Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: Your favorite under-the-radar Ohio State NFL Draft prospect.
Josh’s Take: Tyreke Smith
This 2022 Ohio State draft class is incredibly top-heavy, and I don’t think I am coming in hot with my opening statement. I would not be completely shocked if we see Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave go early in the first round, followed by multiple rounds and/or days going by before another Buckeye is selected — Yes, I said “days” with an “S”. Friday could be devoid of former OSU players, leaving a Thursday night to Saturday afternoon gap in between. I’m counting that as multiple days. It’s science.
And I’ve heard a few people suggest that the lack of depth in this class is somehow an indictment on Ryan Day and his ability to product NFL talent. To those people: I apologize for what I really called you before Gene suggested an edit, but just know that you are wrong. Ohio State and virtually every other top program is going to have years like this. The lone exception might be Alabama, but even they have had down years when it comes to the draft. OSU is still one of, if not the top, NFL talent producers in existence, and that’s not changing anytime soon. Let’s not forget that last year’s class had 10 players taken in the first five rounds! There is no need to overreact.
While I don’t necessarily agree with the notion that the majority of this year’s Ohio State draft candidates are only worthy of a weekend look, I will admit that the noise around “other” former Buckeyes has been reduced to a low murmur. On the offensive side of the ball, Jeremy Ruckert’s draft prep has been affected by injury, and two linemen with considerable hype heading into the 2021 season – Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere – were unable to raise their profile throughout the year. I guess you could talk me into NPF currently being more of a household name than he was 12 months ago, but it wouldn’t be easy, and I believe Munford’s stock actually dropped due to an oddly-timed and questionably-executed position change.
On defense, former standouts were the victim(s) of widespread coaching malpractice, erasing all hype they had entering last season. Zach Harrison was a projected first-rounder, but plateaued, and is back to hopefully maximize his potential under Jim Knowles. Sevyn Banks (another projected first-rounder) never gained traction and is looking to improve his stock elsewhere. And Haskell Garrett went from All-Big Ten candidate to arguably “just another guy”. But one player who I felt got lost in the shuffle, and is still a bit of an unknown, is Tyreke Smith. He is my pick for this You’re Nuts topic because I still don’t know what he is, but I think he can be a productive player at the next level.
Smith was almost a wrecking ball during career at Ohio State. And by almost, I mean he literally almost got to the quarterback so many times! He finished his college career with eight sacks, but it felt like he could have had 18 (or more). Smith was injured at times, constantly played as part of a rotation, and rarely put it all together for long stretches. But the talent is there, and I could see him fine-tuning his craft to make a real impact in the NFL.
Some people forget that Smith was a monster recruit prior to his time at OSU. He carried a high four-star ranking coming out of high school, and was a top-40 player overall. He never put up big stats for the Buckeyes, but there were occasional flashes of game-changing potential. In the 2021 Sugar Bowl, Smith got to Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence for a sack, nearly got home a few more times, and added a pass breakup and one tackle for loss in Ohio State’s victory. He was one of the most impactful defensive players in that game, despite the lack of traditional stats. Smith also dominated to the tune of five tackles and a strip-sack against Penn State last season, and was equally disruptive the next week at Nebraska.
Three dominant performances across nearly 30 games played might not scream NFL Pro Bowler, but we’re looking at under-the-radar guys here. Smith could become a 5-to-10 year player with his mix of size, speed, and athleticism. He can a sub-4.9 forty during draft prep and tested well in other drills. I also think he has the versatility to play in either 4-3 or 3-4 packages.
Smith’s ceiling is almost certainly lower than that of a Bosa brother or Chase Young, but I truly believe he is being slept on as an NFL prospect. A fair comparison could be made to Tyquan Lewis or Jonathon Cooper. One thing he shares with all those guys is that he received coaching from one of the best positional coaches of all time in Larry Johnson. If he can take the lessons learned from Johnson, and continue to improve his game over time, I see a role for him on Sundays. I’ll be rooting for a guy who always gave his all while playing in Columbus.
