To many, the Ohio State Buckeyes had the best collection of talent on any roster in college football this past season. That’s why 14 of them were in Indianapolis in late February to participate in the NFL Combine, by far the most of any college program. It’s very likely that they all will hear their names called by Commissioner Goodell on April 28, 29 or 30th in Chicago at the draft.
This post is simply where I think each Ohio State Alumn eligible for the 2016 NFL Draft will make the most sense and reach their potential to have as productive of a professional career as they had in Scarlet and Gray. This is not a mock draft. I repeat, this is not a mock draft! Those are created based on insider information that hints as to where teams are leaning towards using their pick. I only included the picks so you would have an idea of where the teams selected.
Joey Bosa (DL) – 2nd pick, Cleveland Browns. The consensus of mock drafts have the Browns selecting California quarterback Jared Goff with this pick. I haven’t seen him play enough to say he is or isn’t worthy of such a high pick, but I do know that he wasn’t as heralded as a top prospect for long as Bosa has been during his time in Columbus. Bosa has been projected as the top player in this class for at least two seasons.
The Tennessee Titans have the number one pick and are likely to draft a left tackle to protect their franchise QB Marcus Mariotta. That makes sense, but if you’re Cleveland, it doesn’t make sense to draft a QB who just started climbing the draft boards after one season.
I only have to mention one name that Browns executives should think of when making this pick; J.J. Watt. Bosa has that type of potential. Cleveland could do better in the QB market in free agency, or maybe new head coach Hugh Jackson should make a deal with his old team the Cincinnati Bengals for backup A.J. McCarron. The Browns could also wait until the second round an make a run at Michigan State and Cleveland area native Connor Cook, or the Buckeye’s Cardale Jones-more on him later.
Ezekiel Elliott (RB) – 4th pick, Dallas Cowboys. Zeke is hands down top running back prospect in this class. If this were the 90’s he would be a top three pick easily. However, this is the NFL where the running back position has been devalued, and Elliott is projected to go anywhere from 15th to 25th.
The Cowboys were at their best in 2014 when they had All-Pro running back DeMarco Murray leading the NFL in rushing. Dallas finished with a 12-4 record. Without him, as well as Tony Romo and Dez Bryant due to injury, the ‘Boys had the fourth worse record in the League. Dallas is desperate for a game changing RB. Zeke is dynamic in the run game and versatile enough to be used in the passing game to the point he’d be on the field all three downs. He’s also a devastating blocker in pass protection, so he could help keep guys off Tony Romo’s ailing back and shoulder.
What Dallas should do is trade down around the 10th selection, pick up more pieces to help a team that finished with a 4-12 record. If Dallas is serious about winning now, this is the move. As a bonus, if Zeke were to be drafted by Dallas, his new home would be the site of his greatest moment as a Buckeye.
Eli Apple (CB) – 25th pick, Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers desperately need help in the back end of their defense. Pittsburgh was 30th in pass defense. They haven’t selected a defensive back in the first round since Troy Polamalu with the 16th pick in 2003.
Apple is a big corner at 6’1″ 200 pounds who plays physical press coverage and is very good in man-to-man. He’s one of three corners expected to go in the first round along with Jalen Ramsey out of Florida State and Vernon Hargreaves from Florida.
Taylor Decker (OL) – 16th pick, Detroit Lions/18th, Indianapolis Colts. The uncertainty surrounding WR Calvin Johnson’s possible retirement may change the plans Detroit had coming into the offseason for the draft. It won’t matter if Megatron stays or goes if his QB Matt Stafford can’t get enough time to throw him the ball. They desperately need offensive line help. This may be high for Decker, but with other teams picking ahead of them needing offense line help as well, there may be a run of them selected early in the draft starting with the Titans with the first pick that may force the Lions hand.
The Indianapolis Colts also are in badly need of some protection for Andrew Luck. Luck has been sacked more than any QB in his 4-years in the League; 115 times in 55 games. Considering how bad the O-line was in 2015, the Colts may be sprinting to the podium to select Decker if he’s still there.
Darron Lee (LB) – 12th pick, New Orleans Saints/18th pick, Indianapolis Colts. Linebacker along with offensive line help is a big need for several teams in this year’s draft. The 6’1″ 232 pound Lee has the look and measurables of former Buckeye and current Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Ryan Shazier. If you saw the playoff games against the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos, you see how well that’s working out for Steeler Nation. Lee could boost a Saints defense that was the second worse total defense in the NFL this past season.
The Colts would also be a good fit for Lee if they don’t go offensive line, they have some holes due to free agency and poor play from last seasons’ unit.
Michael Thomas (WR) – 22nd pick Houston Texans/26th pick, Seattle Seahawks/30th pick, Carolina Panthers. Thomas, the nephew of Keyshawn Johnson, is a big receiver at 6’3″ 215 pounds. Coming into the NFL combine he was the third rated WR in this class, so going late in the first round is a realistic option for a few teams.
