Mock Draft Roundup: Denzel Ward Projected As Top Cornerback, Billy Price Still Projected As First-Round Pick After NFL Scouting Combine

By Dan Hope on March 8, 2018 at 1:05 pm
Denzel Ward and Billy Price

Trevor Ruszkowski – USA TODAY Sports

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With the entire 256-pick draft order now set and the NFL Scouting Combine in the rear view mirror, it’s time once again to check in on where draft analysts from around the country project Ohio State’s pro football hopefuls will be selected in this year’s NFL draft.

2018 NFL Draft Order (Round 1)
Pick Team
1. CLEVELAND BROWNS
2. NEW YORK GIANTS
3. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
4. HOUSTON TEXANS (TRADED TO BROWNS)
5. DENVER BRONCOS
6. NEW YORK JETS
7. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
8. CHICAGO BEARS
9. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
10. OAKLAND RAIDERS
11. MIAMI DOLPHINS
12. CINCINNATI BENGALS
13. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
14. GREEN BAY PACKERS
15. ARIZONA CARDINALS
16. BALTIMORE RAVENS
17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
18. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
19. DALLAS COWBOYS
20. DETROIT LIONS
21. BUFFALO BILLS
22. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (TRADED TO BILLS)
23. LOS ANGELES RAMS
24. CAROLINA PANTHERS
25. TENNESSEE TITANS
26. ATLANTA FALCONS
27. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
28. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
29. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
30. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
31. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
32. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward bolstered his chances of being a top draft pick by tying for the fastest 40-yard dash and recording the longest broad jump of the combine. Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard also strengthened his case for being a first-round pick, recording the fastest 3-cone drill time among defensive linemen while also impressing in on-field position drills. Ohio State center Billy Price, however, suffered an incomplete tear of his left pectoral muscle while bench pressing at the combine – an injury that required surgery that will keep him out four months, and could hurt his draft stock.

Even so, none of their draft projections have changed drastically since our post-Super Bowl mock draft roundup, though there has started to be more agreement on which teams they might be most likely to end up with.

While those are the only Buckeyes projected as first-round draft choices in any of the 12 mock drafts we surveyed, five other Buckeyes are projected to be selected between the second and sixth rounds in the mock drafts we surveyed that went beyond Round 1.

This edition of the NFL mock draft roundup includes the following 12 analysts’ projections, which will be detailed for each Buckeye prospect below:

Denzel Ward, CB

Williams: Round 1, No. 4 overall, Cleveland Browns

Miller: Round 1, No. 6 overall, New York Jets

Burke: Round 1, No. 8 overall, Chicago Bears

Iyer: Round 1, No. 8 overall, Chicago Bears

Jeremiah: Round 1, No. 8 overall, Chicago Bears

McShay: Round 1, No. 8 overall, Chicago Bears

Kadar: Round 1, No. 9 overall, San Francisco 49ers

Klopsis: Round 1, No. 9 overall, San Francisco 49ers

Brinson: Round 1, No. 11 overall, Miami Dolphins

Davis: Round 1, No. 11 overall, Miami Dolphins

Easterling: Round 1, No. 13 overall, Washington Redskins

Trapasso: Round 1, No. 20 overall, Detroit Lions

After Ward proved himself to be one of the elite athletes in the 2018 NFL draft class with his performance earlier this week in Indianapolis, every mock draft we surveyed agrees that Ward will be a top-20 selection in the draft.

A majority of projections have him coming off the board between the eighth and 11th picks, which is because three of the teams in that four-pick range could be in the market for a cornerback: the Bears, 49ers and Dolphins.

All 12 mock drafts project Ward to be the first cornerback off the board in this year’s draft (not including Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who could potentially be drafted to play cornerback but primarily played safety for the Crimson Tide).

Billy Price, C/G

Iyer: Round 1, No. 22 overall, Buffalo Bills

Miller: Round 1, No. 26 overall, Atlanta Falcons

Jeremiah: Round 1, No. 30 overall, Minnesota Vikings

McShay: Round 1, No. 30 overall, Minnesota Vikings

Easterling: Round 2, No. 47 overall, Arizona Cardinals

Burke: Round 2, No. 51 overall, Detroit Lions

Even though he was unable to complete a workout at the combine – and won’t be able to work out at all before the draft due to his recovery from surgery – Price is still projected as a first-round pick in four out of 12 mock drafts.

While six out of 12 mock drafts in our post-Super Bowl roundup had the Bills selecting Price with either the 21st or 22nd overall pick (they hold both), the most popular projection now is Price going to the Vikings, where he would move back to right guard to play alongside Pat Elflein at center, just like they did during the 2016 season at Ohio State.

Even if the injury causes him to fall out of the first round, it would be a surprise if Price – who started 55 consecutive games at Ohio State, never suffering a major injury during his Buckeyes career – falls any further than the middle of the second round.

Sam Hubbard, DE

Kadar: Round 1, No. 25 overall, Tennessee Titans

Miller: Round 1, No. 31 overall, New England Patriots

Burke: Round 2, No. 43 overall, New England Patriots

Easterling: Round 2, No. 43 overall, New England Patriots

Even though Hubbard had a strong showing at the combine, he still might be just on the outside looking into the first round, as only two out of 12 post-combine mock drafts project him to be a top-32 pick.