Gene’s Take: Haskell Garrett
This year’s NFL Draft is incredibly interesting to me. Unlike in past years, there are no clear standalone players at the top of the list. Many have slated Aidan Hutchinson as the projected top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, but I’m not convinced he is the best player on the board or even at his own position, although admittedly I am a certified hater of all things TTUN. I think Kayvon Thibodeaux is a better player, and outside of those two nobody jumps off the page. I love Sauce Gardner as a prospect but he obviously won’t be the first player selected, its hard to get excited about offensive tackles even though guys like Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu are clearly very talented, and the quarterback class is bleak.
That being said, Ohio State will almost definitely have a pair of first-rounders taken in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, as the two are at the top of the list among a loaded group of wide receivers in this years class. As Josh discussed, there isn’t a ton of hype around many of the other Buckeye draft entrants. Jeremy Ruckert is certainly an exciting prospect and one who seems destined for a better pro career after being sparing used in Columbus, Nicholas Petit-Frere will likely go on to be a multi-year starter in the league, and Thayer Munford probably the same if he can stay healthy and move back to his original position at tackle.
Behind those guys there hasn’t been much talk of the other Ohio State products looking for a chance to ball out at the next level, but I am still excited for a guy like Haskell Garrett to make an impact wherever he is selected.
Before we get to Garrett as a player, we have to talk about his incredible story and the fact that he is even alive today to continue to chase his dreams of playing in the NFL. On Aug. 30, 2020, Garrett was walking on the street late at night having forgotten his phone in his car. Seeing a man and a woman fighting on the street, the 6-foot-2, 300 pound defensive tackle went over to break it up. During the altercation, Garrett was shot in the face, the bullet going through his cheeks and taking out five teeth in the process. Garrett was incredibly lucky, and despite his coaches not thinking he would potentially ever take the field again, Garrett was back on the field on Oct. 24 for Ohio State’s first game of the season against Nebraska.
On the field, Garrett came to Ohio State as a highly regarded four-star prospect, ranking as the No. 6 defensive tackle and the No. 68 player in the 2017 class overall hailing out of the storied Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. Despite his high ranking, he became a bit lost in the shuffle of a recruiting class that also featured names like Chase Young, Jeff Okudah, Shaun Wade, Wyatt Davis, J.K. Dobbins and many others. It’s already hard enough to become a star as an interior defensive lineman, but even moreso when you are surrounded by talents of that high a level.
Still, Garrett put together a great career for the Buckeyes. Playing 31 games over his five-year career in the Scarlet and Gray, the 3-tech racked up 62 total tackles with 13.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, a pair of fumble recoveries and a pick-six which came against Michigan State in 2020 when he batted the ball to himself in the end zone for a touchdown. Garrett was a disruptive defensive tackle who at times played more of a role in Ohio State’s pass rush than some of its defensive ends, but struggled to stay on the field due to injuries. On many occasions Garrett was held to a snap count, and the Buckeyes did not get to see the full extent of what he could do as a result.
The injuries will hurt Garrett’s draft stock, but if he can stay healthy I could see him becoming an important rotational piece of an NFL team’s interior defensive line. The former First Team All-American has a lot to offer both on and off the field. When he isn’t getting to the quarterback and clogging up holes up the middle in the running game, Garrett has been an inspirational leader at Ohio State. He has an infectious personality and can provide tremendous value to an NFL locker room both as a player and as a teammate and friend. I will certainly be rooting for Garrett’s success, as will all of Buckeye Nation.
Current NFL Draft betting lines, per DraftKings Sportsbook:
First WR Selected —
Garrett Wilson: +120
Jameson Williams: +175
Drake London: +200
Chris Olave: +1800
Garrett Wilson Draft Position: O/U 9.5
Chris Olave Draft Position: O/U 16.5
Total 1st Rd WR Drafted: O/U 6.5
Total B1G Players Drafted In 1st Rd: O/U 6.5