Since Urban Meyer arrived at Ohio State, the Buckeyes' presence at the NFL draft has been felt in a big way.
Since the 2013 draft, Ohio State has put 10 players in the first round of the draft, and 33 Buckeyes have been selected overall. The 2018 draft will add another crop of former Buckeyes to the league, and one particular OSU staffer believes the 2018 class could be one of the best yet.
While it will be hard to rival the 2016 draft class in which 12 Buckeyes were taken in the first four rounds, Ohio State strength coach Mickey Marotti believes the 2018 class can rival the overall potential of the class two years ahead of it.
"Right up there with the '15 class," Marotti said, referencing the final year that class played at Ohio State. "Talking to the scouts and talking to the coaches, we are going to have a lot of guys drafted high. Maybe not the first round like that one year, but you get drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL, you're projected to be a starter."
Ohio State's 2016 draft class featured five first-rounders in Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Eli Apple, Taylor Decker and Darron Lee, and while the Buckeyes likely won't put that many players in the first round this year, the opportunity to make a splash on day one is still there.
Cornerback Denzel Ward is widely regarded as Ohio State's top prospect in the upcoming draft, and Marotti said that while Ward might not be the tallest corner in the draft (measured at just 5-foot-10 at the combine), he has other abilities that make him an elite talent.
"He has what they call twitch. He is so twitchy out there with his quick movements and his quickness and his overall downfield speed. Great kid, and he is not scared of hitting," Marotti said. "You throw it in there, he has made some big hits. I talked to a couple of (NFL) coaches, and they were excited to see that when they study him on tape. When you're not a big guy to do that, that's pretty good."
Ward is likely Ohio State's best overall prospect in the draft, but the defensive line is the deepest position for the upcoming Buckeye draft class. Defensive ends Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes are all candidates to go in the top three to four rounds, with Hubbard teetering on the edge of being a late first-round pick.
New England Patriot head coach Bill Belichick spent a good amount of time at Ohio State's Pro Day on Thursday working specifically with the Buckeye defensive linemen, which came as no surprise to Marotti.
"They are like, 'Oh that's Coach Belichick, we gotta go,'" Marotti said. "We knew they would (do well). Larry Johnson has trained those guys for however many years. This was kind of like second nature to them."
Interior defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle also impressed on the bench press, benching 225 pounds 33 times, which was the best of any Buckeye on Thursday.
Marotti said he was happy for Sprinkle, who did not earn an invite to the NFL combine in February.
"He did a really great job (Thursday). Ran great, did great in the weight room, looked good in the drills so hopefully he will get a an opportunity, which I think he will," Marotti said.
The OSU strength coach also wouldn't rule out an NFL team taking a chance on former walk-on Elijaah Goins, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash time of any Buckeye on Thursday (estimated 4.41 by Eleven Warriors writer Dan Hope).
"Somebody is going to give him a shot because he can run," Marotti said.
Of the 18 Buckeyes that are eligible to be drafted, there is a good chance 10 could be drafted in the seven-round event in late April. While it isn't quite the 2016 draft, 10 selections would be the most for an OSU draft class (outside of '16) since the 2004 pool, when 14 Buckeyes were selected.