he scarlet and gray are college football’s elite, whether it’s on the field, in recruiting, or the staff is, both at coaching and recruiting. Urban Meyer cemented that status when he came onto campus in 2012. The Buckeyes had 12 players drafted in the 2016 NFL Draft, and after many wrote them off in 2017, they made the College Football Playoff for the second time in its three-year existence and had seven players drafted. Ohio State loses plenty of talent— again- but the cupboards remain full. Meyer is 61-6 in five seasons with the Buckeyes, so don’t expect that to let up in 2017. Let’s take a way-too-early look at some of the Buckeyes who have a shot to be top prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft:
QB J.T. Barrett
With new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, Barrett is expected to play much better in 2017 than he did in 2016. The offense will not only be a lot more unpredictable, but also a lot more open as well.
Already owning 21 school records, the red-shirt senior has a chance to become one of the best quarterbacks to ever don the scarlet and gray. Heading into his fourth and final season as a Buckeye, he has completed 529-of-840 passes for 6.831 yards, 69 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions while also running for 2,465 yards and 31 touchdowns on 491 carries in 36 games. To help himself become an a better draft prospect, he must not only show that he can consistently throw the deep ball, but Barrett must work on his accuracy and footwork as well.
Some may not think he can be a quarterback in the NFL, but in a loaded draft class, Barrett could still be in the second-tier of quarterbacks off the board.
RB Mike Weber
Entering his second season, many may forget that Weber will be a red-shirt sophomore, so he can enter the draft following the season if he so chooses given that he would have been out of high school for three years.
In 2016, he became the third freshman in school history to rush for 1,000 yards and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Add in the fact that the running back should see the ball much more this fall and Weber has the chance to be something special.
TE Marcus Baugh
Ohio State tight ends rarely get much love in terms of receptions while in Columbus, but they still find a way to be one of the top tight ends off the board in the draft.
With all of the talent that left in the receiver room, Baugh is the top returning pass-catcher and will lead a group of inexperienced players this fall. Whether it’s blocking or running routes (and catching the ball), the senior will look to prove just how good he is after totaling 24 catches for 269 yards and two touchdowns in 2016.
OL Billy Price
Price has been all over the offensive line, and going into his senior season in 2017, that won’t change. This fall, he will move from guard to center, to be the centerpiece and anchor of the offensive line. Like Ohio State, NFL teams will love his versatility. the senior will help create holes for the run game and protect Barrett in the pocket.
Keep in mind, he will most likely set the school record for starts in a career, which, along with his leadership, can make him one of two first-round picks across the Buckeyes’ front seven.
OL Jamarco Jones
One of the best left tackles in college football, Jones has the chance to be a Top 10 pick next spring if he stays healthy and continues to improve and craft his game. While protecting Barrett’sblind side, the junior will also look to open up bigger holes for Weber and company, along with making sure his quarterback doesn’t get hit from behind.
DE Tyquan Lewis
Many people expected the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year to take his talents to the NFL following the 2016 season, but he surprisingly decided to return for his fourth and final season at Ohio State.
As a captain, he will look to lead one of the Buckeyes’ most dominant units after compiling 92 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries during his first three seasons and leading the team in sacks each of the last two seasons.
The most NFL-ready Silver Bullet, Lewis and the rest of the defensive line have a chance to be very special this fall.
DE Sam Hubbard
The junior decided to return to Columbus for a third season after an impressive sophomore campaign, his second-consecutive good season as a Buckeye. The most athletic defensive lineman on the team, Hubbard can really do it all as a lineman, and he might just showcase that this season.
During his first two seasons at Ohio State, Hubbard has combined for 74 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, one interception, three passes defended, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. On such a talented defensive line, he has a chance to showcase his whole skill set this fall.
DE Jalyn Holmes
With the depth on Ohio State’s front line, there’s a good chance that Holmes won’t even start for the Silver Bullets this fall after having 33 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two sacks, one pass defended, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries
The senior potentially not being able to start all season really is impressive and shows just how good Ohio State’s front is defensively. When was the last time a defensive lineman never started a game in his college career but went on Day 1 or 2 of the NFL Draft?
LB Jerome Baker
Muck like Malik Hooker, Gareon Conley, and Marshon Lattimore, Baker made quite a name for himself in 2016. In his first full season at Ohio State, he totaled 83 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, one pick-six, and one fumble recovery.
LB Chris Worley
Of all the defensive players on this list, Worley seems like the biggest question mark. His versatility cannot go unnoticed and much like Ohio State linebackers over the past few years, can make himself a solid NFL linebacker if he works at it.
CB Denzel Ward
When defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs said that Ward could potentially be the first-round cornerback that Ohio State has had each of the last two years, it proved just how good the corner can be. His lack of size could be a red flag, but he has the speed to make up for it.
With such high praise from his position coach, Ward has a lot to live up to this fall. Then again, at #DBU, he’s the next one who can etch his name as an Buckeyes cornerback who was taken in the first round and continue Ohio State’s greatness at defensive back over the years.
A year ago few had heard of safety Malik Hooker. He went on to be a first-round pick after just one season as a full-time starter. While the players on the above list will most likely be Ohio State’s top players this fall, there is also a good chance that there can be a player or two that come out of nowhere, just like Hooker did.
The scarlet and gray lost talent for the second-consecutive season, but they have a good chance to make the College Football Playoff for the third time in four years. Just how good can they be? ESPN’s Mark Schlabach has the Buckeyes as his No. 1 team in his latest way-too-early rankings.