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: Which Ohio State player do you want your team to select in the NFL Draft?
The 2023 NFL Draft begins this Thursday, so naturally I begged Gene to do a You’re Nuts piece revolving around said draft. Because the NFL Draft is my Christmas, New Years, and birthday rolled into one. I love it. And it doesn’t hurt that Ohio State typically has a number of high-profile players hovering near the top of draft boards; players I’ve spent two, three, or four years cheering on while they represent the Scarlet and Gray.
It also doesn’t hurt that my NFL team, the Cincinnati Bengals, has regularly targeted former OSU players (and Ohio natives) in the draft. Especially in recent years, with the early selections of Billy Price (bust, but counts), Sam Hubbard, and Joe Burrow (not entirely “ours”, but still counts).
The “Ohio pipeline” from Columbus to Cincinnati got me thinking: Which Buckeye(s) do I want my Bengals to target this extended draft weekend? And since I know Gene wouldn't mind a Buckeye or two being snatched up by his Giants, I suggested a fantasy draft write-up of sorts. Where we pick an Ohio State draftee we would like each of our NFL teams to target at their current first round position. Which means my former co-host can’t have C.J. Stroud at No. 25, as much as I know he would to replace Danny Dimes with a real-life, living, breathing quarterback... Try to keep it within reason, Gene.
With Cincinnati slated to pick No. 28, I immediately ruled out both C.J. Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. While I would love to have either one (or both) on my team in MakeBelieveLand, neither Stroud nor JSN fills a team need. Furthermore, I do not expect either Buckeye to be available near the end of the first round. Stroud will go top-10 despite the sudden slander campaign against him, and JSN’s range seems to be 12-25. So I’m out on the skill players and forced to turn my attention toward two hog mollies up front.
It would be an awesome story if my Bengals were able to bring Paris Johnson Jr. back home to the Queen City. It would be like a dream come true for him, the team, and myself, although my dreams are of little significance here. I am getting too emotionally invested in this scenario... But fortunately (or unfortunately) for yours truly, PJJ falling to the end of the first round is not a realistic scenario. II’ll never have to worry about whether or not the hometown kid pans out – a la Hubbard or even Burrow to an extent – because PJJ will also not be available at 28. Similar to Stroud and JSN, he is a near lock to go top-25.
So where does that leave me? Staring at quite literally one of the largest human beings on this planet. And you know what? I’ll take it! Give me Dawand Jones at No. 28. While I am slightly concerned by the fact that his pro day and team workouts have been few and far between, Big Thanos’ past performance on gameday sets my mind at ease. Zero sacks allowed during the 2022 season and a great week of practice at the Senior Bowl. More importantly, Jones plays a position of significant need for the Bengals.
This former Buckeye is widely viewed as a late first or early second-round pick, so taking him at No. 28 would not be a reach. While I would prefer to pick up Jones in the second round, there is just no way he is available at pick No. 60. And since the draft is a crapshoot anyway, why not just take the biggest dude available?
Jones, along with Orlando Brown Jr., would give the Bengals two enormous bookend tackles to protect Joe Burrow, and at the end of the day, that’s what this draft is all about for Cincinnati. Protect the franchise QB. So give me Big Thanos, Gene. Can’t go wrong with 6-foot-8, 375 pounds.
As Josh alluded to, I would very much like to replace Daniel Jones with C.J. Stroud. However, as my partner here alluded to, that will simply not be an option with the Giants picking at No. 25 — even despite all the negative press trying to bring down Stroud’s value amid all the pre-draft discourse. Stroud and Bryce Young are clearly the 1A and 1B quarterbacks in this draft, and I can’t wait to see which GM gets fired for making the mistake of selecting Anthony Richardson in the first round, but I digress...
The Giants’ biggest needs are at linebacker, cornerback, offensive line and wide receiver. Unfortunately, Ohio State is not sending a big time linebacker or corner to the league this year, and Paris Johnson Jr. will be gone long before the Giants’ selection. Dawand Jones is an intriguing option at the tail end of the first round, but Big Blue’s needs up front are more on the interior, and as much as I like Luke Wypler, I don’t think taking a center in the first round is ever really the way to go.
That, of course, leads me to wide receiver, and while Josh begged me to remain ‘realistic’ in this scenario, I have no choice but to pray that every other NFL team is very dumb and allows Jaxon Smith-Njigba to fall to No. 25 and join Paris Campbell as former Buckeye wide receivers to suit up for my NFL team this upcoming season.
Should JSN be available at this point in the draft? Absolutely not. The so-called ‘experts’ make a living off of over-analyzing every prospect on the board, and Smith-Njigba is no different. While he missed virtually all of the 2022 college football season, there is no denying that JSN is hands down the top receiver available in this year’s NFL Draft. We’re talking about the guy who led a room with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson in it —you know, two 1,000-yard receivers in the NFL this past season, one of which took home NFL OROY.
While that is the case, there is a chance that several other teams are very dumb and instead choose other wide receivers over JSN, with recency bias playing a big factor in that decision having not gotten to see the stud Ohio State wideout for a year. Jordan Addison from USC, Quentin Johnson from TCU and Zay Flowers from Boston College are all listed as potential wide receivers that could be taken in the first round, and maybe my Giants get lucky and the teams ahead of them looking for pass-catchers decide to go with one of those guys instead.
Is this realistic? Meh, probably not. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, even with a year off, is far too go to still be around by pick No. 25. In all likelihood, the Giants will not wind up with an Ohio State player in the first round this year, but I could see them selecting someone like Wypler or Zach Harrison in the second or third rounds, so maybe not all hope is lost!