Inside Ohio State's NFL Draft Prospects Before 2014: How Quickly Things Change in the World of Football

By Eric Seger on April 27, 2015 at 8:35 am

When players — particularly those with significant God-given talent — first sign up to play football, the ultimate goal is to put in the necessary work to realize their dream of playing the NFL.

You work hard, dominate at the high school level, earn a big-time collegiate scholarship and use a place like Ohio State to promote yourself to catch the eye of NFL scouts.

With it officially being 2015 NFL Draft week — the first round begins Thursday at 8 p.m. in Chicago — taking a look back at those Ohio State players who thought they might hear their names called following the 2014 season seems prudent.

For some, not much has changed. For others, the dream is a completely different one as a result of what's transpired within the last 12 months.

The Steady-Goers

This group is dedicated to those who played out their senior years during Ohio State's run at the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship. These guys have put the time, effort and work in to maximize their potential with the hope they get offered a job this weekend to play the most popular game in America.


The lone Buckeye invited to the NFL Draft, Smith led the country in yards per reception with a ridiculous 28.2 yards per catch average in 2014. His draft stock soared with the ascension of big-armed Cardale Jones late in the season, snagging four long touchdowns passes in the postseason to finish 69 yards shy of 1,000 for his senior season.

Smith entered the 2014 campaign with the athleticism to play in the league, stayed healthy, showed his value on special teams as a punt team-gunner and a remarkable ability to track the deep ball.


Bennett's hamstring pull prevented him from participating in drills at the NFL Combine, but to no surprise he was one of the most impressive interviews of the day in Indianapolis.

Bennett came on strong by season's end along with the rest of the Buckeye defense, solidifying himself worthy of a draft pick just like he was prior to the season. He was everywhere in the victories against Wisconsin and Alabama and seems prime to be another draft pick for defensive line coach Larry Johnson's already lengthy résumé.


Heuerman battled the injury bug during the season, but has a big body and is an excellent run blocker with solid hands.


He flirted with leaving for the NFL Draft following Ohio State's 40-35 loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl last January, but ultimately came back to win a couple championships.

A team captain and hard worker who Urban Meyer loves, expect Heuerman's name to be called during the draft — just like it would have been last season.


Grant probably would have gotten drafted late had he left Ohio State a year early, but came back to Columbus and blossomed into the shutdown corner Luke Fickell, Kerry Coombs and Chris Ash needed in 2014.

A projected third round pick this weekend, Grant was in the top-three among corners at the combine in both the 40-yard dash and bench press. That alone will turn the heads of NFL General Managers, so it's pretty clear Grant helped his stock by coming back.

Those With A Shot

These names were worthy contributors to Ohio State's national title run, but likely need someone to take a chance on them either late in the draft or in free agency.


Named Ohio State's Most Valuable Player by Meyer during the team's postseason run, Spencer proved he's got the body and mindset to do the dirty work. To put it simply, Ohio State could ill afford to have him on the sideline. And Meyer was perfectly OK with that.


Unfortunately, great blocks and the occasional one-handed catch at the college level doesn't always translate to the pros, which is the hill Spencer has to scale in order to get a shot.


The heart and soul of Ohio State's defense, Grant grew into a favorite player by any and all who knew him inside the program. A heralded five-star recruit, Grant battled injuries and inconsistencies during his first three years at Ohio State, but staved off a strong push from stud freshman Raekwon McMillan to put a firm hold on the starting middle linebacker job by the end of the season.

Grant's got the size to be an NFL linebacker, but often gets loss in pass coverage. No matter what happens during the draft, Grant is sure to be admired by Fickell and Meyer for years to come.


Also, a big-time five-star recruit coming out of high school, Miller didn't really get his shot until Noah Spence's suspension and eventual exit from Ohio State. He made his presence felt, though, especially during the Sugar Bowl when he picked off Blake Sims and raced to the end zone.

Talent's never been an issue for Miller — it's just putting it all together in the mental side of the game to be a regular contributor for Ohio State. At 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, Miller's got the size to be an every down NFL defensive end — it's just a matter of one team taking a chance on him.

Those Who Are Elsewhere

Sometimes real life gets in the way of doing what you think is expected of you. That's the case for these former Buckeyes.


Oh, what could have been.

With all due respect to Steve Miller and his own personal abilities, throwing Spence opposite All-American Joey Bosa and alongside Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington would have been something special.

Spence has first round talent — there's no doubt about that. But failed drug tests ultimately unearthed his struggles with addiction and led to the talented defensive end being declared permanently ineligible by the Big Ten in November.

Spence could have entered his name into the 2015 NFL Draft, but instead chose to continue his career at Eastern Kentucky this fall with hopes of getting selected next year.


Another player who was dismissed from the program, Smith came in with the broad shoulders and vicious running style that led to comparisons to 1995 Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George.

Meyer lauded Smith's work on special teams early on in the season, raving about an 11-second block he had in the season opener against Navy on a punt return. The running back finally ran out of chances, though, let go in October for a violation of team rules.


Fumble issues, struggles in the classroom and other issues kept Smith from realizing his full potential.


Lindsay came to Ohio State from Alabama to play out his final year of eligibility under Meyer. He competed for the vacant starting center spot, but his career as a Buckeye was over before it really began due to injuries.

The Returnees

Each member in the group below could have tried dipped their hands in the NFL Draft pool this season, but returned to Ohio State for a variety of different reasons:

  • Joshua Perry
  • Adolphus Washington
  • Braxton Miller
  • Taylor Decker
  • Joel Hale

Hale's battled injuries and fought through position switches often in his career, now back on the defensive line. He suffered a calf tear near the end of spring practice, though, but should be good to go by the time fall camp rolls around.

Decker and Washington left money on the table following the team's title run, but came back to hone their games and try to win it all again.

Miller continues to rehab his surgically repaired throwing shoulder, while Perry is set to be a team captain for the 2015 season.

What a fickle game football is, isn't it?

There's loads of talent discussed above, about half of which is still trying to make it. Still others didn't even get mentioned because the list would get too long.

What a difference a year makes.

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