Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
Seven Ohio State football alums will be among more than 300 participants whom NFL scouts will watch at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, which takes place Saturday through Tuesday inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Fullback Zach Boren, offensive tackle Reid Fragel, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, linebacker Etienne Sabino, defensive end John Simon, tight end Jake Stoneburner and defensive end Nathan Williams are the seven Buckeyes who received invites to the combine.
Fragel and Stoneburner will participate in on-field drills Saturday, while Boren will begin on Sunday and Hankins, Sabino, Simon and Williams will all have their day on Monday.
Each of the seven players go into the combine trying to prove that they are worthy NFL draft selections. What scouts are looking for from each player, however, will not be the same across the board.
Boren will be working out with the running backs on Sunday as a fullback, but NFL teams should be looking at him as a prospect primarily for his versatility.
Boren showed just how versatile he could be in his senior season, when he made a midseason switch to the defensive side of the ball, taking over as the team’s starting middle linebacker. He also has experience playing on special teams.
With that in mind, Boren will likely get extra work from the coaches after going through drills with the running backs, as teams will also be evaluating him as a potential contributor on defense and special teams.
Physical measurables, athleticism and health will all be under the microscope for Fragel at the combine.
Having converted from tight end to right tackle in his senior season, he is more athletic than most offensive tackles and has the upside to be a starting right tackle in the NFL. Scouts at the combine will be looking for Fragel to prove his athleticism by testing well in his drills on Saturday.
Weigh-ins will also be an important factor for Fragel: standing between 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-8, Fragel has very good height for an offensive tackle, but teams will look for him to weigh in at above 300 pounds. Also important for Fragel will be getting through the medical examination with a clean bill of health: he missed the Senior Bowl due to injury.
Hankins has the size, power and quickness to be a dominant NFL defensive tackle. His biggest concerns are his motor and stamina, as he tended to disappear late in games during his OSU career.
Because of that, scouts will be looking for Hankins to finish strong through his combine workout, and will assess whether his performance drops as the day goes along, to make an evaluation on his stamina level. Additionally, scouts will be focused on how Hankins’ athleticism stacks up against some of the draft’s other top nose tackles, including Utah’s Star Lotulelei and Alabama’s Jesse Williams.
Hankins, Lotulelei and Williams are all projected to be first-round picks in the 2013 NFL draft.
Sabino was a productive player in his senior season for the Buckeyes, but he never stood out amidst a talent-laden Buckeyes defense. He has a chance to be a late-round draft pick, but one way he can improve that chance is to stand out athletically during linebacker drills on Monday.
Sabino has good speed and lateral athleticism, which he will attempt to prove with his combine performance. He does not have the consistent game performances to secure being a draft selection, but he has the talent to catch the eyes of NFL teams in Indianapolis.
Sabino will also be examined closely in his medical evaluation, after missing four games in his senior season with a broken right fibula he suffered against Nebraska on Oct. 6.
Few players in the 2013 NFL draft class play the game with a stronger motor and work ethic than Simon do, but he does not stand out athletically on tape. He will have a chance to change that perception Monday, but the combine is not a favorable setting for Simon’s abilities.
Showing athleticism will be especially important in the eyes of NFL teams that run a 3-4 defense. Measuring in at only 6-foot-1 at the Senior Bowl, he is shorter than the prototypical defensive end, but if he is going to be considered a prospect who can transition to outside linebacker, he is going to have to display lateral athleticism, fluid hips and flexibility in his combine workout.
Health will also come into question at the combine – Simon missed the final game of his senior season with a swollen bursa sac in his right knee.
After Stoneburner moved to wide receiver in his senior season at OSU, and had an underwhelming 16-reception, 269-yard season, NFL scouts will be looking to see how Stoneburner stacks up against his competition as he moves back to the tight end position for his combine workout.
Stoneburner did not establish himself as a consistent run blocker during his years as an OSU tight end, nor was he consistently productive as a receiver. He should perform well in athletic testing at the combine, but must convince scouts that he is developed enough as a receiver or blocker to find a role on an NFL team.
The interview process, which NFL teams use to assess character, will also be an important step of the combine process for Stoneburner. Stoneburner was arrested for obstructing official business in June 2012 after allegedly urinating in public and running away from police. Those charges were later dropped.
Williams had flashes of brilliance in his OSU career, but was consistently hindered by i
njury. For Williams, who missed the entire 2011 season after microfracture knee surgery and missed two games in his senior season due to injury, the medical examination could make or break whether he is drafted at all.
Williams, who is working out as a defensive lineman on Monday, has potential as both a pass-rushing defensive end and as his original position of linebacker. But for a team to take a chance on him in the late rounds of the 2013 draft, they will have to be satisfied with his medical reports.
The seven Buckeyes participating in the combine are also all expected to work out at Ohio State’s pro day, which is scheduled for March 8. They will be joined there by many other NFL hopefuls who have graduated from OSU, including cornerback Travis Howard, a surprising snub from this year’s combine.