The NFL Draft is this evening, and the yearly showcase of Ohio State’s talented players taking their next steps in their football careers becoming professionals. In Kansas City, three Buckeyes will be in attendance waiting to hear their name called in the first round, and many other former Ohio State players will be at home waiting to hear their name called.
Ohio State has a No. 1 overall pick hopeful in C.J. Stroud, who has been through the usual late cycle draft hogwash. Paris Johnson Jr. has plenty of suitors, it will just be a matter of time until a team calls his name. And Jaxon Smith-Njigba rounds out the first round hopefuls after showing his injury should not be a cause for concern with a strong combine performance.
With the draft today, the discourse is finally over and we no longer have to constantly listen to people in a made up profession analyzing the draft of teams they do not work for. The same people who are used as tools to aid teams in their draft process without them knowing swaying public opinion. No more I am hearing this, from x-team about y-player, we finally get to see the NFL teams select players.
Today is a day of celebration, and Ohio State will be well-represented once again. Even on an exciting day there are still stories.
C.J. Stroud will be the best quarterback in this class, the NFL just might be too stupid to see it
Stroud had an incredible career at Ohio State despite not beating the main rival or winning a Big Ten championship. Stroud threw for 8,123 yards and had 85 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. There has not been a more efficient quarterback in the country over the last two years.
After having an incredible pro day, I was one of many who believed there was not going to be a better workout or player arise from then until draft night. Lo and behold I forgot about NFL stupidity. Rather than watching the countless amounts of well placed throws outside the numbers, in traffic, when manipulating the safeties, and consistent tape over two seasons.
There are no questions about his ability to place the football, and all the film shows an innate ability to read defenses. But now that he took some test that has not been corroborated all of that film and his performances are thrown out the window. To me, and to any one who watches Stroud throw the football, that does not make any sense. He was asked about this at charity camp in Kansas City prior to draft day.
“I know what I can do on the field. I know I can process very well. I know I’m very smart. You Can’t play at Ohio State without being very smart,” said Stroud when asked by the media ahead of the draft.
Stroud is confident in his cognitive ability, and does not believe a test represent his ability to see the game. Ryan Day was befuddled when he heard Stroud lacked high end cognition, and he told this to the Columbus Dispatch’s Bill Rabinowitz.
“Of all the things, I just feel like (his cognitive ability) is one that I’ve always felt was what makes him special,” Day told the Dispatch. “For this to be something that’s a topic of conversation right now is catching me off guard.”
When looking at his competitors, he is bigger than Young and has a stronger arm. He has significantly more experience than Anthony Richardson, and you know, is actually already talented at playing quarterback, he’s not just a bunch of discombobulated tools. And in comparison, Will Levis who has seen the fastest rise in his draft stock ahead of the draft – Stroud has never looked like this.
Will Levis has such high cognition, just look how he sees the field. Such a great arm.— Chris Renne (@ChrisRenneCFB) April 25, 2023
There is not a quarterback who sees the game better than Will Levis in this draft. pic.twitter.com/WHMLgyl3XJ
For Stroud, I believe the slide would be the best case scenario for him in the long term. An ideal situation would be heading to Minnesota, sitting a year behind Kirk Cousins, and then getting to open up his career throwing to Justin Jefferson. If he ends up a part of the Las Vegas Raiders organization, he gets Davante Adams. Looking at Carolina, Houston, and Indianapolis, there isn’t anything that should excite a quarterback about those destinations. When it comes to draft night though, Stroud is showing his mindset, and he will not let something he can’t control define his NFL success.
“I would love to go to the right fit. I think that’s more important to me. If that’s number one, number two, number three, number 10, number 25; whatever that is, that’s God’s plan. And that’s what I’m willing to walk with.”
The right fit for Stroud may not be in the Top-5 picks, but Stroud has been doubted his entire career. Ohio State fans wanted him benched after two starts, recruiting services needed the Elite 11 MVP to come home with him to boost his rating, and he was a late offer to Ohio State. He walked away with two of the best statistical seasons in Ohio State history, an incredible performance against the formidable Georgia Bulldogs, and the team who lands him is getting a quarterback who has been through it all.
