NFL draft view: Ohio State prospect analysis

Most of Ohio State’s top draft prospects are on the defensive side of the ball. NFL scout Dave-Te’ Thomas analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the Buckeyes’ top draft prospects.


72 Jeff Heuerman Ohio State TE Sr 06:05.0 252 4.68 5.7 4
Heuerman is never going to be confused for Dave Casper (former Raiders great), but there is a bit of Mark Bavaro (former Giants great) in him with his “search and destroy” blocking style. He is never going to be anything more than a second or third option for a quarterback in a passing game, even though he pulled in 52 balls for 792 yards and seven touchdowns in four seasons. He is exactly what the young OSU passers needed this year – an outstanding blocker, a safety-valve receiver and also the unquestioned offensive leader. Ohio State strength coach Mickey Marotti calls the tight end the "ringleader of what we want in terms of work ethic." The owner of a team-best 33 bench-press reps of 225 pounds and with the second highest vertical leap - 36.5 inches - on the team, Heuerman is a talented athlete from a house full of talented athletes (father, Paul, was a basketball captain at Michigan and brother, Mike, is a sophomore tight end at Notre Dame). He missed most of spring drills this year with two injuries – a broken nose and mid-foot sprain - but that isn't a concern. The senior might not be used much as a receiver, but those scouts who attended practice noticed that he runs disciplined routes, finds his marks, breaks cleanly and gets his head turned around on time to look the ball in. He is a big target over the middle and has a feel for coverage, doing a nice job of getting open on time for the quarterback to get the ball to him. He makes good body adjustments to the ball in flight and has the ability to uncover.
76 Devin Smith Ohio State WR Sr 06:00.4 199 4.46 5.7 4
Smith, one of nine players in the major college ranks to average at least 20 yards per catch in 2014, leads that group with a 27.69-yard average, more than 3.5 yards per grab more than the second-place finisher. With four different players tossing passes to him since he arrived for 2014 fall drills, he’s made the most of limited passes targeted to him, hauling in 32 of 41 targeted tosses (78.05%), as just six players in the country had more than his 12 touchdown grabs. His percentage of receptions for touchdowns (30 of 120) is 25, the highest rate for an FBS player since Kevin Williams of Southern California set the major college standard of 35.29 percent (24 touchdowns on 68 receptions; 1977-80). He also holds the Big Ten all-time mark with a career average gain of 19.76 yards per catch.

Smith is just the second player in school history to average at least 20 yards per reception three times in a career – averaging 21.0 yards with four scores on 14 snatches as a freshman, followed by a 20.6-yard mark on 30 grabs that included six touchdowns in 2012. Eight of his 44 receptions produced touchdowns in 2013 and his 12 scoring catches in 2014 ranks third-best on the school season-record chart.

Smith has outstanding size and speed for his position. He has the explosive second gear to threaten the deep areas of the secondary, but with his ability to shield the ball from defenders, he has been very effective turning the intermediate tosses into big gains. He uses his hands well to defeat the jam at the line of scrimmage and has the loose hips and crisp cutting ability to make the initial tackler miss and gain separation after the catch.

The Buckeye is very good at settling underneath, showing the balance and body control to make the shoestring grabs or extend to catch outside his frame. He is very flexible in his route progression, showing the stop-and-go action to instantly redirect. He has the valid burst to get on top of the defense and shows nice body control adjusting to the deep ball in flight. He has the hip flexibility to drop his weight and the balance to change his stride without having to throttle down.

Smith has very good speed, enough to rank with the elite in this draft class. He has good suddenness in his initial step and shows that explosive burst needed to outrun defenders coming out of his breaks. When he reaches top speed, he is capable of maintaining it. He consistently separates and uses his body well to extend for the long throw. For a player who has had to block more often than catch the ball, he makes the most out of limited opportunities as a receiver, but has managed to put up an outstanding numbers in two categories – in games where he has caught a touchdown, OSU has compiled a 22-0 record. Prediction – though listed as a fourth-rounder at the end of 2014 regular-season play, Smith could be a likely second-round target due to his big play abilities.
115 Taylor Decker Ohio State OT Jr 06:06.1 315 5.17 5.3 5


18 Michael Bennett Ohio State DT Sr 06:02.2 286 4.96 6.8 1-2
It’s a bit puzzling that named Bennett to their All-American first-team, as the team co-captain might have had six sacks and 12.5 stops-for-loss in 2014, but he was overshadowed by fellow tackle Adolphus Washington and the clear leader of the front wall was Joey Bosa, a J.J. Watt clone. Perhaps that honor came due to Bennett recording a pair of sacks and four tackles-for-loss vs. Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten title clash. To date, Bennett has started 27 of 47 games for the Buckeyes, totaling 106 tackles with 17 sacks and 30 stops behind the line of scrimmage. His best season was in 2013, as he posted 42 tackles with 11.5 TFL, three forced fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries.

Scouts see Bennett as a player similar to Rams rookie Pro Bowler Aaron Donald – a player that has proven that power trumps size any day, especially for interior defenders with explosive feet and “cement” for hands. The former offensive guard battled through injury issues in 2012 but was OSU’s difference-maker in 2013, as the strong-side tackle made seven sacks and among his 11.5 stops-for-loss. He’s also been compared to the Falcons’ Jordan Babineaux, as Bennett looks shorter than ideal to be a two-gap tackle, but he has good upper-body thickness, a solid lower frame, firm midsection and good bubble.