The Texans DeAndre Hopkins needs some help! He was dominant in his first season as the number one in replacement of Houston’s all-time leading receiver Andre Johnson, who moved on to the Indianapolis Colts. Thomas can be the number two WR to alleviate the pressure on Hopkins in H-Town. Granted part of the passing problem with the Texans is they had four QBs start for them in 2015. But, if you believe the RG III or Colin Kaepernick trade rumors, they may have better luck at that position in 2016.
Thomas could also boost the Seahawks who lost Golden Tate in free agency in 2015 and a Panthers group that was pretty lackluster–even though they made the Super Bowl–to say the least with 2014 top pick Kelvin Benjamin missing the entire 2015 with a knee injury.
Braxton Miller (WR, KR, PR) — 2nd round 34th pick, Dallas Cowboys. Braxton is turning heads with his athleticism and quick ability to pick up the nuances of the position after switching from QB to WR for his senior season at OSU. From an athletic stand point, he is a 1st round talent, but because of the late position change and his 40-yard dash time of 4.55, it may have caused him to slip in the eyes of decision makers. The consensus of the mock drafts have him going anywhere early second round to late third round coming into the combine.
Cowboys coaches were at the helm of the North squad at the Senior Bowl in Mobile Alabama and got an up close look at what the 6’2″ 215 pound Braxton could do. They have a huge hole at the WR position opposite Dez Bryant in the slot as well as the return game. Miller could kill two birds with one stone in” Jerry World.”
Vonn Bell (SS) – 2nd Round pick 38th, Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags need help all over the defensive side of the ball. If they choose to fill their needs on the defensive line in the first round, Bell would be there to help sure up the back end of the unit in the second round. He’s ranked by many as the second best strong safety in the 2016 class.
Cardale Jones (QB) – 2nd round 58th pick/3rd round 89th Pittsburgh Steelers. Cardale is a Cleveland born and raised kid so he’d probably wouldn’t be so thrilled with this, but it sets him up to have a great career. Steelers fans know that two things are stopping this team from greatness; a suspect secondary and the lack of a viable back up to Ben Roethlisberger. Cardale has the similar measurables at 6’5″ 249 pounds to #7.
Landry Jones in his 3 years in the Steel City hasn’t proven he can carry the load when Roethlisberger is out, and bringing in Michael Vick in 2015 wasn’t the answer either.
When the Steelers have had good backup QBs, it’s been when they acquired former All-Pro Charlie Batch and Pro-Bowler Byron Leftwitch at the latter stages of their careers and no longer capable of being full time starters. Roethlisberger has only played 16 games 3 times in his 12-year career. It’s time Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert wise up and stop trying to fill this void with 4th round picks or lower.
For Cardale it’s also a chance to learn behind a two-time Super Bowl Champion, who will be 34 years old when the 2016 season starts, and probably only has 3 to 4 good years left. For both Cardale and Pittsburgh, this could be the move that keeps them as contenders well into the next decade.
Joshua Perry (OLB) – 2nd round 60th pick, New England Patriots. This will be the Pats first pick of the draft due to punishment from deflate-gate unless they trade into the first round. Jerrod Mayo just retired and they’ll likely need to find his replacement immediately in this draft. The 6’3″ 253 pound Perry is the kind of versatile playmaker and character guy Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft covet.
Jalin Marshall (WR, KR, PR) – 3rd round 72 pick, Chicago Bears. Marshall has a similar skill set to former Buckeye and current Carolina Panther Tedd Ginn Junior. They have that world class track speed, great elusiveness in the return game, but questionable skills at the wide receiver position. Outside of Alshon Jeffery, the wide receiver group is limited in the “Windy City” and Marshall can take the top off the defense to help Jeffery get the space he needs to do what he does.
Tyvis Powell (S) – 3rd round 74th pick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After defensive end, the Bucs need help at corner and Safety. At 6’3″ 209 pounds, Powell would check off several boxes for a Tampa defense that finished 23rd overall and 16th against the pass. Powell led the Buckeyes in interceptions in 2015 and finished his career at OSU with 15.
Adolphus Washington (DT) – 3rd round 73rd pick, Miami Dolphins. Washington missed the Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame after being arrested for solicitation. He’ll undoubtedly will be hammered with questions about this at the combine. However, he was a very productive lineman in his time in Columbus and several teams with defensive line needs will want him. He’s very athletic and agile at 6’3″ 297 and can help free up All-Pro Gerald Mccoy and keep blockers off Pro-bowler LaVonte David.
Nick Vanett (TE) – 4th round 120th pick, Pittsburgh Steelers/4th round 124th pick, New England Patrits. The Steelers have a hole at tight end with the retirement of Heath Miller. Jesse James the second-year guy out of Penn State will likely get the nod to start coming into 2016, but as he’s virtually unproven, they’ll need to get some depth behind him. Vanett did more blocking than catching in Columbus–55 catches for 585 yards and 6 TDs for his career (19 receptions for 162 yards in 2015)–but showed at the Senior Bowl he has the athleticism and hands to be very productive in the passing game.
He’d also be a plus for the Patriots. Remember how lethal their offense was when Tom Brady had Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez? Vanett could be the type of TE who could allow them to go back to more two TE sets where they’d have the versatility to run through you and pass all over you.