clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

How did Ohio State's new draftees perform in their first NFL minicamps?

It's still too early to see how the newest faces of the NFL will work out this fall, but here's a look at how former Buckeyes are starting their career in the league.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The draft is behind us and now these former Buckeye players are sporting new jerseys and in some cases, new numbers. That means they're starting the the very first step of their new careers: NFL rookie minicamps.

Before the veterans are even able to take the field, rookies get their chance to work with their new teammates and coaching staff to get acclimated to the game at the next level. In just a short few days, some players instantly show their worth, some struggle in the new setting and others unfortunately are ruled out early due to injury.

Here's a look at these new NFL players and the first impression they made in the league.

Devin Smith, New York Jets

It was no surprise to his new team that Smith could catch deep passes, but it was refreshing to see him doing it right away with new teammates. The second-round pick for the Jets showed his value on day one of the rookie minicamp, catching a 40-yard pass from Jake Heaps amid coverage. Rookie quarterback Bryce Petty got in some reps with the former Buckeye as well, throwing a high pass down the sideline, which Smith was able to jump up and grab.

While Smith's speed and catching ability would look like the perfect combination for a kick return/special teams situation from the outside, seasoned NFL special teams coach and the new Jets special teams coordinator Bobby April doesn't see Smith in that particular role. His lack of experience with kick returns from his time at Ohio State (recording only one punt return his freshman year) was enough for April to overlook Smith as a return option as of now.

Sporting #84, Smith has started his NFL career with reliable hands and quick steps as seen below, courtesy of NJ.com.

Jeff Heuerman, Denver Broncos

Despite having worked his way back from an ankle injury in his last months with the Buckeyes, he tore his left knee ACL during Saturday's afternoon practice during rookie minicamp practice. He is expected to miss the entire 2015 season, but that doesn't mean his new team is giving up on him just yet.

"I feel terrible for Jeff and this is an unfortunate situation," coach Gary Kubiak said. "Jeff was going to be a big part of our team this year, and he's still going to be a big part of our team and organization in the future."

Doran Grant, Pittsburgh Steelers

Grant is expected to make waves in the Steelers defense almost immediately. Pittsburgh was hit this offseason by more than a few unexpected retirements, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. With several other players moving to fill other positions, there were three defensive backs drafted by the team, including Doran Grant. He may not be as flashy as second-round draft pick, DB Senquez Golson, but his consistency and reliability are projected to give him more playing time.

Grant is also walking into a locker room filled with familiar faces. As one of the standard landing spots for specifically defensive Ohio State players, the Steelers veterans include Ryan Shazier, Cam Heyward, Mike Adams and Will Allen. Having played with a lot of these guys, he should find his niche rather quickly.

"It went well. Got a lot of hustle in, listened a lot and got to be out here with the fellas. It was a good day," said Grant, when asked about the first day of rookie minicamp.

Michael Bennett, Jacksonville Jaguars

Bennett was a surprising sixth-round draft pick for the Jaguars; despite predictions placing him in the first three rounds, he unexpectedly fell, perhaps in part due to his hamstring injury. Something he seemingly just can't shake, his new team and coaching staff is keeping his work load light until he heals further. Bennett re-strained his hamstring during Ohio State's pro day workouts and is still sidelined by it.

The Jaguars are in a good spot with their rookies this season, and don't need any to jump in to fill a role immediately, but that isn't going to stop Bennett from wanted to make an early impact on the team.

"The training staff has a plan and I'll stick to it so I am ready to go soon, " Bennett said. "Until then I'll get an understanding of how things work here and for the other guys."

Evan Spencer, Washington Redskins

Another Buckeye was sidelined early into their NFL career, as Evan Spencer strained his hamstring during the first day's practice. He spent the remainder of his time during rookie minicamps watching his teammates and figuring out where he might fit in.

Spencer will be joining an already deep wide receiving veteran group, including DeSean Jackson and and Pierre Garçon. Once he has rehabbed and is back on the field, Spencer could find himself lining up with the special teams more often than the offense.

"Excellent special teams player - excellent, excellent, excellent - and he's going to make that room better," head coach Jay Gruden noted.

Darryl Baldwin, Baltimore Ravens

Receiving the second-highest signing bonus among undrafted free agents ($9,000), Darryl Baldwin should be a welcomed addition to the Ravens offensive line. He was one of 15 guys to sign with the team and fill out the roster. Baldwin will have to work on his technique to fine tune it prior to starting on an NFL line, but he has the perfect opportunity to do just that with his new coaching staff.

Curtis Grant, San Diego Chargers

The Chargers signed 21 undrafted rookies, one of which is the former Ohio State inside linebacker. In addition to four other ILB, Grant will get an early chance to fight for a starting spot on the line.

Steve Miller, Carolina Panthers

One of ten undrafted signees with the Panthers, Miller is already an early projection to make a big impact on the defensive line. The Panthers are quickly becoming a Buckeye-favorite landing spot; Miller will join Corey "Philly" Brown and Kurt Coleman.