NFL Draft Team Spotlight: Ohio State

After placing five Buckeyes in the first-round of the NFL Draft in 2007, Ohio State is sure to turn out some more top talent for NFL teams in the 2008 draft. NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber breaks down the draft-eligible players and makes his early projections.

Speed, athleticism, instincts and leadership are qualities players possess when they enter the National Football League from Ohio State University. Each year the Buckeyes produce some of the most gifted players in the nation, and since 2000, Ohio State has had 59 players drafted into the NFL.

In 2006, the Buckeyes had five first-round draft picks: outside linebacker A.J. Hawk (5th overall), strong safety Donte Whitner (8th overall), middle linebacker Bobby Carpenter (18th overall), wide receiver Santonio Holmes (25th overall), and center Nick Mangold (29th overall). Whitner and Holmes were juniors, while Hawk, Carpenter, and Mangold were seniors.

Next April's draft will certainly feature Ohio State players as well, but unlike previous seasons, juniors dominate the discussion.

The Buckeyes, now ranked No. 1 in the country, are a young team that has a lot of talent, but a lot of that talent is made up of underclassmen. Ohio State's young players are considered to be some of the top players in the country at their respective positions. But it's unclear which ones will forego their final year of eligibility for the NFL.

With that said, we'll find out their plans at season's end, but in the meantime, if these players decided to enter the NFL today, here is a rundown on their draft status and what they bring to field.

MLB, James Laurinaitis (Jr.)
Draft Projection: 1st Round
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 240

An outstanding instinctive player who has the unique ability to be a playmaker and a ferocious tackler on defense, Laurinaitis brings the complete package to the field. He's an aggressive force who can shed blocks and he has a nose for the ball. He's an excellent tackler who displays great technique. Laurinaitis anticipates plays well and seems to always be in position to make a play. He excels in coverage and can turn defense into offense at any moment. Laurinaitis, if he decides to turn pro after this season, is a lock to be an early-to-mid first-round selection.

CB, Malcolm Jenkins (Jr.)
Draft Projection: 1st Round
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 208

Jenkins is the next great defensive back to come from Ohio State. He has outstanding size, cover skills and speed that make him one of the nation's elite defenders. He has quick feet and fluid hips that makes him effective against many receivers. An excellent athlete who uses his size to his advantage, Jenkins is not a particularly physical corner and plays back on receivers -- but has great closing speed to disrupt a play. Jenkins has the potential to be a tremendous player at the next level and with his rare blend of skills, he provides a team with a future All-Pro caliber defender.

OT, Alex Boone (Jr.)
Draft Projection: 1st - 2nd Round
Height: 6-8 | Weight: 313

Boone's potential is limitless. He has all the skills you want out of a left tackle. He's quick off the line, moves well laterally, and has good strength to knock off fast, physical defensive ends. Boone has great technique and hand placement. He's a versatile player who's still developing his game. One knock against him is that he has to work on his run-blocking and build up his upper body. If he decides to forego his final year of eligibility at Ohio State, Boone has the potential to be a late first-round selection. Where he ends up in the draft will be influenced by his offseason development.

Vernon Gholston
David Maxwell/Getty Images

DE, Vernon Gholston (Jr.)
Draft Projection: 2nd Round
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 264

A strong, physical defensive end who was recruited as a linebacker, Gholston has developed into a force rushing the passer. He has great size, speed, and athleticism. He has a quick first step and instantly gains leverage with his freakish strength. Gholston struggles defending against the run and is a one-dimensional defender. If he improves his run defense, he has a chance to move up in the draft. It's probably better for Gholston to take advantage of his senior season at Ohio State and work on his all-around game.

OT, Kirk Barton (Sr.)
Draft Projection: 2nd - 3rd Round
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 300

Barton is the leader of Ohio State's offensive line and one of the top offensive tackles in the country. He's an intense competitor who plays with great balance and excels as a pass blocker. He has great strength and leg drive and is a good run-blocker. Barton has good lateral mobility and is able to hold off bigger opponents with his technique. He's a durable lineman that will be an asset to a team at the next level.

OLB, Marcus Freeman (Jr.)
Draft Projection: 2nd - 3rd Round
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 236

Freeman is a gifted athlete with a lot of skills and is a playmaker on defense. He shows great awareness in coverage and run defense. He has excellent range and closing speed and makes a lot of plays in the backfield. A versatile player who can play all three positions at linebacker, Freeman is a tremendous talent who has some durability issues. He'll probably remain at Ohio State for his senior season and be recognized as one of the elite linebackers in the country next season. If he decides to enter next April's draft, he'll be a second- or third-round selection.

WR, Brian Robiskie (Jr.)
Draft Projection: 2nd - 3rd Round
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 196

Robiskie is a game-breaker and has emerged into one of college football's best deep threats. He has tremendous speed and athleticism. He's quick off the line and gets vertical instantly. Robiskie makes tough, acrobatic receptions and flashes soft hands. But he has to get stronger and show a willingness to go over the middle and play physically. Robiskie is only 19 years old and is expected to stay at Ohio State for his senior season. He's destined to be mentioned among the great receivers produced at Ohio State, and with one more year of seasoning, his draft status will rise into the first round.

OLB, Larry Grant (Sr.)
Draft Projection: 3rd Round
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 226

Grant is a strong defensive player who can play inside and outside as a linebacker. He has great instincts and awareness on the field. He is a patient, disciplined player who's consistent with making plays on the ball. Grant gets off blocks well, fills a gap and makes plays in the backfield. He has great lateral ability and makes plays sideline-to-sideline. He's good in coverage and is an effective pass rusher. Grant has a lot of ability, but his size will hurt him at the next level.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.

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