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Buckeyes on the Big Board 2.0
By Patrick Murphy
Once again, Joey Bosa is on top
Photo by Dan Harker
 

COLUMBUS – On Thursday, Chris Burke of SI.com released his “2016 NFL Draft Big Board 2.0” where he ranks the top 40 players eligible for this spring’s draft.

This is not his list of where he believes players will get drafted – he does not take potential draft order into account – but rather who are the best players available.

To the surprise of no one who paid attention to college football this year, there are plenty of Buckeyes in the top 40, six to be exact.

Leading the way is defensive end Joey Bosa, who comes in at No. 1 in the rankings despite a slide in performance statistically this year from 2014. Like Buckeye fans, Burke saw Bosa fight through double and triple teams all season and believes he can do well playing on the end or in the interior of the defensive line at the next level due to his power.

No matter the matchup, Bosa has the strength to drive his blocker back, plus the wherewithal to finish,” Burke writes.

The most NFL-ready running back
Photo by Jim Davidson
 

Ezekiel Elliott is the next OSU player on the list. The running back is ranked at No. 10 as the top rusher on the board. Some thought his performance during and after the Michigan State game might hurt his draft stock, but Burke says while NFL personnel will ask Elliott about his outburst, his talent outweighs one bad day.

With one game remaining, Elliott is fifth in the nation in rushing yards with 1,672 and 19 touchdowns, but it is the complete game of OSU’s second all-time rusher that sees him ranked in the top 10.

“The 225-pound back is a three-down player, who can catch passes or block when called upon. He is explosive through the hole, with speed to get beyond the secondary.”

Just two spots below Elliott is linebacker Darron Lee. The former high school quarterback burst on to the scene for Ohio State last season at the new “walk-out” linebacker position in Chris Ash’s defense and exceeded any expectations.

While his numbers dipped some in 2015 compared to his final year, he’s done enough to warrant a first-round grade if he chooses to declare early for the NFL Draft.

“He flies around to the football, as evidenced by his stats—139 career tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 9.0 sacks and three INTs in just two seasons. Lee is comfortable in any assignment.

Michael Thomas may not have some

He can do everything you need from a WR
Photo by Jim Davidson
 

of the eye-popping stats that other wide receivers around the country managed, but he was the go-to player when the Buckeyes threw the ball and demonstrated over the last two years that he has the skills to play at the next level.

He accounted for 26 percent of OSU receptions, 32 percent of receiving yards, and 44 percent of receiving touchdowns this season. Those numbers, along with his knack to get two feet inbounds on a catch already, have him ranked at No. 22 on the Big Board.

“A big-play threat and a big body at 6'3", Thomas fits the bill for any team hunting for a receiver who can stretch the field and win in the red zone.”

Offensive lineman Taylor Decker is the only Ohio State senior to make the Big Board, checking in at No. 27.

According to Burke, “the Senior Bowl will be a critical week for Decker, who may have to convince scouts that his talent translates outside of Ohio State’s system, at least if we’re talking about Round 1 consideration.”

The former four-star recruit struggled a bit in his final year in Columbus on an offensive line that had issues pass blocking. But Decker has the size and quick feet to play at the next level according to Burke and should be a first-round pick.

 

The final Buckeye to creep inside the top 40, No. 39, is safety Vonn Bell. Yet another OSU underclassmen that will be drafted highly regarded if he chooses to leave, Bell had a stellar 2015 leading the Silver Bullets. He will be a fun player to watch at the next level whenever he decides to declare.

“While he did finish 2014 with 91 tackles, his real strength lies in seeing the field and getting to the ball while it’s in the air,” Burke says. “A creative NFL defensive coordinator will be able to move him around so he can get after it in all down-and-distance situations.”

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