NFL Draft Analyst
It’s referred to as The Recreation for a purpose.
Ohio State vs. Michigan is — no less than for my part — the perfect, most passionate rivalry in sports activities.
So, whereas we’ve highlighted the very best prospects within the prime faculty soccer video games all season lengthy, this week we’re focusing strictly on Columbus, Ohio, the place the No. 2 Buckeyes will play host to the No. 3 Wolverines (Midday ET on FOX and the FOX Sports activities app).
The stakes have by no means been greater, with two undefeated groups battling for the Huge Ten championship and sure one among 4 spots within the Faculty Soccer Playoff.
In contrast to earlier seasons, the defending champion Wolverines and the Buckeyes are each gifted on offense. Actually, whereas we’ve highlighted all the prospects more likely to be chosen among the many Prime 100 in subsequent 12 months’s NFL Draft, the apparent focus is on the offensive aspect of the ball, together with Heisman front-running quarterback C.J. Stroud of Ohio State and Michigan operating again Blake Corum. Actually, 9 of the highest 10 graded prospects on this recreation are hoping to attain factors on Saturday slightly than forestall them.
Nonetheless, among the greatest gamers who will go well with up in The Recreation should not eligible for subsequent spring’s draft. The Buckeyes’ dynamic duo of Marvin Harrison, Jr. and Emeka Egbuka might very nicely proceed Ohio State’s spectacular run of receivers chosen within the first spherical, however that gained’t happen till 2024 on the earliest. That can also be the case for Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy.
The Recreation: Ohio State, Michigan sq. off
RJ Younger is joined by Geoff Schwartz to preview the most important recreation of the school soccer season.
As such, whereas many people are nonetheless digesting our Thanksgiving meals, the true bounty lies for the scouts who get to observe prospects of each out there Saturday on “Huge Midday Kickoff.”
Right here is our analysis of the 14 gamers anticipated to be chosen subsequent spring, ranked by projected draft place.
1. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State — first spherical
Statistics might be bent in each approach to make some extent, however it’s laborious to low cost Stroud’s exceptional numbers this season, which embrace a staggering 35 touchdowns towards simply 4 interceptions. He has completed so regardless of throwing to virtually a completely new receiving corps after dropping Garrett Wilson (New York Jets) and Chris Olave (New Orleans Saints) to the primary spherical of final spring’s NFL Draft.
As highlighted in a earlier article grading the highest quarterbacks within the 2023 NFL Draft, Stroud is probably the most gifted passer within the nation, demonstrating distinctive precision to each degree of the sphere. Whereas his accuracy and arm power will earn him a top-10 choice in subsequent spring’s draft — assuming he declares early — Stroud wants to indicate that he might be simply as efficient from a muddied pocket, making this weekend’s recreation must-see scouting for all NFL talent-evaluators.
[Grading the top quarterbacks in the NFL Draft]
Why Ohio State’s run recreation is the important thing
Joel Klatt breaks down the Ohio State offense forward of Saturday’s recreation towards Michigan.
2. Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State — first spherical
After turning heads a 12 months in the past at proper guard, Johnson, a former five-star recruit, has boosted his inventory tremendously this season at his extra pure outdoors place at left deal with. He’s the underrated star of the Buckeyes’ dynamic offense, offering top-shelf safety on Stroud’s blindside. Johnson possesses exhibiting terrific preliminary quickness and lateral agility to associate with his prototypical 6-foot-6, 310-pound body, which incorporates lengthy arms.
His agility to deal with the blindside in go safety might earn Johnson a first-round choice, however it’s the expertise and physicality realized inside that exhibits up in re-establishing the purpose of assault and assembly opponents on the second degree to ascertain operating lanes.
3. Ryan Hayes, OT, Michigan — first/second spherical
Whereas not fairly as agile as Johnson, Hayes could also be simply as fast off the ball, persistently beating opponents on the snap and exhibiting terrific stability and energy to show and seal defenders from the motion. He’s a bit high-cut, missing the flexibleness in his core to make the fast changes to shifting targets that NFL groups prioritize with premium picks, however he uncoils with aggression and energy, snatching and latching to manage with the very best of them.
Technically eligible to return subsequent 12 months, Hayes has already accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl, suggesting that he (or his potential brokers) have additionally heard suggestions from the NFL of a attainable top-50 choice in subsequent spring’s draft.
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Joel Klatt breaks down the trail to victory for Michigan.
4. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State — first/second spherical
A decrease leg damage has “hamstrung” Smith-Njigba for a lot of the 2022 season, permitting the aforementioned Harrison and Egbuka to take heart stage. However when wholesome, his power-packed body, sturdy arms and dependable route-running warrant comparisons to former Ohio State standout Michael Thomas, who was merely the NFL’s Offensive Participant of the 12 months for the New Orleans Saints simply three seasons in the past, when he led the league with 149 catches for 1,725 yards.