Stroud will be a successful NFL quarterback, and one team will be smart enough to not mess this draft up.
Paris Johnson Jr. and Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s relaxing draft night
The other two guaranteed first round picks for Ohio State will have a much more relaxing night. There is not a clear expectation of where Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Paris Johnson Jr. will be taken, but both will probably go between picks 10-20 to teams looking for missing pieces. The consensus for these two is that they will help Ohio State extend their lead of first round NFL draft picks and keep their first round pick streak alive, moving it to eight-straight drafts.
Starting with Smtih-Njigba, the consensus projection when looking at mock drafts is he will be drafted by the Houston Texans. With the Texans potentially taking a quarterback at two, this gives their quarterback a player to grow with. This is probably not a landing spot that should excite Ohio State fans, but we have also seen Terry McLaurin, Chris Olave, and Garrett Wilson excel at bad franchises.
Other teams to watch out for with Smith-Njigba are the Green Bay Packers paring with Christian Watson for new quarterback Jordan Love, the Tennessee Titans with Mike Vrabel, and the Patriots. None of these offenses were explosive last year, so the addition of Jaxon Smith-Njigba should excite any fan base that lands him.
For Paris Johnson Jr. he is projected to go inside the top-10 with most of the mock drafts having the Chicago Bears taking him at No. 9. This would mean he is the left tackle projected to protect former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Johnson Jr. has all the tools and the athleticism to excel for the Bears and answer the glaring hole on the left side of the line for the Bears.
If it is not the Bears for Johnson Jr., he will be drafted very soon after it. The Titans at 11 are in the mix for an offensive tackle, and the Jets need a consistent left tackle to protect their new franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers as well as reach their lofty Super Bowl expectations.
Overall, there will probably not be a lot of need to stick by the TV for more than half the draft, and that is exciting for Ohio State as a program to continually be represented in this manner.
There will be Ohio State value after Day 1
Ohio State is third all-time in NFL draft picks with 479 players taken all time, trailing only Notre Dame and USC. With the lead in first round picks staying secured for another year, the Buckeyes will be looking to close this gap further.
The Buckeyes have 14 draft eligible players in this years draft, and they will likely have a minimum of half of those players drafted. In addition to the three players already discussed, Ohio State’s list of players who are draft eligible are: Dawand Jones, Luke Wypler, Zach Harrison, Ronnie Hickman, Taron Vincent, Tanner McAlister, Cam Brown, Jerron Cage, Palaiae Gateote, Bradley Robinson, and Mitch Rossi.
Dawand Jones will be a late first round pick or an incredibly early day 2 pick. Luke Wypler and Zach Harrison will be drafted in the third round most likely. After those three players are off the board it will be incredibly interesting to see how many additional players are off the board by the end of the draft.
Since 2000, Ohio state has led the way with defensive players drafted with 24 total players and they will likely add to that. I think Vincent, Hickman, and McAlister will be drafted giving the Buckeyes nine total players drafted this season, which would compete for the most drafted players this season. There was also the Luke Farrell surprise draft pick, and I could see a team adding Mitch Rossi with a late round flier.
This draft should be a full three days of advertising for the Buckeyes, and this is a final place to celebrate the players as they officially closeout their career. There has been fabricated drama about C.J. Stroud, which will officially come to an end, and the Buckeyes will be well-represented in the first round with Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Paris Johnson Jr.
Ohio State continues to churn out talent, and yes there will still be the tired tropes about how Ohio State doesn’t have a track record of producing NFL quarterbacks. Well, the Buckeyes do not have a rich history, but Ryan Day will have his third-straight starting quarterback in a row drafted in the first round. That is a real trend and the only other school in the country that can compete with that is Alabama.
Brian Hartline will have another first round receiver to sell to elite recruits, and Justin Frye will get to claim two early draft picks and a third draft pick in his first season as the offensive line coach. This is not the end of the story either, as the Buckeyes will be well-represented again next season at the NFL Draft like clock work. The vibes in Columbus are good, and that is with the rest of the country trying to bring down the program the week leading up to the draft.
Ohio State produces pros, and I will go out on a limb to say this will be another elite draft class from the Buckeyes when it is all said and done.