Nick Bosa’s final season at Ohio State lasted less than three full games, but that probably won’t matter come April.
If you think Bosa’s decision this week to leave Ohio State to focus on his rehabilitation from core muscle surgery instead of trying to return for the end of the Buckeyes’ season will hurt his NFL draft stock, think again.
Sure, NFL scouts would have loved to see more of Bosa this season, even if it had only been for one or two games on a big stage at the end of the year.
That said, Bosa didn’t need to play a single snap more of college football to be one of the first players selected in the 2019 NFL draft.
Bosa was already ranked by many draft analysts as one of the top prospects for next spring’s selection meeting before this season began, and his performance in Ohio State’s first three games of the year against Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU only helped his draft stock, as he recorded 14 total tackles, six tackles for loss, four sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries – including one for a touchdown – in just 113 snaps of play.
He’ll still have to prove he is fully healthy and perform well in pre-draft workouts this spring to solidify his draft stock, but as long as he can do that, he remains a safe bet to be one of the first players to hear his name called during the first round of the draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville. And while the 10- to 12-week timeframe for Bosa’s recovery wouldn’t have allowed him to return to play for Ohio State before its bowl game, it gives him plenty of time to get healthy – and train – for the NFL Scouting Combine in March.
“The bad news was he had surgery. The good news is that it’s a surgery that he will be 100 percent repaired,” Bosa’s father, John, told Eleven Warriors on Tuesday. “It’ll be as good as new.”
With that in mind, and the confirmation now that he will enter the 2019 draft (not that there was ever much doubt about that), many NFL draft analysts consider him to be the No. 1 overall prospect in the upcoming draft, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.
“I don't expect Bosa's core muscle injury to affect his draft stock, even after it was announced that he isn't returning to Ohio State and will instead begin preparations for the draft. It's not an injury with lasting long-term effects,” Kiper wrote. “The Buckeyes' defensive line isn't the same without him. He's the Class of 2019's best edge rusher, and it's not close.”
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller and The Athletic’s Dane Brugler are also among the draft analysts who rank Bosa as the top player on their big boards – and don’t expect that to change any time soon.
Nick Bosa is the No. 1 player on my board. That ain't changing.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) October 16, 2018
My midseason Top-32 Draft Board goes up tomorrow w/ plenty of changes.
Spoiler alert, but #OhioState pass rusher Nick Bosa remains at No. 1 and I don't anticipate that changing throughout the process.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 16, 2018
While an injury-shortened final season at Ohio State certainly doesn’t help Bosa’s draft stock, his draft stock didn’t need much helping, and it’s not unprecedented for a player to be one of the draft’s top picks even while coming off of a season-ending injury. One of the most prominent examples: former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft after playing only three games in his final season as a Sooner before undergoing shoulder surgery.
The better the draft prospect, the less likely his draft stock is to be damaged by an injury, and Bosa is among the best of the best.
Nick Bosa won’t be the first Bosa to be a top pick in the NFL draft; his older brother Joey Bosa was the No. 3 overall pick (and the first non-quarterback selected) in the 2016 NFL draft after his own illustrious career at Ohio State. And some people believe Nick is an even better prospect than Joey, who was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2016 and a Pro Bowl selection in 2017.
From an August story by Bleacher Report’s Matt Hayes:
Let's begin with what we know: Joey Bosa is one of the top five defensive ends in the NFL. Maybe even closing in on the best in the game.
Now, the surprise: Some NFL scouts think Nick Bosa, Joey's younger brother and a junior defensive end at Ohio State, may be even better.
"There are a lot of similarities, and it goes beyond the physical stature," one scout tells Bleacher Report. "But I'm convinced Nick will be the better of the two."
An NFL scout told Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel last month that he believes the two brothers stand out in different ways, evaluating that “Nick is looser in the hips and agile as a pass rusher, but Joey is much stronger.”
Regardless of the subtle differences between them or who scouts ultimately determine to be the better prospect, though, what should be the same between them is both being among the first players selected in their respective NFL draft classes.
Considering that the NFL season isn’t even halfway over yet, it’s too early to accurately project what team the younger Bosa will ultimately end up with, as the draft order isn’t even close to set. While Bosa and Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver (who has also already announced his intentions to enter next year’s draft despite another year of eligibility) are widely considered to be the two best prospects in the 2019 draft class, there’s still plenty of time for other players to emerge as top prospects, and which pick Bosa comes off the board could ultimately depend on which positions the team(s) at the top of the draft are targeting.
Most draft analysts will agree, though, that unless the team at the top of the draft is in need of whoever emerges as the draft’s top quarterback, that team should strongly consider drafting Bosa, as he has the potential to be one of the NFL’s elite defensive players for many years to come.
“If he isn’t the first non-quarterback off the board, someone messed up,” The Draft Network’s Jon Ledyard wrote on Tuesday. “He’s a game-changing player at the most important position in the league after the quarterback spot, and an immediate impact player in the NFL.”