Like Thomas, Smith-Njigba isn’t more likely to wow scouts together with his straight-line pace — projecting as extra of a 4.55 runner than a blazer like former teammates Wilson (4.38 seconds within the 40-yard sprint) and Olave (4.39). Nonetheless, his bulk, physique management and pillow-soft arms might make him a right away standout within the slot.
5. Roman Wilson, WR, Michigan — second spherical
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh could love the operating recreation, however probably the most gifted “ability place” gamers on his offense are outdoors at huge receiver, with the speedy Wilson able to sneaking forward of extra celebrated teammates based mostly on pre-draft exercises. Wilson, a real junior from Hawaii, at present ranks fourth for the Wolverines with “simply” 19 receptions for 243 yards and three scores, however he possesses the moment acceleration and top-end pace to pique the curiosity of scouts ought to he enter the NFL Draft early.
Watch: Roman Wilson catches TD go vs. Maryland
Michigan took a 24-13 lead over the Maryland earlier this season when J.J. McCarthy linked with Roman Wilson on a 20-yard TD.
6. Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State — second spherical
Whereas not as agile as his teammate Johnson, Jones is even bigger. And if there’s one factor the NFL prioritizes as a lot as pace, it’s dimension. At practically 6-foot-9 and 360 kilos, Jones is without doubt one of the greatest males probably out there within the 2023 NFL Draft, and he has proven improved quickness and stability this season. Whereas missing elite foot pace, Jones’ girth and punch make him virtually not possible to get round, and he’s matured over his time in Columbus, exhibiting better consciousness to counter strikes. A lot is made yearly about NFL groups playing on upside on the ability positions. However Jones has an upside value betting on as nicely, as he’s large and nonetheless simply rising into his body.
7. Ronnie Bell, WR, Michigan — second/third spherical
Whereas his teammate Wilson is perhaps the “toolsiest” draft-eligible receiver prospect on this recreation, Bell is perhaps probably the most dynamic, boasting not solely better manufacturing, however versatility as a do-it-all weapon who tasks equally to longtime NFL standout Randall Cobb (Inexperienced Bay Packers). Just like the 5-foot-10, 192-pound Cobb — who has 52 profession touchdowns within the NFL — Bell (6-foot, 185 kilos) possesses the elusiveness, acceleration and imaginative and prescient to impression the sport in a number of methods, together with as a receiver, runner and each kick and punt returner. Bell has scored simply seven touchdowns over his whole faculty profession, however many consider these numbers have been impacted by Michigan’s run-heavy offense. Scouts suppose Bell might be a kind of uncommon gamers who’s a extra dynamic weapon on the NFL degree than in faculty, which is among the many causes Bell has already been invited (and accepted) an invite to the Senior Bowl.
8. Olusegun Oluwatimi, C, Michigan — second/third spherical
Highlighted in our weekly faculty soccer preview only a week in the past, Oluwatimi is the right instance of a blossoming NFL prospect making the most of the NCAA’s new liberal switch coverage. He started his faculty profession with the Air Drive Academy earlier than rising at Virginia as a Rimington Award candidate as one of many nation’s prime facilities. Stout, sturdy and nonetheless enhancing, Oluwatimi has seized the eye of scouts, who view the 2023 heart class as one of many higher teams prior to now decade. Oluwatimi has among the identical qualities that earned former Michigan heart Cesar Ruiz a first-round choice in 2020 (New Orleans Saints), together with a compact, well-proportioned body, stunning quickness, reputable knockdown energy and a tenacious taking part in fashion.
9. Mike Morris, DL, Michigan — third spherical
A 12 months in the past, the Wolverines bullied the Buckeyes alongside the road of scrimmage, partially because of future No. 2 total choice Aidan Hutchinson (Detroit Lions) and fellow top-50 choose David Ojabo (Baltimore Ravens). At an imposing 6-foot-6, 292 kilos, Morris is larger than each of his former teammates, and he’s taken over as Michigan’s dominant defensive lineman together with his 7.5 tackles for loss this season, 3 times greater than another Wolverine.
Whereas Hutchinson and Ojabo beat opponents in a wide range of methods, Morris is a standard energy participant who usually overwhelms competitors with brute power and tenacity. Whereas he can play outdoors on the collegiate degree, he tasks greatest as a two-gapper on the subsequent degree, possible incomes middle-round consideration. He possesses a pro-ready recreation and the toughness to finally outplay his draft standing.
