Buckeyes Should Shine In '15 Draft, Too

Coming off one successful NFL draft for Ohio State, it's never too early to look ahead at what might happen next year. A number of Buckeyes should go quite early in next year's draft, including four Buckeyes who might end up as first-round picks.

One thing the NFL learned this year is that even when pushing the draft back to May, there's always plenty to talk about when it comes to the league's annual selection show.

With more time before the draft, there was more time to talk about the draft, which led to more talk about the draft.

Yes, it's all about the draft.

And it's never too early to look at next year's draft, either.

After a selection process that led to six Buckeyes being chosen this time around, including two in the first round, there is the potential that Ohio State will do even better next year. As many as four players could be seen as first-round talents, it appears, and even more Buckeyes could end up in the seven-round show.

So without further ado, let's take a look at how next year's draft might work out for the Buckeyes – 52 weeks in advance. We'll use three mock drafts, including those posted by NFL Draft Scout/CBSSports.com writer Dane Brugler, USA Today's Brent Sobleski and SB Nation's Dan Kadar.

Potential First-Round Picks
QB Braxton Miller: A lot of draft analysts might not agree – most of the early 2015 mock drafts out there, including the three I linked above, don't have Miller listed as a first-round pick – but I think he has to be on this list. Urban Meyer and Tom Herman have made it clear that they plan to spend this offseason working with Miller to make him NFL ready, which would in turn of course help the Buckeyes on the field in 2014. No one doubts Miller's ability to run with the football, and he's improved his passing stats markedly in each of his three seasons at Ohio State. If he does it again, he'll likely end up pretty high on a lot of draft boards. Jameis Winston of Florida State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon are already pretty high in a lot of rankings, but Miller could join them if he shows the scouts what they want to see in 2014.

DE Noah Spence: Spence is listed 15th in the USA today mock, 22nd in Brugler's listing and 25th in SB Nation's rankings, and it shouldn't really be a surprise. The NFL won't care too much about his three-game suspension for using a banned substance, and there's no doubt Spence has the tools NFL scouts drool over. His eight sacks a year ago show he can get to the quarterback, which is extremely important in the pass-happy pro ranks these days. Spence has the athleticism that scouts crave at his position as well. Nebraska's Randy Gregory is an early top pick according to most experts, so the onus will be on Spence to try to match him for Big Ten honors, but there's no doubting he has the talent to be there.

DL Michael Bennett: After a rough 2012, Bennett put himself on the radar for NFL scouts with his standout 2013 campaign that included 42 tackles, 11.5 TFL and seven sacks. Brugler lists him as the No. 10 overall pick in his early '15 mock, and while the other two mocks don't have him in the first round, there's no doubt Bennett will get some consideration there if he has another standout campaign as a senior. He boasts very good athleticism for his size and has shown the ability to be disruptive in the backfield from his spot on the interior line so far in his OSU career. Bennett is also a smart player and a good locker room influence, so he'll score well when he meets with teams in the offseason. Bennett has the capability to be one of the top defensive tackles in next year's draft.

CB Doran Grant: Brugler's mock has Grant listed as the No. 28 pick in next year's draft, and things are set up for the senior from Akron to have a breakout campaign and jump into next year's first round. The new press coverage scheme the Buckeyes will play should allow Grant to show off his skills, and cornerbacks are in high demand in the NFL right now with the passing focus in the league. If Grant, who looked good this spring, can shine, he'll likely be in high demand come next spring. A four-star prospect coming out of high school, Grant has good size and athleticism for his position.

Others Who Could Be On The Board
WR Devin Smith: Right now, NFLDraftScout.com lists Smith as the No. 20 wideout in the 2015 draft, but he could certainly jump with a good senior season. No one doubts Smith's athleticism – his high school track exploits showed his speed and jumping ability, skill she's used to make some highlight-reel grabs in his career – and his skills with the deep ball will make him an attractive NFL target. He needs to improve his consistency, though, after tailing off late in each of the past two seasons and showing more as a deep threat than as a possession receiver so far in his career.

TE Jeff Heuerman: NFL Draft Scout's seventh-rated tight end for the 2015 class, Heuerman will likely hear his name called next year given his skills as both a blocker and a receiver. For my money, he's one of the best blocking tight ends OSU has had in recent years, and he's no slouch when it comes to getting open over the middle of the field as well. Heuerman had 26 grabs in 2013 and could up that number as a senior, which would likely make him an attractive pick. He isn't quite a freakish enough athlete to be a first-round pick, but he projects as a solid player.

LT Taylor Decker: The only place you saw Decker in this year's NFL draft was in Khalil Mack's highlights, but there's no denying the sophomore improved quite a bit during his first year as a starter in 2013. Ohio State just had two offensive linemen drafted and two more sign as free agents, but Decker might have been the steadiest performer among the group by the end of the last campaign. Now moving to left tackle, Decker could show that he's a top-flight NFL prospect with a good campaign. NFL Draft Scout has him 15th among 2016 tackles, but he could make a big leap this year and consider going pro early, especially if he shows well against the Big Ten's excellent edge rushers.

LB Curtis Grant: NFL Draft Scout lists Grant as the No. 15 inside linebacker in the '15 class, and he has shown when healthy that he can be a solid downhill run stuffer. Grant will have to improve his skills against the pass to be a viable NFL prospect given the league's focus on throwing the ball – not to mention stave off a challenge from highly rated freshman Raekwon McMillan – but as a former five-star prospect he has the skills to get that done.


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