changing positions ahead of the 2015 season from quarterback to halfback, Braxton Miller hasn't gotten much NFL Draft love yet. He didn't have the type of year everyone was expecting, but to be fair, neither did the Buckeye offense, and the majority of his play was from the Wildcat position under center.
The first Buckeye to come off the board is expected to be defensive end Joey Bosa, who is looking at a Top 5 draft pick. Bosa missed unanimous All-America praise his senior season, but that was largely due to his stats, not his on-field play. He may have only had fivehe sacks, but he had a career-high four passes defended and recorded his first career interception in his last regular season game as a Buckeye.
"He's a better version of Justin Smith when he came out of Missouri (in 2001)," said one scout. "Little better athlete. Little more explosive. Strong, tough guy like that. Good motor."
Bosa had some help on the edge this season with Adolphus Washington stepping up in a big way. Washington had a career season, with 49 combined total tackles, four sacks and a pick-6, for the big man's first touchdown. He was initially being looked at as a late first-rounder, but following his citation for solicitation and subsequent bowl game suspension, his stock is likely to have fallen.
Another lineman getting looked at by the pros, is Joshua Perry, who recorded 98 total combined tackles, 3.5 sacks and three passes defended. In addition to what he does on the field, he is also a standup young man, who was nominated for the 2015 Lott Impact Award, given to the nation's best defensive player in character and production. Perry is looking like a second round lock, with the potential to jump up a little bit.
Another junior who hasn't officially declared for the 2016 NFL Draft, is also one that could possible go in the first round -- or be subject to the multi-round drop off like Doran Grant last year -- Eli Apple. The cornerback had only one interception this season, but defended seven passes and often wreaked havoc down field for opposing offenses. He's been getting more attention of late, and could jump into the first round with a strong showing at the Fiesta Bowl (particularly against Notre Dame's own potential draft darling, Will Fuller) and Ohio State's pro day.
The scouts note that this isn't a safety-heavy draft class, with several corner backs likely to be taken and converted to the inside, and don't expect any to go in the first round. Among those lauded at the position is Ohio State's Vonn Bell, who had an incredible season for the Buckeyes, and is expected to be one of the first at his position to be drafted. Bell finished the 2015 regular season with two interceptions and nine passes defended.