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Michigan vs. Ohio State: The prime 14 NFL Draft prospects in The Game

It is named The Game for a motive. 

Ohio State vs. Michigan is — at the least in my view — the easiest, most passionate rivalry in sports activities.

So, whereas we’ve highlighted the most effective prospects within the prime school soccer video games all season lengthy, this week we’re focusing strictly on Columbus, Ohio, the place the No. 2 Buckeyes will play host to the No. 3 Wolverines (Noon ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app)

The stakes have by no means been greater, with two undefeated groups battling for the Big Ten championship and certain certainly one of 4 spots within the College Football Playoff.

Unlike earlier seasons, the defending champion Wolverines and the Buckeyes are each gifted on offense. In truth, whereas we’ve highlighted all the prospects prone to be chosen among the many Top 100 in subsequent 12 months’s NFL Draft, the apparent focus is on the offensive aspect of the ball, together with Heisman front-running quarterback C.J. Stroud of Ohio State and Michigan working again Blake Corum. In truth, 9 of the highest 10 graded prospects on this recreation are hoping to attain factors on Saturday slightly than forestall them.

Still, a number of the finest gamers who will swimsuit up in The Game aren’t eligible for subsequent spring’s draft. The Buckeyes’ dynamic duo of Marvin Harrison, Jr. and Emeka Egbuka may very nicely proceed Ohio State’s spectacular run of receivers chosen within the first spherical, however that gained’t happen till 2024 on the earliest. That can be the case for Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy. 

The Game: Ohio State, Michigan sq. off

The Game: Ohio State, Michigan square off

RJ Young is joined by Geoff Schwartz to preview the most important recreation of the school soccer season.

As such, whereas many people are nonetheless digesting our Thanksgiving meals, the actual bounty lies for the scouts who get to look at prospects of each accessible Saturday on “Big Noon Kickoff.”

Here is our analysis of the 14 gamers anticipated to be chosen subsequent spring, ranked by projected draft place.

1. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State — first spherical

Statistics will be bent in each strategy to make a degree, however it’s arduous to low cost Stroud’s exceptional numbers this season, which embrace a staggering 35 touchdowns towards simply 4 interceptions. He has achieved so regardless of throwing to nearly a completely new receiving corps after shedding Garrett Wilson (New York Jets) and Chris Olave (New Orleans Saints) to the primary spherical of final spring’s NFL Draft. 

As highlighted in a earlier article grading the highest quarterbacks within the 2023 NFL Draft, Stroud is essentially the most gifted passer within the nation, demonstrating distinctive precision to each degree of the sector. While his accuracy and arm power will earn him a top-10 choice in subsequent spring’s draft — assuming he declares early — Stroud wants to indicate that he will be simply as efficient from a muddied pocket, making this weekend’s recreation must-see scouting for all NFL talent-evaluators. 

[Grading the top quarterbacks in the NFL Draft]

Why Ohio State’s run recreation is the important thing

Why Ohio State's run game is the key

Joel Klatt breaks down the Ohio State offense forward of Saturday’s recreation towards Michigan.

2. Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State — first spherical

After turning heads a 12 months in the past at proper guard, Johnson, a former five-star recruit, has boosted his inventory tremendously this season at his extra pure exterior place at left deal with. He is the underrated star of the Buckeyes’ dynamic offense, offering top-shelf safety on Stroud’s blindside. Johnson possesses exhibiting terrific preliminary quickness and lateral agility to go together with his prototypical 6-foot-6, 310-pound body, which incorporates lengthy arms.

His agility to deal with the blindside in go safety may earn Johnson a first-round choice, however it’s the expertise and physicality realized inside that reveals up in re-establishing the purpose of assault and assembly opponents on the second degree to ascertain working lanes.

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3. Ryan Hayes, OT, Michigan — first/second spherical

While not fairly as agile as Johnson, Hayes could also be simply as fast off the ball, persistently beating opponents on the snap and exhibiting terrific steadiness and energy to show and seal defenders from the motion. He is a bit high-cut, missing the flexibleness in his core to make the short changes to shifting targets that NFL groups prioritize with premium picks, however he uncoils with aggression and energy, snatching and latching to regulate with the most effective of them.

Technically eligible to return subsequent 12 months, Hayes has already accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl, suggesting that he (or his potential brokers) have additionally heard suggestions from the NFL of a doable top-50 choice in subsequent spring’s draft.

Three issues Michigan should do to beat Ohio State

Three things Michigan must do to beat Ohio State

Joel Klatt breaks down the trail to victory for Michigan.

4. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State — first/second spherical

A decrease leg harm has “hamstrung” Smith-Njigba for a lot of the 2022 season, permitting the aforementioned Harrison and Egbuka to take middle stage. But when wholesome, his power-packed body, robust fingers and dependable route-running warrant comparisons to former Ohio State standout Michael Thomas, who was merely the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year for the New Orleans Saints simply three seasons in the past, when he led the league with 149 catches for 1,725 yards.

Like Thomas, Smith-Njigba isn’t prone to wow scouts along with his straight-line pace — projecting as extra of a 4.55 runner than a blazer like former teammates Wilson (4.38 seconds within the 40-yard sprint) and Olave (4.39). However, his bulk, physique management and pillow-soft fingers may make him a direct standout within the slot.

5. Roman Wilson, WR, Michigan — second spherical 

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh might love the working recreation, however essentially the most gifted “skill position” gamers on his offense are exterior at vast receiver, with the speedy Wilson able to sneaking forward of extra celebrated teammates based mostly on pre-draft exercises. Wilson, a real junior from Hawaii, at the moment ranks fourth for the Wolverines with “just” 19 receptions for 243 yards and three scores, however he possesses the moment acceleration and top-end pace to pique the curiosity of scouts ought to he enter the NFL Draft early.

Watch: Roman Wilson catches TD go vs. Maryland

Watch: Roman Wilson catches TD pass vs. Maryland

Michigan took a 24-13 lead over the Maryland earlier this season when J.J. McCarthy related with Roman Wilson on a 20-yard TD.

6. Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State — second spherical

While not as agile as his teammate Johnson, Jones is even bigger. And if there’s one factor the NFL prioritizes as a lot as pace, it’s dimension. At almost 6-foot-9 and 360 kilos, Jones is likely one of the greatest males doubtlessly accessible within the 2023 NFL Draft, and he has proven improved quickness and steadiness this season. While missing elite foot pace, Jones’ girth and punch make him nearly unimaginable to get round, and he’s matured over his time in Columbus, exhibiting larger consciousness to counter strikes. Much is made yearly about NFL groups playing on upside on the ability positions. But Jones has an upside value betting on as nicely, as he’s huge and nonetheless simply rising into his body.

7. Ronnie Bell, WR, Michigan — second/third spherical

While his teammate Wilson is perhaps the “toolsiest” draft-eligible receiver prospect on this recreation, Bell is perhaps essentially the most dynamic, boasting not solely larger manufacturing, however versatility as a do-it-all weapon who tasks equally to longtime NFL standout Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers). Like the 5-foot-10, 192-pound Cobb — who has 52 profession touchdowns within the NFL — Bell (6-foot, 185 kilos) possesses the elusiveness, acceleration and imaginative and prescient to impression the sport in a number of methods, together with as a receiver, runner and each kick and punt returner. Bell has scored simply seven touchdowns over his complete school profession, however many imagine these numbers had been impacted by Michigan’s run-heavy offense. Scouts suppose Bell might be a kind of uncommon gamers who’s a extra dynamic weapon on the NFL degree than in school, which is among the many causes Bell has already been invited (and accepted) an invite to the Senior Bowl.

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8. Olusegun Oluwatimi, C, Michigan — second/third spherical 

Highlighted in our weekly school soccer preview only a week in the past, Oluwatimi is the right instance of a blossoming NFL prospect profiting from the NCAA’s new liberal switch coverage. He started his school profession with the Air Force Academy earlier than rising at Virginia as a Rimington Award candidate as one of many nation’s prime facilities. Stout, robust and nonetheless enhancing, Oluwatimi has seized the eye of scouts, who view the 2023 middle class as one of many higher teams up to now decade. Oluwatimi has a number of the similar qualities that earned former Michigan middle Cesar Ruiz a first-round choice in 2020 (New Orleans Saints), together with a compact, well-proportioned body, stunning quickness, reputable knockdown energy and a tenacious enjoying type.

9. Mike Morris, DL, Michigan — third spherical 

A 12 months in the past, the Wolverines bullied the Buckeyes alongside the road of scrimmage, partially attributable to future No. 2 general choice Aidan Hutchinson (Detroit Lions) and fellow top-50 choose David Ojabo (Baltimore Ravens). At an imposing 6-foot-6, 292 kilos, Morris is greater than each of his former teammates, and he’s taken over as Michigan’s dominant defensive lineman along with his 7.5 tackles for loss this season, thrice greater than some other Wolverine.

While Hutchinson and Ojabo beat opponents in quite a lot of methods, Morris is a conventional energy participant who usually overwhelms competitors with brute power and tenacity. While he can play exterior on the collegiate degree, he tasks finest as a two-gapper on the subsequent degree, doubtless incomes middle-round consideration. He possesses a pro-ready recreation and the toughness to finally outplay his draft standing.

