Draft Analysts Bullish On Several Buckeyes

The NFL draft is still more than three months away, but some Buckeyes have already caught the eye of analysts Mike Mayock and Charles Davis, who gave mostly glowing accounts of what they know so far about a handful of former Ohio State players.

Mayock and Davis are part of the NFL Network's coverage of the annual Senior Bowl, which will take place Saturday in Mobile, and as such have had a chance to see Brian Robiskie and Marcus Freeman compete against some of the best the rest of the nation has to offer.

As par of a conference call Wednesday, they took time to answer questions about that pair as well as likely first-round choices James Laurinaitis and Chris "Beanie" Wells.

"I think Robiskie is one of the guys Charles and I both really like a lot," Mayock said of the senior whose father, Terry, is a long-time NFL coach. "Because of his father and the way he was brought up with the game of football, to me he is two mental steps ahead of all the other wide receivers. He gets it. He understands it."

Mayock acknowledged that some scouts question the younger Robiskie's top-end speed but observed that he seems to be able to consistently create separation nonetheless.

He also praised the 6-3, 199-pounder's hands, saying he rated him a potential second-round pick before seeing him in person in Mobile and continues to do so.

"I really like Robiskie a lot," Mayock said.

As for Robiskie's fellow teammate working out at the Senior Bowl, Freeman has a long-time admirer in Davis, who in addition to his work with the NFL Network is a color commentator for both the Big Ten Network and Fox's broadcasts of both BCS National Championships games that included the Buckeyes in January 2007 and '08.

"I think he's a terrific player," Davis said. "We like him more on the weak side as a ‘backer than we do on the strong side, although he's playing both here because of his frame."

The 6-1, 239-pound Freeman played all three linebacker positions in Ohio State's 4-3 defense during his time in Columbus.

"I like him more as a ‘chase guy', but I like him a lot," Davis said.

The two analysts fielded questions about Wells and Laurinaitis. Both are projected by most to be selected in the first round of the draft, but neither is without his doubters.

Some wonder if Laurinaitis, a three-time consensus All-American, hit a plateau at some point after first becoming a star in 2006.

"He gets a little of a bad rap because he's a kid who peaked so well as a sophomore," Davis said. "He kind of came out of nowhere in a sense that here he was good but all of a sudden as a sophomore, ‘Wow, he's the best linebacker in the country playing for a team that's in the national championship,' and so you always expect more – the bar gets raised on a guy like that.

"Well, at the end of the day you're always looking up and seeing a consistent double-digit tackler. He doesn't miss very many. Mike made the point you're always looking for these monster hits from inside linebackers and he doesn't provide that the way (USC linebacker Rey) Maualuga does, but he also doesn't miss tackles that Maualuga would miss because he's going for the all out killshot."

Mayock called Laurinaitis one of the most consistent linebackers in the country.

"He's instinctive, he's smart, he's tough, he doesn't make major mistakes. I believe he can play all three positions in a 4-3. What gets lost in that is the consistency and the fact he'll be a top-level player. I think he's an every-down player."

Davis added, "I think he did improve over time. I'd take James Laurinaitis in a heartbeat. I think he's going to have a very nice, productive pro career. He may not be the flashy, highlight guy that some people like to see out of a middle linebacker, but I think he's going to be just fine, and whoever gets him will be very happy. There's a lot of subtleties to improvement that people don't see."

Finally, there is Wells, a 6-1, 237-pounder who rushed for more than 3,000 yards in his Ohio State career but was plagued by nagging injuries both seasons.

Davis has issues with anyone who questions Wells' toughness, however.

"I just don't see it," Davis said. "I hear that and I think to myself, ‘Isn't that the same kid who played most of a season with a broken wrist and finished it off with 200 yards against a really good Michigan team two years ago? Isn't that the kid who came back before his time this year and played with an oversized shoe when a lot of people were telling him he ought to just shut it down and get ready to go? And he came back anyway and did some really nice things.

"The toughness thing I'm having trouble stomaching."

Mayock drew a line of distinction.

"I don't think it's a toughness thing but more durability, and I think that's a fair question."

He said either Wells or 5-11, 207-pound Knowshon Moreno of Georgia will be the first running back taken, and who goes first will be a matter of what "flavor" of running back a particular team desires.


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