Dawand Jones, Luke Wypler Among Buckeyes Still Seeking Opportunity on Final Day of 2023 NFL Draft

By Griffin Strom on April 29, 2023 at 7:35 am
Dawand Jones, Luke Wypler
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch

Four Buckeyes came off the board in Kansas City in the first three rounds of the 2023 NFL draft, but many were surprised that list wasn't a little longer.

C.J. Stroud (Houston Texans, No. 2), Paris Johnson Jr. (Arizona Cardinals, No. 6) and Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Seattle Seahawks, No. 20) kicked things off Thursday as all three became top-20 overall selections. Then Zach Harrison heard his name called in the third round Friday as the Atlanta Falcons took him with the 75th overall pick.

Ohio State fans then spent the rest of the evening waiting to hear the names of Ohio State offensive linemen Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler, who both received widespread Day 2 grades in the leadup to the draft. But the payoff never came. Entering the draft's final day, both multi-year Ohio State starters are still awaiting an opportunity at the next level.

There was even some speculation that Jones, who measured in at 6’8 1/4”, 374 pounds with 11 5/8” hands, 36 3/8” arms and an 87 7/8” wingspan at the NFL Scouting Combine – all the largest numbers among combine participants – could have snuck into the first round. Instead, Ohio State's two-year starting right tackle will have to go in the fourth round or later this weekend.

Jones, who suffered an injury on the first day of Senior Bowl practice in February, did not participate in every workout at the combine and did not participate at all in Ohio State's 2023 pro day. Still, Jones said last month that he expected to be drafted anywhere from 31st overall to late in the second round of the NFL draft. Perhaps Jones could still wind up an early fourth-round selection on Saturday, but falling out of the third round was something of a surprise in the first place.

Wypler's slide may be less of a shock, given that he was projected to go anywhere between the second to fourth rounds. But Wypler entered the draft considered one of the top few center prospects in the class, per many analysts, and had to watch as four players at his position went off the board ahead of him on Friday.

Wypler's decision to turn pro after his third season with the Buckeyes caught Ryan Day and the Buckeye coaching staff off guard in January. And while a second-day draft selection might have vindicated his choice, critics may now be giving it a second thought.

Beyond Jones and Wypler, who are still likely locks to hear their names called Saturday, players like Ronnie Hickman, Cameron Brown and Tanner McCalister are among the former Buckeyes who could sneak into the picture as late-round picks.

Injuries kept Hickman from bolstering his stock in the pre-draft process. The two-year starting safety at Ohio State didn’t participate in on-field workouts at either the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis or Ohio State’s pro day event last month. Still, Dan Hope’s mock draft for Eleven Warriors forecasts Hickman going in the sixth round of the draft, with his versatility as a multi-positional defender serving as a positive indicator of his ability to adapt at the next level.

Our mock draft also has McCalister earning a seventh-round selection after the Oklahoma State transfer impressed at Ohio State pro day with a surprising performance across several testing categories. McCalister ran the fastest 40-yard dash among all Ohio State pro day participants (4.4 seconds) and also had the best result in the 3-cone drill (6.9 seconds). Beyond that, his 4.15-second 20-yard shuffle, 37-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-3 broad jump and 22 reps on the bench press were all eyebrow-raising figures.

“I don’t think a lot of people – I knew they thought I was athletic – I mean, you can’t play at Ohio State and not be athletic. But I didn’t think they thought I was gonna put up the numbers I did,” McCalister said at pro day.

Brown has received some late-round mock draft projections after being a multi-year starter at cornerback for the Buckeyes, but injuries frequently hampered him throughout the back half of his Ohio State tenure. Brown also had an underwhelming 40-yard dash at Ohio State pro day by his standards, clocking in at 4.53 seconds after previously stating at the NFL combine that he was aiming to run in the 4.2 range.

“They gave me the mindset of an NFL player. Most college coaches try to just teach certain things, but they showed me the more detailed part of the game that’s not only athletic ability."– Cameron Brown on his Ohio state coaches

Given those factors, we left him off our Tuesday mock draft, although it’s well within the realm of possibility to believe Brown could ultimately hear his name called before all is said and done in Kansas City. Not to mention, Brown thinks the coaching he received at Ohio State has already prepared him for what he may see in the NFL.

“They gave me the mindset of an NFL player,” Brown said. “Most college coaches try to just teach certain things, but they showed me the more detailed part of the game that’s not only athletic ability. Because when you get to the NFL, everybody's talented, everybody's athletic. It's all about what are you going to do with it.”

Perhaps no other Buckeyes seem likely to be selected Saturday, although Ohio State still has other notable names hoping to put their talents on display at the next level.

Long-time Ohio State defensive tackles Taron Vincent and Jerron Cage both fit that bill as veteran fixtures in Larry Johnson’s position room. Vincent carried a five-star recruiting pedigree into college, but even a fully healthy season as a regular starter in 2022 hasn’t garnered much draft buzz over the past several months.

Another five-star recruit, Palaie Gaoteote, is hoping to earn a chance with an NFL team one way or another, but the USC transfer linebacker only played a total of 129 defensive snaps at Ohio State over the past two seasons. In 2022, Gaoteote was relegated mostly to a special teams role with the Buckeyes, although he often impressed in that capacity.

Mitch Rossi could be an intriguing draft prospect given his niche role as a hybrid fullback/tight end at Ohio State, and his ability to earn regular playing time in the latter stages of his Buckeye career proves he could be a valuable asset given the right situation at the next level. Kevin Wilson often raved about Rossi’s potential to play in the NFL, and whether he’s drafted or not, he seems likely to have an opportunity to do so.

The final four rounds of the 2023 NFL draft will commence at noon on Saturday when several more Ohio State players could see their dreams come true on stage in Kansas City.

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