10. Zach Harrison, Edge, Ohio State — third spherical

It isn’t simply the decal on the helmet that makes Harrison the polar reverse of the aforementioned Morris. Whereas Morris has emerged this season as a reputable NFL prospect after beginning simply 4 video games over his first three seasons in Ann Arbor, Harrison has lacked eye-popping statistics since signing with Ohio State as a consensus five-star recruit. 

Harrison has but to prime his career-high of three.5 sacks that he logged as a real freshman in 2019. Yet he boasts the triangular size-strength-speed numbers to earn early-round NFL consideration. He actually affords projectable traits, together with a prototypical 6-foot-6, 268-pound body with lengthy arms and bonafide twitch. In a lot the identical manner that scouts fell in love with Ojabo’s potential a 12 months in the past, Harrison’s 4 turnovers prompted this 12 months (together with three compelled fumbles) might be sufficient to persuade groups that his finest soccer nonetheless lies forward of him.

11. Blake Corum, RB, Michigan — third/fourth spherical 

If this was an article highlighting the Heisman Trophy candidates for the complete nation, slightly than rating the NFL prospects on this recreation, Corum may lead the listing. After all, nobody within the nation has scored greater than his 19 touchdowns, and the one two who can match his manufacturing — Pitt’s Israel Abanikanda and Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim — star for groups with 4 losses. 

Of course, the numbers that matter much more to scouts than Corum’s statistics are his dimension and pace. At 5-foot-8 and 200 kilos, Corum lacks a perfect body to be a bell cow on the NFL degree. He additionally lacks the manufacturing within the passing recreation to warrant the comparisons some have made to Los Angeles Chargers again Austin Ekeler — Corum has simply 11 passes this season, in comparison with his 245 dashing makes an attempt.

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Suggesting that Corum is solely a perform of Michigan’s energy working recreation, nonetheless, can be foolish. In actuality, he’s a high quality again who merely wants a clear match to excel on the subsequent degree. 

12. Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan — third/fourth spherical

Blue-blood packages like Michigan and Ohio State are at all times going to draw distinctive athletes, and so they merely don’t come rather more explosive (or hyped) than Smith, who checked in at No. 1 general on longtime school soccer analyst Bruce Feldman’s annual prime 100 listing.

Smith’s athletic exploits learn like one thing out of a online game, with a reported 44-inch vertical bounce — which might have led all Combine invitees a 12 months in the past — and 4.41-second brief shuttle time extra typical of a defensive again or vast receiver than a 6-foot-3, 326-pound defensive deal with. 

While scouts’ collective mouths might water extra at Smith’s athleticism than a second serving of turkey and pumpkin pie, he has but to persistently flip that potential into manufacturing, registering “just” six tackles for loss and half a sack in 27 profession video games for Michigan. This is why he at the moment ranks as extra of a middle-round prospect at this level, slightly than the first-round lock his traits counsel. 

13. Miyan Williams, RB, Ohio State — third/fourth spherical 

Both actually and figuratively, the 5-foot-8, 227-pound Williams has been overshadowed by Stroud and Ohio State’s dynamic passing recreation. A digital bowling ball who persistently barrels by means of would-be tacklers and supplies a component of toughness for Ohio State that, frankly, Michigan boasted a 12 months in the past with Hassan Haskins, Williams has emerged because the Buckeyes’ finisher close to the goal-line, main the staff with 13 dashing touchdowns — greater than twice as many as teammates (and fellow future professional hopefuls) TreVeyon Henderson and Dallan Hayden, who’ve related dashing makes an attempt this season. Williams lacks the body and breakaway pace to ever obtain early-round NFL Draft consideration, however he’s fast to and thru the outlet, and bounces off defenders like a bumper automotive — traits that mission very nicely on the subsequent degree.

14. Tommy Eichenberg, LB, Ohio State — third/fourth spherical

The youthful brother of former Notre Dame offensive lineman Liam (at the moment on Injured Reserve for the Miami Dolphins), Eichenberg possesses the instincts and depth to observe his siblings’ footsteps to the NFL, albeit at a special place. At 6-foot-2, 235 kilos, Eichenberg possesses a prototypical body for a modern-day linebacker, exhibiting the important thing and analysis expertise to smell out performs, in addition to good pace to the flanks and a strike zone that may make a pitcher within the Major Leagues envious, persistently bringing down opponents with a clear hit-drive-wrap approach. On a staff filled with future NFL draft picks, Eichenberg is Ohio State’s runaway chief in each tackles and stops behind the road of scrimmage, with 105 and 12, respectively. 

Read extra:

Rob Rang is an NFL Draft analyst for FOX Sports. He has been overlaying the NFL Draft for greater than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated, CBSSports.com, USA Today, Yahoo, NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com, amongst others. He additionally works as a scout with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League. Follow him on Twitter @RobRang.


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