Scouting the Big Ten: Ohio State

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

Several weeks ago I tweeted how impressed I was with the way Urban Meyer reloads every year and develops top NFL talent despite the attrition of players leaving for the next level.  Once again the Buckeyes are stacked on defense, and it starts up front.

The team goes six deep on the defensive line and the entire group offer next-level talent in varying forms.

Sam Hubbard and Dre’Mont Jones both grade as first-rounders on my board and both are similar; athletic football players who need time to physically mature and add strength to their frame.

Hubbard is a terrific pass rusher off the edge who also makes plays in open space. He’s a tall, thin lineman who needs to add bulk, but that should come in time.

Jones, a redshirt sophomore, offers tremendous upside at defensive tackle. I presently grade him as a late first-round prospect but purposely left room, as he should continue to develop and potentially move into the early part of Round 1.

Jalyn Holmes considered entering the draft last April but made the smart choice by returning for his senior season. He’s another long, explosive college defensive end who forces the action. Not the playmaker of Hubbard, I believe Holmes has the length and growth potential to eventually develop into a 3-4 defensive end.

Robert Landers is another redshirt sophomore I project as an early second- or third-round pick for the future. On film he doesn’t appear as athletic as Jones but plays a stouter game on the line of scrimmage.

Tyquan Lewis could be the best athlete of the bunch, or at least the fastest up front, as he explodes off the edge, penetrating the line of scrimmage. I grade him as a third-round choice best as a conventional 4-3 defensive end.

The forgotten man and someone dismissed by scouts is senior Michael Hill, who has the ability to make a next level roster in a backup role as a one-gap tackle.

While they don’t have the same numbers at linebacker, the Buckeyes do offer a good amount of next-level talent.

I’ve seen Jerome Baker graded as a potential fifth-round prospect by some scouts, but I completely disagree. Baker reminds me of a Ryan Shazier type -- a slightly undersized linebacker with great athleticism, explosion and the ability to make plays all over the field against the run or pass.

Presently I grade Baker as an early second-round prospect.

Chris Worley is not the athlete of Baker though slightly bigger and displays himself as a three-down defender.

Dante Booker has the best size of the three linebackers and also times well in the 40 but must start to translate those paper skills into every-down production. Booker played in just one game last year before being lost to a knee injury and was a reserve the prior season.

For better or worse, cornerback Denzel Ward has a lot of Marshon Lattimore in his game.

Like Lattimore, who was the first cornerback selected in April’s draft, Ward is a tremendous athlete who can flat-out fly, recently timing in the low 4.2s at Ohio State; I’m told the time was as low as 4.23s last month. He’s also more athlete than football player and is a cornerback who flashes skills rather than displaying consistency on the field -- a lot like Lattimore.

The fact he’s finally stepping into the starting lineup on a full-time basis this season will give Ward the opportunity to up his game and improve his draft stock.

The Buckeyes have two highly rated prospects on offense.

Billy Price is the top senior on offense and is a powerful blocker who can line up at center or guard. He’s a devastating force in a small area while showing some ability blocking in motion. Price will contend for a spot in the bottom half of Round 1 next April.

I am a big believer running back Mike Weber and feel he will be a terrific player at the next level. He’s a bigger ball carrier with the power to run over defenders while also possessing enough short-area quickness to make them miss. He plays fast, beating defenders into the open field and picking up big chunks of yardage from the line of scrimmage.

Weber is also a terrific pass catcher out of the backfield and a potential top-45 pick with feature back ability at the next level.

One offensive prospect I’m not impressed with is Jamarco Jones.

Rated by some as the No. 2 offensive tackle prospect from the senior class, Jones is short, marginally athletic and won’t get drafted and will have to play guard at the next level.