In terms of the team he could end up with, however, there’s a clear consensus choice: the Patriots, who have a history of drafting players with fast 3-cone times, need a defensive end and have multiple connections to Ohio State’s coaching staff (Patriots coach Bill Belichick is known to have close relationships with Urban Meyer and Greg Schiano).

The Titans, meanwhile, also have a need at defensive end and even stronger Ohio State connections in new head coach Mike Vrabel – who helped recruit Hubbard to Ohio State back when he was an assistant for Meyer – and secondary coach Kerry Coombs, who also helped recruit Hubbard and was the Buckeyes’ co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach throughout Hubbard’s career in Columbus.

Sam Hubbard
Sam Hubbard is one of three Buckeyes drawing projections to be first-round picks in the 2018 NFL draft.
Jamarco Jones, OT

Miller: Round 2, No. 49 overall, New York Jets

Burke: Round 3, No. 73 overall, Miami Dolphins

Easterling: Round 3, No. 87 overall, Los Angeles Rams

Jones didn’t have the combine performance he needed to elevate himself to being a potential first-round draft pick, but he is projected to go no lower than the third round in all three surveyed mocks that included more than one round.

Miller, who previously had the Jets selecting Jones with the No. 37 overall pick, now has them taking the Ohio State left tackle with their later second-round pick. Easterling, who previously had the Panthers selecting Jones with their second-round pick, now has him falling into the middle of the third round.

While scouts could question Jones’ athleticism after an underwhelming showing in Indianapolis – his times in the 40-yard dash, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle were each among the four slowest of all combine participants – he still shouldn’t fall too far in the draft because of his two years of strong play for Ohio State at left tackle, which is always one of the draft’s most in-demand positions.

Jerome Baker, LB

Easterling: Round 3, No. 67 overall, Indianapolis Colts

Miller: Round 3, No. 73 overall, Miami Dolphins

Burke: Round 3, No. 96 overall, Buffalo Bills

Had Baker had the record-breaking showing he sought at the combine, he might have propelled himself into the top two rounds of the draft. Alas, Baker fell short of his goal, but still proved himself to be one of the most athletic linebackers in the draft – running a 4.53-second 40 – and is projected as a third-rounder by all three surveyed mock drafts that projected three rounds or more.

While Baker was regarded as a potential first-round pick going into his final season at Ohio State, a disappointing junior year appears to have dropped his draft stock a couple rounds. Still, he’s expected to come off the board within the top 100 picks because of his high athletic upside.

Perhaps the most intriguing fit among those projected could be the Dolphins, where Baker would be reunited with Raekwon McMillan, the linebacker he started alongside during his sophomore season at Ohio State in 2016.

Jalyn Holmes, DE

Burke: Round 3, No. 89 overall, Tennessee Titans

Miller: Round 4, No. 109 overall, Denver Broncos

As was the case before the combine, Holmes still appears to be on the fringe between being selected late on the second day of the draft or early on the third day of the draft, as he is projected to be selected in either the third or fourth round (though Easterling does not include Holmes in his four-round mock).

As aforementioned, the Titans have a need for a defensive end and Ohio State connections, so if they don’t select Hubbard earlier in the draft, they could target Holmes – who told the Titans' official website at the Senior Bowl in January that he was a Titans fan growing up – in the middle rounds.

Jalyn Holmes
Jalyn Holmes is projected to be a third- or fourth-round draft pick.
Tyquan Lewis, DE

Miller: Round 3, No. 98 overall, Houston Texans

Like his fellow Ohio State defensive end and Senior Bowl participant, Lewis appears to be on the fringe of being a top-100 draft pick. Should he end up with the Texans – who coached in the Senior Bowl, though the opposite team from the one on which Lewis played – his experience playing on the interior in Ohio State’s "Rushmen" package could help him with the transition to playing defensive end in Houston’s 3-4 scheme, in which he would have the opportunity to learn from the NFL’s best defensive ends, J.J. Watt.

Damon Webb, S

Miller: Round 6, No. 185 overall, Oakland Raiders

While the first seven players included in this roundup all appear to be safe bets to at least be drafted, Webb is among the Buckeyes who could be on the late-round bubble. Miller, though, sees him as a fit in the sixth round for the Raiders, where he could team up in the secondary with former Ohio State teammate Gareon Conley.

Other Ohio State draft hopefuls

Despite being invited to and participating in the NFL Scouting Combine, former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, linebacker Chris Worley and tight end Marcus Baugh were not accounted for in any of the mock drafts we surveyed, though it should be noted once again that Miller’s was the only one of those 12 mock drafts that projected all seven rounds.

Miller previously projected Worley to be a sixth-round pick in his post-Super Bowl mock, when Worley was coming off a strong showing at the East-West Shrine Game, but Worley had a disappointing performance at the combine, running the slowest 40-yard dash (4.86 seconds) among all linebackers.

Barrett, who did not draw any projections in the post-Super Bowl mock draft roundup, either, might need to have a strong throwing workout at Ohio State’s pro day to improve his chances of being a late-round draft pick.

Other Buckeyes who are expected to work out at Ohio State’s pro day in hopes of being drafted, though they face longer odds, include defensive tackles Tracy Sprinkle and Michael Hill, safety Erick Smith and former walk-ons Zach Turnure, Elijaah Goins, Trevon Forte and Nick Seme.

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