The Orange Bowl and the Draft

By Nicholas Jervey on December 15, 2013 at 6:40a
27 Comments
He might leave, and a good Orange Bowl might help.

On January 3rd, Ohio State's two junior team captains will lead the team in the Orange Bowl. Thirteen days later, they have a career-altering decision to make: will they stay for a senior season, or will they go pro?

Both are surefire draft picks, and both are undecided. Ryan Shazier has said he is leaning toward staying, and Braxton Miller has said he's getting tired of taking hits. There is a third junior, Bradley Roby, but he has already declared that he will enter the draft, which puts him out of the question.

It's important for 2014 and the program's near future to know which they'll choose, and the Orange Bowl will likely answer that question.

THE TIPPING POINT

If a junior is interested in the draft but unsure how he would do in the draft, he can send paperwork to the NFL Draft Advisory Board, which exists to advise players on where they would be drafted. The board responds with an advisory opinion with ranges of where the player would be picked: in the first round, as high as the second round, as high as the third round, after the third round, not at all, or somewhere in between.

A good rule of thumb for juniors is that if they are guaranteed to be picked in the first four rounds of the draft, the draft is a good option. If they are below that, it's better to come back for a senior season and develop more.

Miller and Shazier are potential draft picks, but not guaranteed first-rounders; if they want to leave for the NFL, they can use every boost they can get. To understand how the bowl game can hurt or help them, they can look at how previous Buckeyes were affected by their bowl games.

PRECEDENT

Since 2006, twelve Buckeyes have entered the NFL Draft before their senior season. Every early entry was drafted, and all but one played in a bowl game. Here's the lucky dozen:

Year Name Draft Position
2006 Donte Whitner 1st round, pick 8
2006 Santonio Holmes 1st round, pick 25
2006 Ashton Youboty 3rd round, pick 70
2007 Ted Ginn, Jr. 1st round, pick 9
2007 Anthony Gonzalez 1st round, pick 32
2007 Antonio Pittman 4th round, pick 107
2008 Vernon Gholston 1st round, pick 6
2009 Chris "Beanie" Wells 1st round, pick 31
2009 Donald Washington 4th round, pick 102
2009 Brian Hartline 4th round, pick 108
2010 Thaddeus Gibson 4th round, pick 116
2013 Johnanthan Hankins 2nd round, pick 49

There's a noticeable gap in 2011-2012 where no Ohio State juniors declared for the draft. If not for Tatgate, several players would have declared in 2011. Nevertheless, early entries have dropped off in recent years for Ohio State, an unusual trend since the overall number of early entries is growing. Jim Tressel had a history of encouraging first round draft picks to leave; perhaps that was less important in Meyer's first year.

Ohio State was a wide receiver factory in the Tressel era, as evinced by the four wideouts who left early. Whitner and Washington are safeties, Youboty is a cornerback, Pittman and Wells are running backs, Gibson and Gholston are defensive ends, and Hankins is a defensive tackle.

Unfortunately, none of these players were linebackers or quarterbacks. Shazier would be Ohio State's first junior linebacker to enter the draft since Andy Katzenmoyer, and Miller has no precedent.

QUALITY OF PLAY

Whether a player was great (Holmes, Ginn, Gibson), adequate (Whitner, Youboty, Pittman, Wells, Gholston), or terrible (Gonzalez, Hartline, Washington) in the bowl game, his play had little to no bearing on his draft position.

The great players dazzled. Santonio Holmes torched Notre Dame like no other on a fantastic 85-yard bomb; Ted Ginn started the 2007 BCS National Championship Game – ugh – with a 90 yard kickoff return to give OSU its only lead before Ray Small Roy Hall decided giving him a high ankle sprain would be fun. To round out the great performances, Thaddeus Gibson was part of a unit that was supposed to lay down for Oregon's big, bad offense in the 2010 Rose Bowl and joined the defensive line in stuffing the Ducks all day.

As for adequate performers, start with Whitner and Youboty, who blended into the background as they contained Brady Quinn for mostly harmless completions all day. Pittman would have the only decent game against Florida on the team, with 10 carries for 62 yards, and Wells had a similarly decent 16 carries for 106 yards. And although Vernon Gholston was hit-and-miss his entire career, he was at his most consistent in 2007. He had no major stats against LSU, but helped to limit LSU to 3.1 yards per carry and keep OSU in the game. It was only in the NFL that he would begin to disappoint.

A select few Buckeyes had terrible bowl games. Against Florida, Anthony Gonzalez was Troy Smith's primary receiver when Ginn left the game and could only come up with two catches for 11 yards. Brian Hartline was angry about the quarterback situation and responded with a goose egg in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, yet he still stood out more in that game than Donald Washington, one of the less memorable starters to come through Columbus.

