Ronnie Hickman Signs With Cleveland Browns As Undrafted Free Agent Following 2023 NFL Draft

By Chase Brown on April 29, 2023 at 7:24 pm
Ronnie Hickman

Ronnie Hickman didn't hear his name called at the 2023 NFL draft, but the former Buckeye safety will have a chance to make a roster nonetheless.

Following the draft, during which C.J. Stroud (No. 2 overall, Houston Texans), Paris Johnson Jr. (No. 6, Arizona Cardinals), Jaxon Smith-Njigba (No. 20, Seattle Seahawks), Zach Harrison (No. 75, Atlanta Falcons), Dawand Jones (No. 111, Cleveland Browns) and Luke Wypler (No. 190, Cleveland Browns) all came off the board, Hickman signed with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent.

The Browns also signed Tanner McCalister after the draft, which means Cleveland scooped up four former Buckeyes on Saturday.

A four-star recruit and top-150 overall prospect in the class of 2019, Hickman – nicknamed "Rocket" by his coaches and teammates – blossomed over his last two seasons at Ohio State to become an NFL prospect.

After a redshirt year in 2019 and limited opportunities in 2020 due to a pandemic-shortened regular season, Hickman became the starter at former defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs' “bullet” position in 2021. He led the Buckeyes with 100 tackles that year and collected one tackle for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, two pass breakups and two interceptions.

As a senior in 2022, Hickman transitioned into the “adjuster” position in first-year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles' defensive scheme. Hickman’s stats as a tackler noticeably declined in this role as he recorded only 53 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble. However, Hickman's production in pass defense increased as he had a career-best eight pass breakups and collected one of Ohio State's 11 interceptions while patrolling the back end from the free safety spot.

After the 2022 season, Hickman was one of eight Buckeyes to be named an All-American, receiving second-team recognition from both Pro Football Focus and the Associated Press. He later joined Jones at the Senior Bowl and was one of eight Ohio State players invited to perform at the NFL Scouting Combine.

While he didn't get drafted, Hickman could provide depth in the Browns' defensive backfield. His explosive downhill burst and desire to tackle and hit with speed will make him a valuable asset in run support and as a blitzer, while his playmaking range could allow him to play both free and strong safety in the NFL.

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