A Way-Too-Early Look at Ohio State's 2018 NFL Draft Class

By Kevin Harrish on April 30, 2017 at 7:15 am
After back-to-back showstopper classes, the 2018 class is already looking stacked.

Ohio State did it again.

A year after 12 Buckeyes were selected in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft, Ohio State saw seven players drafted — including three in the first round — and three more sign free agent contracts.

Pumping out NFL talent is becoming routine for Ohio State and the NFL factory doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Looking ahead to next year, there will once again be an absurd amount of NFL talent flowing out of Columbus.

We won't speculate where they'll be selected — after all, the draft is a year away — but we put together a way-too-early list of Buckeyes who will find themselves on NFL Draft boards next year as well as a few under-the-radar guys who might shoot onto one of those boards after just one season.


J.T. Barrett — QB

Ohio State returns one of its most accomplished signal-callers of all time in quarterback J.T. Barrett. Barrett already owns 21 schools, has a 26-4 overall record as a starter and was named the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year twice.

Now, with the help of a new quarterbacks coach and a new offensive coordinator, Barrett will look to polish his technique and footwork and emerge as a legitimate NFL quarterback prospect for next year's draft.

Billy Price — OL

Like Pat Elflein last year, Billy Price elected to return for his senior season, move from guard to center and lead the slobs as a team captain.

Price will join rare company as a relatively unheard of four-year starter and is on pace to set the school's all-time record for starts in a career. That, coupled with his superb leadership skills and public speaking ability will make him an excellent NFL Draft candidate come April 2018.

Marcus Baugh — TE

Ohio State's top returning pass-catcher is none other than tight end Marcus Baugh.

Baugh finished 2016 with 24 catches for 269 yards and two touchdowns and made some genuinely fantastic plays.

With Kevin Wilson as the team's offensive coordinator and tight ends coach, Baugh's role is likely to expand in 2017, which will bolster his draft stock even more.

Jamarco Jones — OL

Perhaps the most NFL-ready of the group is offensive tackle Jamarco Jones.

Though he was a part of a heavily-criticized unit, Jones quietly had a better pass-blocking season than Taylor Decker his senior season. Decker, of course, was taken No. 16 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft.

If Jones plays that consistent throughout his senior season, he'll be looking at a huge payday in about 12 months.

Mike Weber — RB

Last season, Mike Weber became the third freshman in Ohio State history to rush for 1,000 yards, joining Maurice Clarett and Robert Smith. Weber was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

Weber finished the season with 1,096 yards on 182 attempts with nine touchdowns and also caught 23 passes for 91 yards. He accomplished all of that while splitting carries with Curtis Samuel. With Samuel gone, Weber will have a much larger role in the offense and will likely top his numbers from last season.

Given the nature of the running back position and how many hits ball-carriers take, Buckeye fans should expect Weber to declare for the draft following the 2017 season and some NFL team will welcome him with open arms.

Dark Horses

Johnnie Dixon — WR

It's hard to call somebody an NFL Draft prospect when they've caught seven passes during their three-year career, but Johnnie Dixon is a special case.

Few have ever questioned Dixon's athletic ability; he's simply been bogged down with injury issues in both knees throughout his Buckeye career. This spring though, we got a flash of what he can do when he's healthy — he caught six passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns during the spring game.

If Dixon stays healthy this season and puts up numbers like that regularly, he could find himself on draft boards come next April.

K.J. Hill — WR

Outside of Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson — all of whom were drafted or picked up by NFL teams this weekend — K.J. Hill was Ohio State's most productive receiver in 2016.

It's difficult to project the team's fourth-leading receiver to forgo two seasons of eligibility and try his luck in the draft, but after what Brown and Jalin Marshall did in back-to-back years, I wouldn't rule it out.


Tyquan Lewis — DE

By all accounts, Tyquan Lewis should have left this season. He was the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year and led one of the best defensive lines in the country in sacks for a second straight season.

There was not much left for Lewis to accomplish personally, but nonetheless, he elected to return. As a captain of Ohio State's best unit, he'll look to further bolster his NFL Draft stock during the 2017 season.

Jalyn Holmes — DE

Is it possible Jalyn Holmes gets drafted without even being a starter? With the talent on Ohio State's defensive line, yes.

Holmes was considered a "starter" by the Buckeyes last season even though he never started a game. That's because he's fast, gigantic and a matchup nightmare. He finished the 2016 season with 8.5 tackles for a loss, good for third best on the team.

He entertained the idea of entering the draft after last season, Holmes will look to improve his stock during his senior season.

