It’s been five years since fewer than seven Buckeyes were selected in the NFL Draft, and it’s doubtful the 2020 edition will break that trend.
Defensive end Chase Young and cornerback Jeff Okudah are near locks as top 10 selections Thursday, but they are unlikely to steal the show for Ohio State, as former Buckeyes litter draft projections from rounds one through seven.
Young and Okudah could make history Thursday, as Ohio State and USC are currently tied for the most first-round selections in NFL Draft history at 81. USC does not have a projected first-round prospect in this year’s draft.
Cornerback Damon Arnette, who graduated in summer 2019, is slated for a likely second- or third-round selection during the second day of the draft, but some projections forecast him as a sleeper for the late first round.
Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said in a teleconference Wednesday Arnette’s stock got a boost this past season, when Arnette was named second-team All-Big Ten in his first All-Big Ten selection.
“Damon Arnette is going to be a very, very good professional football player,” Coombs said. “It’s important to Damon. I think Damon has made tremendous strides. Personally, I think his work ethic has climbed off the charts, and he is a tough, competitive player.”
Alongside Arnette and Okudah in the secondary is former safety Jordan Fuller.
Fuller ran a lackluster 4.67 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, slating him No. 18 among safeties. With a top three finish each of the past three seasons at Ohio State in tackles, however, he could be selected somewhere in the later rounds or even sneak into day two.
Malik Harrison is the lone departure from Ohio State’s 2019 linebacker corps, and he’s a probable second- or third-round selection after flashing tremendous athleticism in 2019. He piled up a team-high 76 tackles, and finished second on the squad with 16.5 tackles for loss.
“I think he’ll fit any scheme,” linebackers coach Al Washington said on the call. “I think he has a great amount of skill with his hands. I think he has football IQ. I think he can cover, he showed a lot of that in the Senior Bowl, and he can run.”
Other potential draft picks for Ohio State on defense include former defensive tackles Robert Landers, Jashon Cornell and Davon Hamilton.
On the offensive side of the ball, a trio of departed Buckeye wide receivers wait in the wings for a potential second- or third-day name call.
K.J. Hill, who set the school record for career receptions with 201, projects the highest of the trio as a third- or fourth-round selection. Hill clocked in at just 4.6 in his 40-yard dash at the combine, and though he was consistent enough to generate more than 500 receiving yards in his final three years at Ohio State, his midtier speed and 6-foot stature limit his ability to go deep at the next level.
Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor, who finished with 361 and 573 yards in 2019, respectively, both project as day three picks, although Mack could slide into undrafted free agent territory.
Wide receivers coach Brian Hartline said Ohio State serves as a clear launchpad to the NFL, a reason many players go there in the first place.
“Ohio State’s a part of the process because it’s the best place in the country to play football,” Hartline said. “The draft takes care of itself. Everyone knows that.”
Former running back J.K. Dobbins is another probable second-day pick who could sneak into the first round off a 2,000-yard season for the Buckeyes.
Two offensive linemen join Dobbins as potential picks in former first-team All-Big Ten guard Jonah Jackson and second-team All-Big Ten tackle Branden Bowen.
What few people recognize about Jackson, offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said, is his versatility.
“Here’s a guy that can be elite at guard and center, and I think that makes him more valuable,” Studrawa said. “His attention to detail, his mental toughness, all those things about him. He’s just a disciplined guy. I think he’s gonna play a long time.”
Thursday’s draft will do more for Ohio State than grant NFL dreams to its top players.
Each Ohio State name that’s called reminds the nation’s top recruits of the possibilities for footballers who come to Columbus.
“I’m really not interested in being around anybody that doesn’t want to be the best in the world at what they do,” Coombs said. “To me, the measuring stick for us in this profession is to be chosen by the group at the next level as being the best at what you do. That’s what a first-round draft pick represents.”