Skull Session: Ohio State Products Receive Draft Grades, C.J. Stroud and Paris Johnson Jr.'s Families Left Them a Message Before the Draft and the Big Ten Has a Huge Weekend

By Chase Brown on May 1, 2023 at 5:00 am
C.J. Stroud
Ohio State Dept. of Athletics

Welcome to the Skull Session.

I'll be honest with you, reader. I am tired. It was a looooooong weekend of coverage for the NFL draft (where I was picked by the Cincinnati Bengals), commitments from Jordan Lyle, Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Josh Simmons and other weekend work-related activities off the heels of a looooooong five-day week.

Fortunately and unfortunately, my Mom passed down her can't stop, won't stop qualities down to me, so I activated Playoff Jimmy Butler mode for this Skull Session. Get ready for a 42-point performance across the next four sections.

Let's have a good Monday, shall we?

 IT'S TIME FOR DRAFT GRADES. To start this Skully, let's go with some good old-fashioned draft grades for Ohio State's six NFL draft selections over the weekend, starting with C.J. Stroud, Paris Johnson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

C.J. Stroud: Houston Texans, No. 2 Overall

The Texans needed a quarterback and filled that void with Stroud, who was a top-two quarterback in the draft behind Alabama's Bryce Young – a fact made clear after the Colts selected Florida's Anthony Richardson at No. 4 and the Titans picked Kentucky's Will Levis after he fell to the second round. For me, this pick is no less than an A- for the Texans, who could have picked Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. at No. 2, but guess what? They got him regardless, so all is well that ends well.

Paris Johnson Jr.: Arizona Cardinals, No. 6 Overall

I don't know what made Sports Illustrated's Giberto Manzano such a hater, but I loved that the Cardinals picked Johnson at No. 6. Arizona fortified the left side of their offensive line with a hoss – one that earned Kyler Murray's seal of approval, no less. The franchise acquired several picks (but also spent one) to make it happen. Plus, the Cardinals drafted Johnson's father in 1999, which created a full-circle moment for Johnson Jr. on Thursday and made the pick that much sweeter.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba: Seattle Seahawks, No. 20 Overall

In the 2022 NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected Drake London as the No. 8 overall pick. That created a chain reaction of wide receivers coming off the board, separated only by Mississippi State offensive lineman Charles Cross to the Seahawks at No. 9, as Garrett Wilson (Jets, No. 10 overall), Chris Olave (Saints, No. 11 overall) and Jameson Williams (Lions, No. 12 overall) went off the board in the next three picks.

In 2023, the Seahawks would not miss out on the pass-catcher fire-sale. In fact, they were the team that started it this time, as Seattle selected Smith-Njigba with the No. 20 overall pick. The Chargers, Ravens and Vikings followed suit with Quentin Johnson, Zay Flowers and Jordan Addison.

Smith-Njigba landed in a great spot with the Seahawks and can thrive as early as his rookie season. He will line up next to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in the Pacific Northwest as 2023 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Geno Smith throws him the football. The grades are spot on – A's all-around for the pick.

Zach Harrison: No. 75, Atlanta Falcons

Dawand Jones: No. 111, Cleveland Browns

Luke Wypler: No. 190, Cleveland Browns

As for Ohio State's later-round picks, grades for Zach Harrison, Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler are hard to find. As the draft continued, many news sites opted to grade teams for their choices by round rather than individual pick, making the value of the former Buckeyes to those grades hard to calculate.

At any rate, conventional wisdom would tell me all three players were “steals” for the Falcons and Browns, as Harrison, Jones and Wypler were expected to be off the board much sooner than they were. However, it's fair to wonder how and why they fell.

Harrison has the athleticism and body to thrive in the NFL, but he didn't have much statistical production at Ohio State. For that reason, I'll throw the pick in the B, B- range. As for Jones and Wypler, both selections are A+ for the Browns (this grade comes with zero bias whatsoever – do not ask questions).

 GRAB YOUR TISSUES. After Stroud and Jones were drafted by the Texans and Cardinals, respectively, the former Buckeyes were individually called into private rooms inside Union Station. There, they watched pre-recorded videos from family members, who congratulated them for their monumental life moment at the draft.

Stroud and Johnson both shed tears while they watched their messages – Johnson a little more than Stroud, but that's neither here nor there. That said, it could be worthwhile to have a box of tissues handy as you watch a video of Stroud and Johnson as they watch a video (a.k.a. Videoception).

Edit: On Monday, the NFL tweeted a video of Smith-Njigba watching a message from his brother, Canaan Smith-Njigba, who offered some words of encouragement after he was drafted by the Seahawks.

 BIG DRAFT FOR THE BIG TEN. This probably won't shock you, but the SEC finished the NFL draft with the most players picked across the seven rounds for, like, the millionth time this weekend. However, this may come as a surprise: The Big Ten was the belle of the ball for the first two rounds.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Big Ten had the most prospects drafted in the first two rounds with a conference-record 20 players selected. The conference also tied the SEC for the most first-round picks on Thursday with nine.

Now, that leads me to ask, how did the Big Ten have 20 draft picks in the first two rounds, yet the conference was so weak outside of Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State?

I don't have an answer, so I am left to wonder.

However, perhaps this development at the draft can lead to further parity in the Big Ten. The addition of USC and UCLA should also help with that, as should the multi-billion dollar media and television rights contract the conference inked last fall and coaches like Matt Rhule and Luke Fickell entering the league at Nebraska and Wisconsin.

Could we see Big Ten supremacy soon?

 NOT STICKING TO THE DRAFT. Club football legend and Ohio State pro day participant Kellyn Gerenstein became the first player in Ohio State club football history to have his number retired last week. The program's head coach James Grega – an Eleven Warriors alum – presented Gerenstein with his retired No. 4 jersey on Thursday.

Gerenstein was a do-it-all kind of quarterback for Grega and Ohio State, contributing with both his arm and legs as leader of the offense. As mentioned in the tweet, Gerenstein collected over 7,000 yards and 107 touchdowns in his career – impressive numbers regardless of the level of competition.

When Gerenstein wasn't running through teams on the football field, he was a student at Ohio State and worked for Mark Pantoni as a recruiting intern for the Buckeyes. His connection to Pantoni allowed him to be an Ohio State pro day participant, working out as a defensive back for NFL personnel in attendance.

Simply put, Gerenstein is a dude. Cheers to him for his accomplishments on the club football team, and I wish him tremendous success as an apprentice under Pantoni. He's learning from the best in the business.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Jackie and Wilson" by Dogpark (Hozier Cover).

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