Sam Hubbard — DE

If Sam Hubbard chose to leave following the 2016 season, he almost surely would have been drafted. Instead, he chose to return which gives him a chance to improve his draft stock and show off his athleticism.

Hubbard is probably the most athletic of Ohio State's defensive ends, and you'll likely see that this upcoming season. Hubbard played safety in high school and had a number of high-level lacrosse scholarship offers, so he can certainly cover ground.

With the depth the Buckeyes have on the defensive line, Ohio State is going to look for creative ways to get those players on the field. Expect Hubbard to drop into coverage more in 2017 and earn himself even more NFL money with his versatility and athleticism.

Chris Worley — LB

If Jabrill Peppers found an NFL home with his versatility, Chris Worley should too.

Worley came to Ohio State as an athlete and spent his first few months with both the linebackers and the safeties. After landing in the linebackers room, Worley sat behind top-20 NFL Draft pick Darron Lee for two seasons before starting at outside linebacker in 2016.

This upcoming season, Worley is moving inside to take over middle linebacker duties for Raekwon McMillan, who was drafted in the second round. Though he seems undersized for the position, he looked solid in the spring and his understanding of the defense has allowed him to be the "quarterback" of that side of the ball.

Jerome Baker — LB

If Jerome Baker were allowed, he could have left for the NFL after this season.

Baker finished as the team's second-leading tackler, had the second-most tackles for a loss, the third-most sacks and picked off two passes, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

He's a freak athlete Buckeye fans should enjoy because this is almost certainly his last season in an Ohio State uniform.

Denzel Ward — CB

People like to say Ohio State has no returning starters at cornerback; Denzel Ward might take exception to that.

Ward was locked in a position battle with this year's No. 11 overall pick, Marshon Lattimore, until a week before the start of the season. He played just as many snaps as first-round picks Lattimore and Gareon Conley and broke up nine passes which tied for the team high with Lattimore.

If you're looking for Ohio State's next first-round defensive back, it's Ward.

Damon Webb — DB

Damon Webb struggled at times in 2016, but everyone seems to agree he's had the best spring drills of his career and is the only safety who's solidified his spot and looked like a starter, according to defensive coordinator Greg Schiano.

As a senior, Webb's Buckeye career will come to a close following the season, so he'll look to boost his NFL Draft stock with a solid 2017 campaign.

Up until this point, Webb has already proven his versatility, playing on special teams early in his career before starting at nickel and then ultimately becoming the starting safety at the falcon position last season.

Dark Horses

Erick Smith — S

Despite the enormous hype, Erick Smith has yet to make a huge impact for Ohio State. In his senior season, this is his last chance.

Smith enters the 2017 season in a battle with Jordan Fuller for a starting safety spot. The potential is undoubtedly there. If he can put it all together, Smith might be this year's version of Malik Hooker.

Kendall Sheffield — CB

It's hard to confidently predict a player to be drafted when he just joined the team, you've never seen him play a real game and you aren't even sure he's going to start this season, but Kendall Sheffield is an interesting case.

Sheffield, a former five-star recruit out of high school, transferred from Alabama following his freshman season. After a year at junior college, he committed to Ohio State as the top junior college cornerback in the country.

All along, his plan has been to start and make an impact immediately. From early impressions, coaches seem to think he's game-ready right now and expect him to play a big role in the defense in 2017. If he blows up the way Malik Hooker or Marshon Lattimore did, he could be a one-and-done at Ohio State.

Damon Arnette — CB

After struggling at times in the nickel spot last season, Damon Arnette exited spring drills as one of the most improved players on the team and a frontrunner for a starting cornerback spot in 2017.

With the way Ohio State has been cranking out defensive back talent, Buckeye fans should not be at all shocked if Arnette has a breakout season and enters the 2018 draft.

Dante Booker — LB

Dante Booker was slated to be a starting linebacker in 2016, but an injury in the season opener against Bowling Green kept him sidelined for the entire season.

While nobody outside the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center has really seen his potential, if he was starting over Jerome Baker he's likely a special player.

Booker is once again expected to start, and with a good showing in 2017, he might make the jump to the NFL following the season, especially given his injury in 2016.

The list, I'm sure you noticed, is lengthy.

Not counting the dark horse candidates, Ohio State has at least 12 legitimate NFL Draft prospects heading into the 2017 season; that's as many as were drafted in the vaunted 2016 draft class.

That, of course, doesn't count the players who could emerge seemingly out of nowhere and find themselves in the first round.

It's early — very early — but it looks like the Buckeyes are poised to dominate yet another draft.

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