A Look at Which Ohio State Players Still Have NFL Draft Decisions to Make and Who Will Be Gone After the Rose Bowl

By Dan Hope on December 23, 2021 at 11:05 am
Matt Jones and Nicholas Petit-Frere

While nearly half of Ohio State’s current scholarship players are eligible to enter the 2022 NFL draft, only five of them will actually be out of eligibility after the Rose Bowl.

Because the NCAA gave all players an additional year of eligibility in 2020, the only players who can’t return to the Buckeyes after this season are the players who would have exhausted their eligibility last season that are already using their extra year of eligibility. Everyone else, including seniors who have already played four seasons of college football without redshirting, could still return for another season in 2022.

Ohio State shouldn’t actually expect to get all of those players back, though. Some seniors have already said they’ll be entering the 2022 NFL draft rather than using their additional year of eligibility, while there are many other seniors and draft-eligible juniors who have decisions to make about their future between now and the Jan. 17 deadline to declare for the draft.

In total, Ohio State currently has 38 draft-eligible scholarship players on its roster: 14 third-years, 16 fourth-years, six fifth-years and two sixth-years. Below, we take a look at which of those players are about to exhaust their eligibility, who else is expected to go pro and which players still have decisions to make about whether to stay at Ohio State for another year or enter the NFL draft.

The following lists only include scholarship players and do not account for the possibility that players could also choose to transfer elsewhere rather than staying at Ohio State or entering the NFL draft.

Out of Eligibility

OL Thayer Munford
DT Haskell Garrett
DT Antwuan Jackson
CB Demario McCall
S Marcus Williamson

Had the NCAA not given all players a free year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, each of these five Buckeyes would have already exhausted their collegiate eligibility last season. Munford and Garrett are the top NFL prospects among them, but all five of them will begin the next chapter of their lives after the Rose Bowl as they have all graduated from Ohio State and do not have any more eligibility to play for the Buckeyes.

Planning to Go Pro

WR Chris Olave
TE Jeremy Ruckert
DE Tyreke Smith

While Olave, Ruckert and Smith are all true seniors who still have their additional year of eligibility from the NCAA, all of them have said they will be entering the 2022 NFL draft. All three of them have graduated from Ohio State and should hear their names called in April; Olave is a projected first-round draft pick, while Ruckert and Smith have both accepted invitations to the Senior Bowl.

Seniors Who Could Use Additional Year of Eligibility

CB Sevyn Banks
DT Jerron Cage
LB Palaie Gaoteote
LB Teradja Mitchell
K Noah Ruggles
TE Mitch Rossi

All six of these players are listed as seniors but could still use the extra year of eligibility to return for another season. 

Banks told Eleven Warriors on Saturday that the Rose Bowl “should be” his final game as a Buckeye, but said he had not made a final decision yet. Both Banks and Rossi, a former walk-on who almost didn’t return for the 2021 season until he was placed on scholarship, went through Senior Day festivities before Ohio State’s final home game of the season against Michigan State.

Cage, Gaoteote, Mitchell and Ruggles, however, did not participate in Senior Day, a possible indicator that all of them plan to return for another season. Both Cage and Ruggles said earlier this fall that they were considering using their additional year of eligibility, and Gaoteote has been expected to play two years with the Buckeyes since he transferred to Ohio State in June.

Jerron Cage
Jerron Cage has already been at Ohio State for five years, but he could still be back for a sixth.

Draft-Eligible Players With Decisions to Make

WR Garrett Wilson
OT Nicholas Petit-Frere
DE Zach Harrison
OT Dawand Jones
RB Master Teague
DT Taron Vincent

Wilson (a true junior) and Petit-Frere (a redshirt junior) are the most obvious candidates on this list to enter the 2022 NFL draft, as both of them have been projected as potential first-round draft picks. While neither of them has indicated publicly what they plan to do after this season, it would be a surprise if Wilson – who could be the top wide receiver drafted – returned for his senior year, while Petit-Frere also seems like a probable candidate to make the jump to the league after graduating from Ohio State on Sunday.

Harrison and Jones, both true juniors, told reporters last week that they were still deciding whether or not they would enter the 2022 NFL draft or return for their senior seasons. While each of them would likely be selected in the middle rounds if they declared for the draft, both of them acknowledged they could also benefit from returning to Ohio State for another season before going pro.

Teague and Vincent would be late-round draft picks at best if they declared for the draft after this season, but both of them appear to be at least considering the possibility of moving on from Ohio State after the Rose Bowl, as Teague participated in Senior Day while Vincent participated in Senior Tackle before the Michigan game.

Draft-Eligible Players Who Are Likely to Return

WR Kamryn Babb
CB Cameron Brown
LB Steele Chambers
RB Marcus Crowley
LB Tommy Eichenberg
DE Tyler Friday
DE Cormontae Hamilton
S Ronnie Hickman
S Marcus Hooker
DE Javontae Jean-Baptiste
OL Matthew Jones
DT Jaden McKenzie
OL Harry Miller
DT Noah Potter
S Josh Proctor
S Bryson Shaw
TE Cade Stover
OL Enokk Vimahi

While there’s no guarantee that all of these players will be back at Ohio State next season, as some of them could have reason to consider exploring their options in the transfer portal, it would come as a surprise if any of them entered the NFL draft.

Brown and Hickman, who would be the strongest candidates to be drafted among the players on this list, have both already said they will be back for the 2022 season.

Proctor and Friday were both listed as seniors on this year’s roster, but both of them are expected to take redshirts and return next season after suffering season-ending injuries. Everyone on this list is either a redshirt junior, true junior or redshirt sophomore, and none of them have done enough in their Ohio State careers yet to justify entering the NFL draft early.

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