Home » Features » Football: Samuel’s stock rises, Brown’s falls after NFL Combine

Football: Samuel’s stock rises, Brown’s falls after NFL Combine

OSU junior H-back Curtis Samuel (4) celebrates as he scores a rushing touchdown in second overtime to win the game for the Buckeyes on Nov. 26 at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 30-27. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo Editor

Although the Ohio State football team will not be breaking records in the NFL Draft like it did last season, there are still eight former Buckeyes who are vying for the chance to play at the highest level in 2017.

After the 2017 NFL Combine, a few of those players might be hearing their names called a little earlier after solid workouts. However, it isn’t positive for all OSU’s hopefuls.

Center/Guard Pat Elflein

Prediction: Pick 114 (Washington Redskins)

Pat Elflein’s switch to center worked well for the Pickerington, Ohio, native. A starter for 40 consecutive games and the indisputable anchor of the Buckeyes on the offensive line last season, Elflein mentored now-redshirt senior Billy Price, who will be following in his teammate’s footsteps next season by sliding over from guard to center.

At the combine, Elflein looked leaner, with a more slim yet powerful frame. Even with a body that appeared much more in shape, Elflein managed just 22 reps, a rather low number for an offensive lineman.

Elflein was not pleased.

“It’s OK for right now,” he told the media. “But I’m going to do more at pro day.”

While his stock might drop slightly because of less-than-stellar testing, Elflein is a workhorse who can bring a lot to an NFL franchise. Although he is known to have short arms for an interior lineman and lack some fundamental strength, he can still be a late steal.

Wide receiver Curtis Samuel

Prediction: Pick 37 (Los Angeles Rams)

Curtis Samuel did not have the best hands last season, and had a habit of dropping passes. Regardless, Samuel entered the combine as a wide receiver rather than a running back, and showed off his most valuable skill: his speed.

Samuel put in a blazing 4.31 40-yard dash time, the second best mark behind only John Ross of Washington, who ran an absurd 4.22 dash time. It was the fastest time of any Buckeye at the combine ever.

It remains to be seen where Samuel actually ends up playing in the NFL. His 18 reps on bench press are a relatively high number for a wide receiver and predict his ability to create separation, but would also show his ability to bounce off tackles in the NFL as a running back.

Regardless, Samuel earned himself quite a pay-bump with his quick feet.

Linebacker Raekwon McMillan

Prediction: Pick 53 (Detroit Lions)

A leader in the middle of the OSU defense for three years, Raekwon McMillan is another example of a quality linebacker from Columbus. With more than 100 tackles in his senior season alone, McMillan showed his ability to be a reliable and formidable force in the middle on run defense.

As a player who is wise beyond his years, McMillan’s ability to drop back in coverage and chase down ball carriers are the biggest questions ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft. One thing that can’t be questioned is the leadership of McMillan.

“Everything we did on defense (at OSU) came through me,” he said. “I can do the same thing for their program. I’m never gonna give you a reason to let me go from the team, and I’ll always be a leader … never a follower.”

With 23 reps on bench press, and a solid 4.61 time in the 40-yard dash, it seems strange that fans and coaches still question the ability of the Georgia native. Still, the combine is not an actual game.

McMillan will be able to play at the next level, but will still have to prove himself at OSU’s pro day. Any team that takes a chance on him will likely benefit from one of the most intelligent and mature players in the draft, but that team might have to wait a year or two before he develops into a well-rounded middle linebacker.

But when he is fully developed, McMillan could be one of the league’s best.

Cornerback Marshon Lattimore

Prediction: Pick 12 (Cleveland Browns)

Marshon Lattimore went through lingering hamstring injuries throughout his college career before having a stellar year in 2016, picking up four interceptions and returning one for a touchdown.

And yet, every team still seemed hung up on his hamstring. Lattimore said he was asked multiple times about his hamstring, often with the question being the first thing asked.

After an x-ray signaled he was fine, Lattimore reported injured his hamstring again, but he said it was hip flexor.

