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Column: Which former Buckeye has the most gain at the NFL Combine?

A combine performance can be worth millions of dollars, so we look at which Ohio State Buckeye has the most to gain.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The 2022 NFL Combine is in Indianapolis, and Ohio State is well represented with seven total players in attendance to the annual underwear olympics. The list of invites includes Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Haskell Garrett, Tyreke Smith, Jeremy Ruckert, Thayer Munford, and Nicholas Petit-Frere, who are all looking to make a major impression on NFL evaluators. With this being the first major draft event on the calendar for major pro prospects, this is a huge opportunity to make lasting impressions and solidify draft positions.

At the combine the players will go through media availability, physicals, team interviews and on field exercises. Each position is evaluated differently, but some positions are weighted heavier than others. Positions also have drills where each evaluator will pay special attention to gauge positional athleticism compared to other prospects at the position. With drills like the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle, and 3-cone drill being the main three that all the groups do, it brings forward the question: Which former Ohio State player has the most to gain?

When it comes to who needs to perform the best to hold or gain value, receivers and defensive backs tend to need the best combine performances compared to other positions. The explosiveness and athletic ability that is displayed allows evaluators to begin differentiating between similar players at each position, and also allows them to build complete profiles. With some positions being much deeper than others, these razor thin margins matter immensely when it comes to how much money these players will make.

This leads us to how we can find out which player has the most to lose or gain with a good combine performance. In 2010, the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement that was put in place created a rookie wage scale that associated a draft pick position with a direct compensation number. Using data from SportsRac.com, we can take a look at the average values of each selection per round.

Average contract value for each round in NFL Draft

1st Round 2nd Round 3rd Round 4th Round 5th Round 6th Round 7th Round
1st Round 2nd Round 3rd Round 4th Round 5th Round 6th Round 7th Round
$18,381,301 $7,104,065 $4,949,777 $4,172,378 $3,779,629 $3,644,040 $3,574,283

As you can see, there is a significant difference between a first round selection and second round selection, and there is a much smaller range from the third round to the seventh round. Looking at draft projections, we can see that five of the draft eligible Buckeyes fall between rounds 3-7. That would mean a fringe first round prospect has the more to gain than anyone from the combine and even more so depending on position.

With Garrett Wilson being a first round lock according to most evaluators, that means Chris Olave has the most to gain with a great performance at the NFL Combine.

Going through the Mock Draft Data Base, there are projections of Olave going as high as No. 13 overall to the Cleveland Browns and as low as No. 32 to the Detroit Lions — the salary range is large. If he is selected at No. 13, he can make around $18 million, which falls all the way to $12 million in total value if he falls to pick No. 32. A look further into some other possible landing spots and if he falls in to the beginning of the second round, Olave would be making around $8 million, which is significantly less than his highest projection.

The only questions left to answer for him are if he has definitive No. 1 wide receiver athletic traits. “Draft experts” believe that Olave will run a 4.5-4.6 second forty, which is by no means bad, but something that would likely hurt his draft position moving him closer to the second round. Olave can prove this at the combine with an elite 40-time and jumping numbers. With a solid performance, this would confirm the film and show he has the physical traits on top of the production in school needed to be a team’s top receiver.

Despite being the all-time touchdown leader in Ohio State history and having years of film showing elite traits, Olave still has something to prove to the NFL. When you look at the film, Olave has shown the ability to make the athletic catches, take the top off the defense, and show some burst after the catch. In a receiver class this loaded, every part of the evaluation matters.

For players in the draft the monetary numbers are definitive, and if Olave performs at a high level, he has the most to gain out of all the Buckeyes in Indianapolis.