The Buckeye has above-average acceleration off the snap and shows the flexibility and knee bend to consistently gain leverage. He moves with very good balance and coordination, flashing enough burst to be disruptive at times. One of his best assets is his quick feet, as he can accelerate to the ball instantly and has the sustained speed to make plays in long pursuit.

Bennett chases hard all the time, and makes a lot of plays out of sheer effort. He can look choppy when he gets too tall and tries to get through the interior trash but has the straight-line burst to close on the ball carrier or quarterback. He shows an explosive burst to flush out the passer. Coming off the edge, he sets his sight on the quarterback and will not stop until the whistle. You can see on those films his consistency and explosiveness when flushing the QB out of the pocket, and he’s been very effective generating big plays off twists and games.
39 Adolphus Washington Ohio State (DE) DT Jr 06:02.6 295 4.93 6.3 2-3
For all the attention paid to fellow Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Bennett before the season, if you talk with any opposing offensive lineman, you will find that blocker saying he is more concerned about handling Washington or rush end Joey Bosa, the true lynchpins on the OSU front wall. A groin injury limited Washington’s lateral range and he only started five times in 2013, managing just four stops-for-loss among his 36 hits, but the staff feels that the under-tackle was ready to emerge in 2014. The staff was right in their preseason assessment. Adding 20 pounds of bulk to his frame this year, the junior started 12 games, posting 43 tackles, 3.5 sacks and nine stops-for-loss, giving him 88 career tackles, 15.5 behind the line of scrimmage, including 8.5 sacks.

Washington has been compared to Kyle Williams (Buffalo), as he has the same field vision, intelligence, aggressiveness and sheer determination. He delivers bone-jarring hand swipes that make offensive linemen feel as if they just went 15 rounds in a boxing ring. He is alert to blocking schemes and works hard to get off the ball and split the gap. He has good upper-body strength, hitting his opponent with a thud and is a one-gap type with good straight-line charge to collapse the pocket. He does not have the speed to give chase, but executes effective rip, swim and spin moves to get penetration and is relentless in his pursuit.

The junior has developed a good feel for the ball and showed in 2014 that he was quick to locate it. In the past, he would get his pad level too high, resulting in him losing some strength in his anchor, as he failed to sink his hips. However, he now stays at a good pad level, so he can use his functional strength to stack and control. In the past, he also failed to get off blocks quickly, but he has now learned to generate explosion off the snap, which has improved his pass rush. His change-of-direction agility is above average, even if he does spend most of his time working in-line, as he has the motor to be a disruptive force in the backfield. The thing you notice on 2014 film is that he developed a counter move to help him separate after making initial contact.
66 Doran Grant Ohio State CB Sr 05:10.2 196 4.49 6.0 3-4
Grant emerged as a play-making, shutdown left cornerback for the Buckeyes in 2013. He not only made 58 tackles with three interceptions and 10 pass deflections, but rerouted his coverage assignment away from 30 other tosses, allowing only 13 of 56 balls targeted into his area (23.21%) to be caught. As impressive as his junior numbers were, Grant played the “Can You Top This” game to the hilt in 2014. Quarterbacks were foolish to challenge him, as he not only rerouted/jammed receivers away from 20 passes, he allowed just 13 of 69 targeted tosses (18.84%) to be completed vs. him, as he ran back five interceptions for 106 yards and deflected nine other throws while producing 51 tackles for the Buckeyes.

Grant has a frame that shows good muscle tone and room for additional growth (can add another 10 pounds with no loss in speed). He maintains balance on the move and has good stop-and-go ability, along with displaying very quick footwork that helps him recover when beaten. He gets a great jump on the ball thanks to his ability to anticipate and react to the ball in flight, rather than try to sift out the ball through trash. He instantly breaks on the ball and takes good angles to shorten the field in pursuit. His ability to generate a sudden burst allows him to get to the reception point. He has the ability to plant and drive back to the ball, staying low in his pads. He gets good hand placement on the receivers in plays in front of him. He is especially effective breaking down plays working in space.

Grant reads quarterbacks eyes well when asked to drop into zone coverage. He does a solid job of baiting the quarterback when defending vs. high-low routes in zone coverage. He’s tough and not afraid to get his jersey dirty and will not hesitate to close and take on bigger blockers, showing the escape skills to breaks when the ball is in front of him. He possesses fluid hips and can turn and run with receivers. He also does a nice job of changing directions when mirroring receivers underneath, even though there are times when he allows too much separation coming out of breaks. He is a solid tackler who is not afraid to mix it up with physical ball carriers, but he needs to do a better job of shedding blocks working vs. bigger receivers.

Grant has quick feet to go with a compact and efficient backpedal. He can close quickly on passes in front of him and his pass thievery and timing prove that he has the ball skills to break up the pass and the hands to make the interception. He also fights through blockers with good urgency to make the tackle on screen passes and he has the ability to break up passes with hard hits, along with the speed to stay with the receiver all the way downfield.
204 Curtis Grant Ohio State MLB Sr 06:02.3 243 4.59 4.8 7-FA


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