Before the apparent injury, Lattimore ran a 4.36 40-yard dash, which showed his hamstring was in order (later ruined by reports of another injury). Lattimore has speed, and has the ability to play zone and press coverage, but his health is a major question mark.

Still, Lattimore is confident.

“At Ohio State, they prepare you the best, I feel like,” Lattimore said. “We perform in college, and then we perform in the league.”

A team is going to take a shot at him in the first round, but the question is, who will be willing to take on the risk of a cornerback who can’t stay on the field?

Punter Cameron Johnston

Prediction: Pick 247 (Green Bay Packers)

It’s hard to judge punters in combine testing. Most of what is known about a special teamer is established well before the combine.

In Cameron Johnston’s case, he was one of three punters to run the 40-yard dash, and posted the slowest time among specialists of 4.92 seconds. This isn’t exactly an important stat for punters, but it’s worth noting.

Johnston is a rugby-style punter who can really boot the ball deep, and could add a nice twist to a team looking for a proven player at the position. He won’t be taken off the board until late, if at all due to the fact he plays a position that is extremely undervalued.

Safety Malik Hooker

Prediction: Pick 7 (Los Angeles Chargers)

“The Freak” proved all doubters wrong in 2016 after coming into Columbus as a somewhat forgotten about three-star recruit. He dominated college football as a ball-hawking safety who could hit as hard as a linebacker.

A powerfully built frame, and hands like a wide receiver, Malik Hooker is easily one of the top-10 best players in the entire draft. Offseason surgeries have limited his ability to show off his talent at the combine, but his draft stock has not fallen far.

A sports hernia surgery and a procedure to repair a labrum in his hip have slowed Hooker temporarily, but he told reporters at the combine that  he played through the injury during the Fiesta Bowl.

“That was never a thought,” Hooker said. “Just because I put too much work in with those guys. It would be like I’m letting them down.”

Hooker will still remain a top-10 selection in the draft, even though he will have to wait until rookie camp to actually contribute and work towards playing.

Cornerback Gareon Conley

Prediction: Pick 31 (Atlanta Falcons)

Gareon Conley is the man people forget from the OSU secondary in this draft, which is disappointing considering he is a quality player and one of the top cornerbacks in a cornerback-heavy class. He solidified that with a solid 4.44 40-yard dash time.

In skills drills, Conley was right up there with the cornerbacks who were considered leaps ahead of him, and had a good enough showing to make him seem like a potential pick in the first half of the first round.

This likely won’t happen for Conley, as teams have bought into the hype of his former teammates Lattimore and Alabama standout Marlon Humphrey. But his testing at the combine, paired with a career of success with the Buckeyes, shows how much Conley can bring to any team that selects him.

Conley is projected to drop out of the first round, but that isn’t stopping him.

“I don’t worry about it, but I try to motivate myself to get there,” he said. “I definitely want to be a first-round pick. Nobody doesn’t want to be a first-round pick, so I’m going to work as hard as I can to be a first-round pick.”

His solid testing and positive attitude just might have gotten him there.

Wide receiver Noah Brown

Prediction: Pick 83 (Tennessee Titans)

Noah Brown’s decision to leave OSU early was a surprise to many. He hopped on the hype train of players leaving after one solid year of production.

Only problem, Brown’s numbers were not solid.

With the exception of his absurd four-touchdown night against Oklahoma early in the season, Brown did not show much of anything to demonstrate he is going to make a difference in the NFL. The big-bodied receiver has the size to produce, but has far too many question marks to give him a clear distinction as a top-ranked wide receiver.

Brown had a solid 19 reps on the bench press, but did not run the 40-yard dash, electing to wait until OSU’s pro day on March 23 to show off his speed.

This draft is deep enough at receiver that Brown needed to wow in order to draw more interest. His body and strength alone have given him some consideration for teams desperate for wide receiver, but Brown could not have done himself any favors in the combine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.