The annual NFL Combine is here, and Ohio State once again has its fair share of representation at the event. With eight players invited to be seen, prodded, interviewed, and tested by NFL organizations, the former Buckeyes will look to raise their draft profiles in different ways.
The list includes C.J. Stroud, Paris Johnson Jr., Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Zach Harrison, among others. For the players this weekend, their experiences will differ incredibly. Looking at each event the importance at each position differs significantly, and that adds to the impact this weekend can have for any prospect invited.
Looking at each player invited, there is an event that each player can gain or lose draft position and it’s different on a positional basis. With each player already in Indianapolis, Ind. the Buckeyes are ready to put their best foot forward, and here is the most important combine event for each player.
C.J. Stroud (Projected Top-10 Pick)
For any quarterback, the obvious answer is the the throwing sessions that occur. Any astute draft observer know the key events for quarterbacks are team interviews and the hand size measurement. Over the years, many quarterbacks have been dinged for having small hands, and it is by far the cheapest way a quarterback gets moved down.
The baseline is 9 inches from pinky to thumb, if you measure your hands you might have a bigger set of hands than many notable NFL quarterbacks. Jared Goff, Joe Burrow, and Ryan Tannehill are all quarterbacks who have measured in with below average hand sizes – two of the three have been to the Super Bowl.
On the interview side, both Justin Fields and Dwayne Haskins Jr. have been hurt by this. For whatever reason, having a head coach with an NFL offense, that puts the pressure on Stroud to answer the questions about extensive X’s and O’s that NFL quarterbacks are expected to know. If Stroud can have strong performance in interviews, measures in with big hands, and then throws like he’s capable of, he can be the No. 1 Pick.
Paris Johnson Jr. (Projected 1st Round Pick)
When measuring left tackles, the physical measurements such has arm length can destroy a prospects grade. Wingspan wise. Johnson Jr. is not in the same percentile as fellow draft eligible tackle Dawand Jones, but he has the length that won’t hurt his draft stock. The biggest area for the Buckeye left tackle is proving that he can be a plug and play option athletically.
This doesn’t mean he needs to be the fastest or strongest in any category, but there needs to be a strong performance in every athletic drill. A strong bench, a big broad jump, and solid agility scores to go with the tape would solidify him has a top-3 tackle in the draft. An elite performance from him can lead to him moving himself up a tier making him one of the top overall draft prospects.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Late First Round)
For Smith-Njigba, his whole weekend comes down to his physicals with team physicians. Having a hamstring injury as invasive as the third year receiver did will be a cause for concern for a lot of teams. With the injury happening in week one, then a re-aggravation against Toledo a couple weeks later, those two situations are on the minds of every team with interest in the Smith-Njigba.
Him shutting down should help in terms of the healing, so that turns into the second area he can prove his health is in the 40-yard dash. Smith-Njigba will likely not run the blazing times of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, but if he clocks in under a 4.5 there will be little questions to ask in regards to what showed up on film. A solid time in the forty solidifies him as a first rounder, even though to anyone with eyes he is already the best receiver in the class.
Dawand Jones (2nd Round)
For Dawand Jones, the key is showing his mobility in the short area quickness drills, as well as positional drills. Jones has heavy hands and strong feet when he has his base under him, but being 6-foot-8 there will be questions about how he consistently he handles edge rushers at his size. For Jones, there is a lot of money on the line as well. If he can show left tackle athleticism that will raise his draft stock.
The drills that are most important to him are the 20-yard shuttle, the L-drill (or three cone drill), and broad jump. These three drills will in order will show his short area agility, his hip flexibility, and his hip explosiveness. All three incredibly important in evaluating any NFL player, but even more so a position like offensive tackle.
Zach Harrison (2nd-5th Round Pick)
There have been countless stories about the elite athleticism of Harrison. He was an elite runner in high school track and if that is apparent in Indy, teams will fall in love with his traits. Harrison is 6-foot-6 and weighs close to 270 pounds, so any time under a 4.8 will be absolutely absurd, if he breaks into the 4.6 threshold he might be one of the first players drafted day 2. Additionally, there was little bend from Harrison on film, so he absolutely needs to show that edge rusher flexibility in the L-Drill.
Luke Wypler (3rd-4th Round)
Wypler’s most important days already happened, his measurements with the most important being arm length and his bench press numbers. In his two years as a starter, bigger players gave him trouble and he had a strong performance against Georgia in the Peach Bowl which should alleviate some concerns. Being a true center, he needs to show he has the length and athleticism to provide value at any interior line position. But the measurements and bench press numbers will really effect his evaluation.
Ronnie Hickman (5th-6th Round)
Hickman has one thing to show at the combine and that is his explosiveness. Despite being a consistent player at the college level, he needs to show that he has a higher upside than a reliable option. There’s nothing wrong with being reliable in the NFL, but teams are drafting prospective traits as much as what was on film. That means Hickman needs to show he has more, and eh can do that running well in the combine.
Cam Brown (6th Round-UDFA)
Similarly to Smith-Njigba, the biggest test for Cam Brown is his medical evaluations. With a list of injuries ranging from a ruptured achilles to the hand injury that required surgery. Outside of that, the film was not always kind to Brown and that is something he can alleviate with a strong performance. Billed as the fastest player on the team at one point, Brown has a significant opportunity to show he has the physical profile of an NFL corner. If he can do that, earn an opportunity which is all it takes some times with a position like cornerback.
The Buckeyes all seem to be projected to be drafted, and the ranges are relatively established based on recent history. Outside of any crazy performances, there is not much that can truly alter where they are projected at this point. If Smith-Njigba and Brown can clear up any concerns about long-term health, they will be drafted in the projected areas. Stroud can eliminate all doubt with a strong performance throwing behind Anthony Richardson, and in the meeting rooms.
The rest will need to prove their athletic numbers match the tape or exceed the tape to raise their draft stock. Each player will have something to prove to evaluators and they will be up against every body at their position. With the poking and prodding, there will be no stoned left unturned once again for each Buckeye.
There is another week of Ohio State being well-represented in Indianapolis. Now it is time for the players to put on a show.