One would think that the players who played great games would be drafted earlier, but that is not the case: their draft performance was the same as the players who were adequate, and those who played poorly were only trailing by a little. The sample size is too small, with too little variance, to make that distinction. Whether Miller and Shazier play well or poorly, that is no indicator of where they would go in the draft.

THE RETURNEES

The twelve early entries are a minority compared to those who stayed. Since 2006, at least seventeen Buckeyes who explored entering the draft returned for their senior season. This includes James Laurinaitis, Marcus Freeman, Alex Boone, Malcolm Jenkins, Brian Robiskie, Kurt Coleman, Jake Ballard, Chimdi Chekwa, Cameron Heyward, DeVier Posey, Boom Herron, and Mike Adams.

Cam Heyward benefited from the Rose and Sugar Bowl.

For players who chose to return for their senior year, the results have more variety. Thirteen of eighteen were drafted, and nine of eighteen were drafted in the fourth round or higher.

Cameron Heyward dominated in the Rose Bowl, came back for his senior year, dominated Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl and ended up a first round pick. He had the same result in both years, but the second bowl is what built him into a first round player. Youboty in particular fits the pattern of a player who everyone thought would be a first-rounder with another year at Ohio State. Had he stayed, Youboty might have been a first-rounder and not a third-rounder.

For some, their bowl game performance didn’t help.  Jake Ballard’s incredible catch in the Rose Bowl led many to believe he would be in demand, but he went undrafted.

Here’s a likely explanation for the difference, though: bowl games are one of a few dozen games in a player’s career, and the exhibition nature of the contests can skew the player’s performance. Miller and Shazier could improve or hurt their draft stock depending on how they play, but it would be like a few points of extra credit bumping a student from a B+ to an A- or vice versa.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

If they receive a fourth round or better grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, Miller and Shazier will have to decide if they want to stay or go. Here is the best way to tell which they're doing: how emotionally invested in the Orange Bowl are they?

There are two schools of thought on this, one being team-oriented and one being player-oriented. Here is Chimdi Chekwa on his decision to return for his senior season in 2010:

"I prayed about this decision and talked about it with my parents, and I know this is the right decision for me," Chekwa said in a statement. "I am looking forward to being a leader on what can be a very special defense for the Buckeyes. After the Rose Bowl win, we are working toward accomplishing more great things, including another Big Ten title and a run at the national championship.”

In contrast to Chekwa is Anthony Gonzalez, who explained during his announcement that he would enter the draft in 2007 that isn't affected by bowl results:

"Basically, the best-case scenario of leaving would be maybe you sneak into the first round. The worst-case scenario, maybe you fall down some draft boards. Am I OK with the worst-case scenario there? Yes, I guess I am," he said. "The reality of the game of football is the worst-case scenario is I could show up the first day of spring ball and something terrible could happen and I may never be able to play this game and fulfill all the dreams that I wanted to," he said.

Gonzalez said the 41-14 loss on Monday to Florida in the national championship game did not affect his decision. He also said it did not matter whether other teammates in his class were coming back.

"It came down to whether I felt I was ready and whether this was the right thing to do," said Gonzalez, who had two catches -- half of Ohio State's meager total -- for 11 yards in the game in Glendale, Ariz.

We know Braxton Miller will decide after the Orange Bowl, and assume Shazier would do the same. If it doesn't affect them much, they're probably gone; if they react strongly, win or lose, they'll be Buckeyes in 2014.

27 Comments

Comments

CharlieBuckeye's picture

Nice breakdown of former players and decisions made. Although I believe Braxton would benefit from another year in college; should he decide to go the upside down the road for him is fantastic.  Ryan's decision will be that much more difficult; although I believe he will remain a Buckeye.  (I have no factual basis for the statement just a feeling.)
Whatever decision either of these young men make; I wish nothing but the best for both of them.
GO BUCKEYES!!!!!
 
 

"To have a great life simply follow this rule:  Do not bring undo conflict into your life..."
Charlie Baker - OSU - 1986

SnooBucki's picture

Wasn't it Roy Hall that took out Teddy's ankle?

buckeyepastor's picture

I thought it was one of the offensive linemen.  
 

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

Nicholas Jervey's picture

Yes, it was. Whaddaya know, something that wasn't Ray Small's fault.

Fixed.

Ceci n'est pas une signature.

SnooBucki's picture

Haha I just remember because my buddy had a friend who wanted to introduce him to Roy Hall and he didn't want to meet him because of that play.

buckeyepastor's picture

I see Miller as a third round at best if he goes now.  The injuries that have him eager to enter the draft I think also make teams a bit leery.   His passing numbers improved this year, but not as much as I'd anticipated.  I think there are still a lot of question marks about him, especially as a QB.  
I see Shazier as second round talent, maybe first round.   I think another year maybe gets him more money, but it will be a huge surprise and blessing to OSU if Shazier doesn't enter early.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

dan_isaacs's picture

If Bridgewater stays, he's second round.

