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What to expect from Ohio State in the 2021 NFL Draft

Justin Fields leads the pack when it comes to Buckeyes in this year’s NFL Draft, but there are plenty of other Ohio State players who should hear their names called.

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

2021 NFL Draft

Where: Cleveland, OH
TV: ABC, ESPN, NFL Network

Day 1: Round 1 - Thursday at 8 p.m. EST
Time per pick: 10 minutes

Day 2: Rounds 2 & 3 - Friday at 7 p.m. EST
Time per pick: 7 minutes for round 2, 5 minutes for round 3

Day 3: Rounds 4-7 - Saturday at 12 p.m. EST
Time per pick: 5 minutes for rounds 4-6, 4 minutes for round 7


By the numbers

Ohio State enters this year’s NFL Draft with 84 first round draft picks all-time, which is the most ever from a school. The Buckeyes are two first rounders ahead of USC, who has had 82 first round draft picks.

The Buckeyes aren’t just a force in the first round. Ohio State has had the most draft picks of any school since 2000, seeing 141 players taken during that span. Ohio State has taken the top spot by a wide margin, producing 14 more draft picks that Alabama since 2000. The 72 draft picks since 2010 is also the most of any Big Ten school. The Buckeyes have blown away their conference competition, as Ohio State has 27 more draft picks than Michigan during that time.


First round feeling

Even though Ohio State won’t have a fourth player in school history taken first overall in the NFL Draft (fifth if you want to count Joe Burrow in those totals), a former Buckeye will be making the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. After spending the last two years on the sidelines, former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has returned to the coaching ranks. Meyer is now the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it’s pretty much a lock that Meyer and the Jags will be selecting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in this year’s draft.

The hottest question of this year’s draft is where Justin Fields will land. Despite leading Ohio State to two College Football Playoff appearances in his two seasons in Columbus, many are still questioning what Fields will bring to the table in the NFL. While Fields threw 63 touchdowns and just nine interceptions with Ohio State, there is a stigma around the NFL that Ohio State isn’t capable of producing a quarterback that is capable of being successful at the professional level.

After Lawrence goes off the board with the first pick, the New York Jets will likely take BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with the second pick. Then things get a lot tougher to predict. The San Francisco 49ers traded up last month to snag the third pick in the draft from the Miami Dolphins. Fields, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance all figure to be options as San Francisco’s heir apparent to Jimmy Garoppolo.

There have been plenty of “anonymous sources” who have tried to poke holes in Fields’ draft stock over the last few months, but there is no denying that he is the most pro-ready quarterback after Lawrence and Wilson come off the board. Common sense would say that San Francisco didn’t trade that much draft capital to take Jones or Lance.

Not only did Jones benefit from a stacked Alabama offense, but also has the body makeup of a Lego. Lance has tremendous potential, but is unproven after starting for just one season for North Dakota State. While Fields would make the most sense to come off the board after Lawrence and Wilson, we know that common sense and NFL executives don’t always mix well.

If Fields isn’t taken at three by the 49ers, the next likely landing spot would be with the seventh or eighth picks. The only way Fields gets taken with the seventh pick is if the Detroit Lions trade out of the pick, which has been a popular rumor. The New England Patriots have made it no secret that they are looking to move up to take a quarterback. If the Patriots (or another team) don’t move into Detroit’s spot, Carolina is searching for their next franchise quarterback. On Wednesday, the Panthers traded starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Denver Broncos.


Day 2 targets

After Fields is selected in the first round, the next Buckeye likely won’t hear their name called until Friday. Following the 2020 season, guard Wyatt Davis was a popular name towards the end of first round mock drafts, but has seen his draft stock fall over the last few months. Even though Davis struggled with a knee injury in the second half of last year’s shortened season, whoever drafts him will be getting a two-time All-American that could be a fixture on the interior of a team’s offensive line for years.

Another Ohio State offensive lineman that will likely be taken on Friday is Josh Myers. While Myers won’t be confused with Nick Mangold, he does have the talent to be a starter in the NFL down the line. Myers is just the latest in a recent line of solid Ohio State centers to reach the NFL. Hopefully he is able to find a little more success than Pat Elflein and Billy Price have had during their time in the professional ranks.

There are a number of Ohio State sleepers that could be taken on Friday that could provide big dividends for the teams that draft them. Baron Browning saw his Ohio State career start slow, but the linebacker found some comfort when the Buckeyes brought in Al Washington as linebackers coach. While there isn’t a ton of tape out on Browning, the five-star recruit has the tools to make an impact in the NFL.

Joining Browning at linebacker is Pete Werner, who was the most consistent Buckeye over the last few years. Over the last three years, Werner recorded at least 50 tackles in each of those seasons. While Browning undoubtedly has more athletic ability between the linebackers, Werner is a coaches dream because of the fundamentals and leadership he displays on the field.

There was noticeable improvement from Tommy Togiai on the field from 2019 to 2020. The Idaho native was a force on the interior of the line for the Buckeyes in the shortened 2020 season. There’s no reason to think that improvement can’t continue on the NFL. Togiai won’t get to the quarterback a lot, but he will definitely clog the middle and make teams think twice about coming his way.


Mid-round steals

It’s a shame that we didn’t get to see more out of Trey Sermon at Ohio State. The running back took some time to get going during his short time in Columbus, but when he got his opportunity he was almost impossible to stop. All Sermon did was set the Ohio State single-game rushing record, racking up 331 yards in the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern. Sermon followed that performance up with 193 yards in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson.

The good news for teams looking at Sermon is there isn’t a ton of mileage on him. Between his time at Oklahoma and Ohio State, Sermon has 455 carries. The worry though is that even with that relatively low carry count, Sermon has already dealt with a number of injuries. While Sermon won’t become a workhorse like Ezekiel Elliott, he still could be a solid contributor in the NFL.

Shaun Wade bet on himself when he decided to return to Ohio State in 2020. The bet didn’t pay off, as Wade struggled throughout the year. That doesn’t mean that Wade won’t make it in the NFL, he’ll just have to wait a little longer than he was hoping to hear his name called. The tough season for Wade will undoubtedly make him hungrier to make an impact in the NFL. If Wade can regain some of his form from his first few years at Ohio State, one NFL team is going to get quite a steal.


The best of the rest

Rounding out the Buckeyes who could hear their name called before the NFL Draft are Jonathon Cooper, Justin Hilliard, Luke Farrell, and Tuf Borland. Cooper has been through a lot during his career growing up and at Ohio State, so it’d be a great story to see an NFL team pick him up. The same can be said for Hilliard, who has had to overcome numerous injury issues at Ohio State.

Tight ends from Ohio State always seem to find their way to the NFL, so it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see a team take a flyer on Farrell late in the draft. With the way Ohio State values blocking from their tight ends, NFL teams always seem to take notice whenever the Buckeyes have a tight end available in the draft.

While Borland could have his name called in the draft, a better route for him might be to be an undrafted free agent, where he could find the right spot for him. Borland had some good moments as a Buckeyes, but he also had some rather ugly ones. Joining Borland as possible undrafted free agents are Drue Chrisman and Blake Haubeil.