There were over 130 NFL scouts and representatives from all 32 teams on hand Friday during Ohio State's Pro Day -- up from 76 last year -- including NFL head coaches Mike Tomlin, Mavin Lewis, Sean Payton. Twenty-two former Buckeye players showcased their talent in hopes of landing a spot in the NFL. A record fourteen Ohio State players were invited to the official NFL Draft Combine last month, and this was a chance for the others to show their prospective worth.
Of the 22 Buckeyes participating, only 13 ran the 40-yard dash, including Adolphus Washington (who aggravated his hamstring on his second attempt), Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Michael Thomas and Braxton Miller, who all tried for a better number than they ran at the combine. Nick Vannett and Vonn Bell ran for the first time, having missed the 40-yard dash drill in Indy, and Jeff Greene, Kato Mitchell, Chris Fong, Chase Farris, Joel Hale and Jeffie Johnson ran for their first time in front of scouts.
Two players who came back for a second go at their pro day workouts are Curtis Grant (LB) and Steve Miller (DE). Despite getting a taste of life in the League, this duo didn't land on a team for the 2015 season and were hoping to once again show scouts they can be successful at the next level.
Grant signed with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2015, was waived in August, and signed to the Atlanta Falcons practice squad in mid-December. He had a good showing at last year's pro day, running a 4.65 and 4.7 second 40-yard dash with a 36" vertical jump and 10'5" brad jump. Grant had a good showing at this year's event, participating in the linebacker position drills with Joshua Perry and Darron Lee.
During the position drills, he showed decent arm strength, but was very agile around the corners; he had good hands during the catching drills and showed off quick feet and good stopping ability.
Steve Miller also signed as an undrafted free agent last year with the Carolina Panthers. He was waived in late-August and missed the teams Super Bowl run with five other Buckeyes on roster. Last year, Miller ran a slower 5.01 40-yard dash, and while he did skip the running portion of workouts this year, joined in on the position drills.
During his workouts with the training dummies, he threw them to the ground with such force it drew onlookers attention. His size limits how quick he is on the edge, but he showed that if he can't go around someone, he'll just go through them.
There were six Ohio State seniors who didn't earn invites to the NFL Combine, and are hoping their workout at pro day was enough to stick out, including: Jeff Greene (WR), Joel Hale (OL), Chase Farris (OL), Chris Fong (DE), Jeffie Johnson (RB) and Kato Mitchell (WR).
Jeff Greene and Kato Mitchell both did all of the field and position drills for the day. Greene made a few leaping catches as the target of a Cardale Jones throw, and was able to show his speed down the line. Greene also impressed in the 40-yard dash, timed around 4.72-4.75 on his first attempt. Mitchell, too, was quick off the line, but doesn't have the height Greene does to stick out as a pro receiver; he did however, catch the ball with his hands and not his body, and showed good technique in his route running.
Joel Hale and Chase Farris did the offensive lineman drills alongside Taylor Decker. Farris showed good ability to dig in and hold up the defender, in one instance stopping Decker in his tracks. He had quick feet too when putting pressure across the line, driving Decker back several yards. Hale was a little bigger than the rest of the group, and wasn't quite as dynamic as the others. Defensive end Chris Fong struggled a little bit during the 3-cone drill and shuttle runs, losing his feet once and slipping on a directional change.
Fourteen Buckeyes headlined the 2016 NFL Combine, Vonn Bell and Nick Vannett were the only players to bypass the 40-yard dash -- Bell due to injury -- and several other players only participated in certain drills. Pro day allowed these players to re-try their hand at anything they missed last time they were in front of scouts.
Cardale Jones missed throwing at the combine when he hurt his hamstring during the 40-yard dash, and was excited to show scouts what he can do with his arm. He had a great showing Friday, as accuracy on 20-30 yard passes came easily for the quarterback, but did struggle near the end zone. Ezekiel Elliott called Jones' arm a cannon following one pass that sailed several yards over Braxton Miller's head down field.
Zeke only took part in some of the receiving drills to show scouts that he has better hands than what he displayed at the combine. He caught passes effortlessly at pro day and showed that burst of speed after the catch that can be so deadly for defenses. He can be a threat on the outside, and proved that Friday.
Braxton Miller was another receiver who tested well in front of the inordinate amount of spectators. This shouldn't be all too surprising given what he's shown at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, but consistency during a game will be what allows him to keep a job in the NFL, long after Draft Day.
Wideout Michael Thomas had yet another impressive performance. He proved to be a solid pick during his combine workouts, but at pro day looked even faster and sharper. His speed was impressive, but he also shows great awareness for where he is compared to the ball. He runs a clean route, but can also adjust to be sure to make the catch.
Jalin Marshall tried to prove again that coming out early was a smart decision. He told me that attending the Combine was a dream come true, but the workout at Ohio State was a lot more comfortable. He showed great awareness for where he was on the field, and was sure to stay inbounds and run down the line on every reception.
Nick Vannett has been a sleeping giant since the Senior Bowl. At the past few events leading up the NFL Draft, Vannett has shown scouts that in addition to the blocking skills he showcased at Ohio State, he has great catching ability, and the speed needed to be a tight end in the League. He might not be a first or second day draft pick, but if he falls further than that, someone is getting a real steal.
Defensive end Joey Bosa is nasty when it comes time to hit the bags. He's agile around the corners and then buries them in the ground. In addition to his own position drills, he took part in the linebacker drills, and showcased his ability to read a pass and make the catch. He has good hands for the ball and didn't miss a beat.
- Doug Worthington of the Rams was in the stands at pro day. He unofficially timed the 40-yard dashes from the bleachers, and even got in a workout --clad in Rams gear -- before heading out for the day.
- Buffalo Bills quarterback coach was seen talking to Cardale Jones, and John DeFillipo from the Eagles specifically was interested in Jones' end zone drills.
- Taylor Decker spoke to the offensive line coaches for the Patriots and Steelers, along with Mike Tomlin.
- Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made the rounds with the defenders and their families, taking time to speak to Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell's family.
- A rep for the Detroit Lions went up and spoke to Joshua Perry and his family following positions drills.
Total list of all participants:
|Senior Player||Pos.||Ht.||Wt.||Combine Attendee?||40-yard dash time|
|Eli Apple"]">Eli Apple||CB||6'1||199||Yes||4.4|
|Michael Thomas"]">Michael Thomas||WR||6'3||212||Yes||4.57|