I’m an Ohio State alumni. I’ll come right out and say it in my first article for Draft Countdown. I promise I don’t say “THE Ohio State University” at all unless it is tongue in cheek, so maybe that will endear me a bit to you. Let me tell you why I went there and why you’ll see me covering a lot of the Scarlet & Gray here.
When I was in high school, my late brother Chris was a graduate student at Ohio State. My parents and I visited a few times, but I never really considering going since I was from Pittsburgh and figured I’d either go to a small college or Penn State. At Chris’ graduation at The Shoe, the whole graduating class, organically, started busting out a massive O-H-I-O with each section of grads just knowing which letter they were and when. It was booming, it was massive, and most importantly, it gave me chills. I knew right then I wanted to be a Buckeye. My brother ended up getting a full time job at OSU so him and I grew much closer as I attended. We lost him to cancer two years ago, and I’m proud to have been a fellow Buckeye to him and continue that legacy today.
There’s my story, but Ohio State certainly has an NFL Draft story. I consider them part of the “Big 4” of college football right now along with Clemson, Alabama, and Oklahoma. 4 schools dominating recruiting, dominating their conference, and dominating in terms of playoff entries. Maybe I can be a little bias at times, but ultimately a player from the “Big 4” gets a bump because they have beaten out top competition to even earn playing time, but if they produced as freshmen and sophomores, it shows the raw talent they have.
I expect the Top 5 eligible Buckeyes for 2022 to get Top 50 draft capital and have a shot at the first round when all is said and done.
1. Zach Harrison, EDGE
Before the college season starts, I doubt many will put Zach Harrison as the top Ohio State player, but he has Top 10 overall potential as a pass rusher. Harrison is a Scholar-Athlete who racked up 5.5 sacks over his first two years in college despite only starting one game each season. Of course, being behind current NFL Edge players like Chase Young and Jonathan Cooper isn’t a knock.
Harrison’s ability to stack and shed is very very good. He gets the nuances of the position while still possessing the overall size and strength to make quick damage out of weaker offensive linemen. His first step and pass rush moves need improving, and they likely will this season, but the potential is there.
Harrison has a gigantic frame and was a 5-star prospect coming out of high school. He has the pedigree, production as a situational pass rusher, and will be extremely difficult to block this year. Look for Harrison to vault up draft boards and emerge as a top player in the 2022 class.
2. Garrett Wilson, WR
Though Senior Chris Olave gets the publicity, Wilson might be one of the best WR athletes in college football. His leaping ability and body control are off the charts and allow for a big catch radius that NFL teams will love. He gets separation off the snap pretty quickly, especially on slants, but often wins in a 9-route track race too. He will come in a bit small for the ideal NFL WR, and that is what hurts his profile, but Wilson has the traits of a starting NFL WR.
Wilson’s fast start (4 straight 100 yard games to start the season,) showed why he was considered an elite 5-star recruit coming out of high school. Without Wilson, OSU might have lost to Indiana and ruined their playoff chances. Even with Olave staying, Wilson could emerge as the go to option in the passing game and put himself in the Top 20 discussion in the NFL Draft.
3. Thayer Munford, OT
NFL teams need stud Left Tackles. Thayer Munford has been that for Ohio State over the past two seasons and will once again. The 5-year player has a ton of offensive line experience after battling his way to a starting spot in the 2019 season. He is big bodied and moves decently for his size, though he can give way to speed rushers from time to time. Add in tenacious run blocking (with excellent awareness to get to the second level) and you have a potential starting LT in the NFL.
Munford will have to show another year of consistency, but look for him to string a good season and Senior Bowl together to get the first round buzz he deserves. The former 4-star recruit has fought through much more hyped players to get the starting LT job and is holding it down.
4. Sevyn Banks, CB
Though Shaun Wade let down Buckeye fans and early mock drafts by having a terrible season and tumbling down to the 5th round, it didn’t mean the entire Buckeye secondary was bad. Sevyn Banks was a special teams player his first two years with the Buckeyes, but shined opposite Wade last season for the team. Though he isn’t a big playmaker, Banks has good size and rarely is caught of position. His mirror ability and back pedal led many opposing QBs to stick to picking on Wade last year. Going up against #1 WRs this season will be the ultimate test for Banks.
There is first round potential if he can continue the success he had last year. Banks isn’t a big play CB, so that may hurt his profile a bit and cause him to be more of an early 2nd round type, but the athleticism and some of the finer points of the position are a plus for his prospect profile.
5. Chris Olave, WR
Maybe the name that most people know from the Buckeyes is Olave and his acclaimed WR status. Most thought he would leave early last year, and he likely should have, but Olave producing with a new young QB could be the success he needs to be a high pick. The question may become can Olave do what Devonta Smith did last year as a 21.5 year old beating up on 19 year olds. The answer is he won’t, not with Ohio State’s expansive WR room, but the production and electric ability will still be on display.
Olave has the speed and quickness to be a threat to any CB he faces. His smooth cutting ability allows him to pick up speed quickly and exploit any defensive back who isn’t perfect in their mirroring technique. Add explosiveness off the line and the ability to adjust to hard passes, and you have a weapon. There may be some questions about if Olave is a true “alpha” WR in the NFL, and maybe he isn’t, but he will be a Top-50 NFL Draft pick and a weapon for the team that gets him.
Follow Shane P. Hallam on twitter @ShanePHallam