10. Zach Harrison, Edge, Ohio State — third spherical
It isn’t simply the decal on the helmet that makes Harrison the polar reverse of the aforementioned Morris. Whereas Morris has emerged this season as a reputable NFL prospect after beginning simply 4 video games over his first three seasons in Ann Arbor, Harrison has lacked eye-popping statistics since signing with Ohio State as a consensus five-star recruit.
Harrison has but to prime his career-high of three.5 sacks that he logged as a real freshman in 2019. But he boasts the triangular size-strength-speed numbers to earn early-round NFL consideration. He actually gives projectable traits, together with a prototypical 6-foot-6, 268-pound body with lengthy arms and legit twitch. In a lot the identical method that scouts fell in love with Ojabo’s potential a 12 months in the past, Harrison’s 4 turnovers triggered this 12 months (together with three compelled fumbles) might be sufficient to persuade groups that his greatest soccer nonetheless lies forward of him.
11. Blake Corum, RB, Michigan — third/fourth spherical
If this was an article highlighting the Heisman Trophy candidates for the complete nation, slightly than rating the NFL prospects on this recreation, Corum would possibly lead the record. In any case, nobody within the nation has scored greater than his 19 touchdowns, and the one two who can match his manufacturing — Pitt’s Israel Abanikanda and Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim — star for groups with 4 losses.
In fact, the numbers that matter much more to scouts than Corum’s statistics are his dimension and pace. At 5-foot-8 and 200 kilos, Corum lacks a really perfect body to be a bell cow on the NFL degree. He additionally lacks the manufacturing within the passing recreation to warrant the comparisons some have made to Los Angeles Chargers again Austin Ekeler — Corum has simply 11 passes this season, in comparison with his 245 dashing makes an attempt.
Suggesting that Corum is only a operate of Michigan’s energy operating recreation, nonetheless, can also be foolish. In actuality, he’s a high quality again who merely wants a clear match to excel on the subsequent degree.
12. Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan — third/fourth spherical
Blue-blood packages like Michigan and Ohio State are at all times going to draw distinctive athletes, they usually merely don’t come way more explosive (or hyped) than Smith, who checked in at No. 1 total on longtime faculty soccer analyst Bruce Feldman’s annual prime 100 record.
Smith’s athletic exploits learn like one thing out of a online game, with a reported 44-inch vertical bounce — which might have led all Mix invitees a 12 months in the past — and 4.41-second brief shuttle time extra typical of a defensive again or huge receiver than a 6-foot-3, 326-pound defensive deal with.
Whereas scouts’ collective mouths could water extra at Smith’s athleticism than a second serving of turkey and pumpkin pie, he has but to persistently flip that potential into manufacturing, registering “simply” six tackles for loss and half a sack in 27 profession video games for Michigan. For this reason he at present ranks as extra of a middle-round prospect at this level, slightly than the first-round lock his traits recommend.
13. Miyan Williams, RB, Ohio State — third/fourth spherical
Each actually and figuratively, the 5-foot-8, 227-pound Williams has been overshadowed by Stroud and Ohio State’s dynamic passing recreation. A digital bowling ball who persistently barrels by way of would-be tacklers and offers a component of toughness for Ohio State that, frankly, Michigan boasted a 12 months in the past with Hassan Haskins, Williams has emerged because the Buckeyes’ finisher close to the goal-line, main the crew with 13 dashing touchdowns — greater than twice as many as teammates (and fellow future professional hopefuls) TreVeyon Henderson and Dallan Hayden, who’ve comparable dashing makes an attempt this season. Williams lacks the body and breakaway pace to ever obtain early-round NFL Draft consideration, however he’s fast to and thru the outlet, and bounces off defenders like a bumper automobile — traits that mission very nicely on the subsequent degree.
14. Tommy Eichenberg, LB, Ohio State — third/fourth spherical
The youthful brother of former Notre Dame offensive lineman Liam (at present on Injured Reserve for the Miami Dolphins), Eichenberg possesses the instincts and depth to comply with his siblings’ footsteps to the NFL, albeit at a distinct place. At 6-foot-2, 235 kilos, Eichenberg possesses a prototypical body for a modern-day linebacker, exhibiting the important thing and analysis expertise to smell out performs, in addition to good pace to the flanks and a strike zone that might make a pitcher within the Main Leagues envious, persistently bringing down opponents with a clear hit-drive-wrap approach. On a crew stuffed with future NFL draft picks, Eichenberg is Ohio State’s runaway chief in each tackles and stops behind the road of scrimmage, with 105 and 12, respectively.
Rob Rang is an NFL Draft analyst for FOX Sports activities. He has been overlaying the NFL Draft for greater than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports activities Illustrated, CBSSports.com, USA Immediately, Yahoo, NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com, amongst others. He additionally works as a scout with the BC Lions of the Canadian Soccer League. Comply with him on Twitter @RobRang.
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Publish date: 2022-11-24 16:40:56
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