The Ohio State Buckeyes are somewhat of a factory when it comes to pumping out pro prospects on the defensive side of the ball. 29 Buckeye defensive players have been selected the past nine drafts, including eight first rounders. So who are the top NFL Draft prospects on defense for the Buckeyes this fall? Again, only those eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft will be discussed, so no talk about future first rounder Joey Bosa.
The Buckeyes field the best defensive line in the country outside of the SEC, and three of the four (Bosa being the other) are highly intriguing draft-eligible prospects with surefire NFL futures.
At DE is junior Noah Spence, a former five star recruit who really came on strong in ’13, finishing with 14.5 TFL’s and 8 sacks, the latter of which was good for second in the Big Ten. There’s no denying his upside, athleticism or first step explosion, but he’s still polishing his pass rushing repertoire. He’s developing at a fine rate though, and should be in store for another monster season this fall, especially considering that the talent surrounding him will only open up more one on one opportunities. At 6-foot 3, 252-pounds, I’m not sure if he’s got the combination of length and girth to play up front at the next level but looks like an outstanding 34 OLB prospect.
Junior DT Adolphus Washington is another former five star recruit up front with excellent athleticism. Washington has seen his struggles developing, but the hope is that now that he’s moved inside full time he’ll see his production really take off. At 6-foot 4, 288-pounds, Washington has an excellent skill set for 3-tech, showing the kind of burst to split the gaps and get up field. He’s got decent bend in his hips and gives a good punch, but is still learning to use his hands properly. I like his future at both 3 and 5-techs in even and odd fronts.
Senior DT Michael Bennett is arguably the best prospect at his position nationally, and his polish reflects that. Bennett has a terrific first step and an equally strong punch, but it’s his ability to collapse pockets that has scouts salivating, evidenced by his 11.5 TFL’s and 7 sacks in ’13. Where his polish really shows up on film is not only his use of hands, but his ability to dip and split constant double-teams. At 6-foot 2, 288-pounds, Bennett, like Washington, also shows the ability to play both 3 and 5-techs, but I also think he could put on some more muscle and play nose in an even front.
It wouldn’t be Ohio State unless there was a stud in the secondary, and senior CB Doran Grant fits the bill. Grant, despite playing opposite first rounder Bradley Roby in ’13, was actually the most consistent cover corner on the field for the Buckeyes. Grant may not have had as many highlight reel-worthy big plays as Roby, but he also didn’t give up near the amount of big plays either. He’s simply rock solid and dependable, traits that aren’t undervalued at the next level. Grant has enough size and strength to hold up in press and jam at the line of scrimmage, but also has the hips and recovery speed you want to see in a top prospect.
Another guy to keep an eye on is senior MLB Curtis Grant, yet another former five star recruit. He’s been slower to develop than originally thought, but but came on strong last year. He’s got tremendous size (6-foot 3, 240-pounds) and athleticism, and considering the talent playing in front of him on the line, he could be in store for a huge senior season.