Dan Isaacs

bigbill992001's picture

Golston kept us in the game?.......tOSU was in the game against LSU?

drank1933's picture

How in the world is Mike Doss's decision to come back not even mentioned in this article/comments?!? One of the best stories of a Buckeye who came back for his senior season, fulfilled his dreams of beat TTUN and won a national title, then went in the second round of the draft to the Colts.

SOF_Buckeye's picture

The reason could be that 2006 to the present was the chosen timeframe to discuss early draft and/or returnees. Mike Doss returned for his senior season in 2002.

"The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender." Woody Hayes

drank1933's picture

Looking back at this many moons later... Rookie mistake not realizing the timeframe. 

Bamabucknut's picture

I just don't understand how a player cannot appreciate the college experience and the value of a degree.
Is life just about the possibility of making big dollars sooner rather 365 days later ?

TMac's picture

In their chosen profession a degree don't matter, but one play can change their opportunity to pursue that profession. And as many have done, the degree can be obtained later. 

brylee's picture

It's all about the money.  If you were blessed with such talent, and had the opportunity to go early, it would be a decision at least worth exploring.  The window of opportunity is small, and the money that can be earned is much greater...risk vs. reward.

cdub4's picture

Two words- Marcus Lattimore...also James Clark, Christian Bryant and Devan Bogard can tell what can happen in 365 days. Players can have serious concussions and have to quit football like Darik Warnke... Tyson Gentry got paralyzed at an OSU practice, Lee Evans tore his ACL during a Wisconsin spring after not declaring.... so yes a lot can happen in 365. I would take the money ASAP unless I truly thought I had an excellent chance of going from a 3rd rounder to a first rounder with one more year.

Also, I never understood the college degree argument. What is stopping these players from getting a college degree? Since I do know some players come back and finish their degree, I would assume many actually do value it.

Also, in case such has Gonzalez and Roby, who both redshirted, they were at Ohio State 4 years anyways and I would assume were very close or have their degrees anyways.

darbnurb's picture

They can pay for a degree or two with their signing bonus.  

tennesseebuckeye11's picture

I don't see why Shazier would come back except maybe to make a run at a national title, which would definitely be worth it but by no means a guarantee.  Miller however could deffinitely use another year to develop as a passer.  I know it seems like there is this emergence of the "running quarterback" in the NFL but those guys have a hard time staying healthy.  Ultimately you can't make your living as a running QB in the NFL. It's good if you can run but you better be able to throw the ball at least as good as you run it.  I don't see Miller as that guy yet.  
  

BAR43's picture

Not only could miller us another year, he hasn't proven that he can make it in the nfl yet. His passing is no where close to the level it needs to be and his running we'll be far less effective at the next level. 

dan_isaacs's picture

The only way to prove you can make it in the NFL, is to be in the NFL.

Dan Isaacs

BAR43's picture

True, but don't jump in the water and drown yourself. If you have the resources to take lessons, learn first, then go and do it. Impatience and $$ are problematic in being successful.

chirobuck's picture

Miller playing qb in the nfl right now would be an epic fail....he really should come back

 
^ best post ever ^

CptBuckeye24's picture

I'd imagine Shazier has at the absolute worst, a 3rd round grade.  I think its a early 2nd.

RuGettinIt's picture

I can't see Brax getting drafted high enough to make it worth it.  Look where Troy was drafted and he was much more NFL ready than Brax at this point.  I think Brax needs a lot of work on the short and intermediate routes.  Of course TH has to call those plays.

Toilrt Paper's picture

If QB's rated higher than Braxton are coming back for another year, then surely Braxton needs to come back. Might be one of those kids that is getting tired of going to class and studying.

Buckeye5000's picture

Obviously there are a lot of things more important in life than making a lot of money in the short term (although that is hard for 20-22 yr. old's to understand...as well as many much older), but if Shazier wants to go he is probably ready although he could use some improvement on a couple parts of his game but what player doesn't. As far as Braxton, Imho, he is not even remotely ready. The holes in his game on the field are obvious to most all of Buckeye Nation and think of how big they must look to NFL GM's. Also his maturity, team leadership, and understanding of what is required of the "Face of a Franchise" in the NFL are not near what is needed for the pro's.
JMHO  

Go Bucks!

Seattle Linga's picture

I certainly expect Brax to come back not only to Sharpen his skills but being in the high profile position he plays, earn him some extra money in the long run.

Toilrt Paper's picture

If Braxton is getting tired of getting hit in college football, I would highly recommend he do something other than play in the NFL. The hits will come more often and there will be no comparison how violent they will be.