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

It’s known as The Game for a purpose. 

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

So, whereas we’ve highlighted the most effective prospects within the high faculty 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 (Midday ET on FOX and the FOX Sports activities app)

The stakes have by no means been increased, with two undefeated groups battling for the Huge Ten championship and sure one among 4 spots within the Faculty Soccer Playoff.

Not like earlier seasons, the defending champion Wolverines and the Buckeyes are each gifted on offense. In reality, whereas we’ve highlighted all the prospects prone to be chosen among the many Prime 100 in subsequent 12 months’s NFL Draft, the plain focus is on the offensive facet of the ball, together with Heisman front-running quarterback C.J. Stroud of Ohio State and Michigan operating again Blake Corum. In reality, 9 of the highest 10 graded prospects on this sport are hoping to attain factors on Saturday quite than forestall them.

Nonetheless, among the finest gamers who will go well with up in The Game will not be eligible for subsequent spring’s draft. The Buckeyes’ dynamic duo of Marvin Harrison, Jr. and Emeka Egbuka might very effectively 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 Younger is joined by Geoff Schwartz to preview the largest sport 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 observe prospects of each out there Saturday on “Big Noon Kickoff.”

Right 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 could be bent in each solution to make a degree, however it’s exhausting to low cost Stroud’s outstanding numbers this season, which embody a staggering 35 touchdowns in opposition to simply 4 interceptions. He has accomplished so regardless of throwing to virtually a wholly new receiving corps after dropping 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 probably the most gifted passer within the nation, demonstrating distinctive precision to each stage of the sphere. Whereas his accuracy and arm energy will earn him a top-10 choice in subsequent spring’s draft — assuming he declares early — Stroud wants to point out that he could be simply as efficient from a muddied pocket, making this weekend’s sport must-see scouting for all NFL talent-evaluators. 

[Grading the top quarterbacks in the NFL Draft]

Why Ohio State’s run sport 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 sport in opposition to 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 sort out. He’s the underrated star of the Buckeyes’ dynamic offense, offering top-shelf safety on Stroud’s blindside. Johnson possesses displaying 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 might earn Johnson a first-round choice, however it’s the expertise and physicality discovered inside that reveals up in re-establishing the purpose of assault and assembly opponents on the second stage to ascertain operating lanes.

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

Whereas not fairly as agile as Johnson, Hayes could also be simply as fast off the ball, persistently beating opponents on the snap and displaying terrific steadiness and energy to show and seal defenders from the motion. He’s a bit high-cut, missing the pliability 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 manage 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 potential 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 damage has “hamstrung” Smith-Njigba for a lot of the 2022 season, permitting the aforementioned Harrison and Egbuka to take heart stage. However when wholesome, his power-packed body, sturdy arms and dependable route-running warrant comparisons to former Ohio State standout Michael Thomas, who was merely the NFL’s Offensive Participant of the Yr 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 velocity — 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). Nevertheless, his bulk, physique management and pillow-soft arms might make him a right away standout within the slot.

5. Roman Wilson, WR, Michigan — second spherical 

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh might love the operating sport, however probably the most gifted “skill position” gamers on his offense are exterior at large receiver, with the speedy Wilson able to sneaking forward of extra celebrated teammates primarily based on pre-draft exercises. Wilson, a real junior from Hawaii, at present ranks fourth for the Wolverines with “just” 19 receptions for 243 yards and three scores, however he possesses the moment acceleration and top-end velocity 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

Whereas not as agile as his teammate Johnson, Jones is even bigger. And if there’s one factor the NFL prioritizes as a lot as velocity, it’s dimension. At almost 6-foot-9 and 360 kilos, Jones is among the largest males doubtlessly out there within the 2023 NFL Draft, and he has proven improved quickness and steadiness this season. Whereas missing elite foot velocity, Jones’ girth and punch make him virtually not possible to get round, and he’s matured over his time in Columbus, displaying larger consciousness to counter strikes. A lot is made yearly about NFL groups playing on upside on the ability positions. However Jones has an upside value betting on as effectively, as he’s large and nonetheless simply rising into his body.

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

Whereas his teammate Wilson could be the “toolsiest” draft-eligible receiver prospect on this sport, Bell could be probably the most dynamic, boasting not solely larger manufacturing, however versatility as a do-it-all weapon who initiatives equally to longtime NFL standout Randall Cobb (Inexperienced Bay Packers). Just 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 total faculty profession, however many imagine these numbers had been impacted by Michigan’s run-heavy offense. Scouts suppose Bell might be a type of uncommon gamers who’s a extra dynamic weapon on the NFL stage than in faculty, which is among the many causes Bell has already been invited (and accepted) an invite to the Senior Bowl.

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

Highlighted in our weekly faculty soccer preview only a week in the past, Oluwatimi is the right instance of a blossoming NFL prospect benefiting from the NCAA’s new liberal switch coverage. He started his faculty profession with the Air Drive Academy earlier than rising at Virginia as a Rimington Award candidate as one of many nation’s high facilities. Stout, sturdy and nonetheless bettering, Oluwatimi has seized the eye of scouts, who view the 2023 heart class as one of many higher teams previously decade. Oluwatimi has among the similar qualities that earned former Michigan heart Cesar Ruiz a first-round choice in 2020 (New Orleans Saints), together with a compact, well-proportioned body, stunning quickness, professional knockdown energy and a tenacious enjoying fashion.

9. Mike Morris, DL, Michigan — third spherical 

A 12 months in the past, the Wolverines bullied the Buckeyes alongside the road of scrimmage, partly as a consequence of 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 larger 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, 3 times greater than some other Wolverine.

Whereas Hutchinson and Ojabo beat opponents in quite a lot of methods, Morris is a standard energy participant who usually overwhelms competitors with brute energy and tenacity. Whereas he can play exterior on the collegiate stage, he initiatives finest as a two-gapper on the subsequent stage, probably incomes middle-round consideration. He possesses a pro-ready sport and the toughness to in the end 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 professional 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 high his career-high of three.5 sacks that he logged as a real freshman in 2019. But he boasts the triangular size-strength-speed numbers to earn early-round NFL consideration. He definitely provides projectable traits, together with a prototypical 6-foot-6, 268-pound body with lengthy arms and legit twitch. In a lot the identical method 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 pressured 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 your complete nation, quite than rating the NFL prospects on this sport, Corum would possibly lead the record. In spite of everything, 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. 

After all, the numbers that matter much more to scouts than Corum’s statistics are his dimension and velocity. At 5-foot-8 and 200 kilos, Corum lacks a great body to be a bell cow on the NFL stage. He additionally lacks the manufacturing within the passing sport 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.

Suggesting that Corum is solely a perform of Michigan’s energy operating sport, nevertheless, can be foolish. In actuality, he’s a top quality again who merely wants a clear match to excel on the subsequent stage. 

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

Blue-blood packages like Michigan and Ohio State are all the time going to draw distinctive athletes, they usually merely don’t come way more explosive (or hyped) than Smith, who checked in at No. 1 general on longtime faculty soccer analyst Bruce Feldman’s annual high 100 record.

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

Whereas 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. Because of this he at present ranks as extra of a middle-round prospect at this level, quite than the first-round lock his traits recommend. 

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

Each actually and figuratively, the 5-foot-8, 227-pound Williams has been overshadowed by Stroud and Ohio State’s dynamic passing sport. A digital bowling ball who persistently barrels by way 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 workforce with 13 dashing touchdowns — greater than twice as many as teammates (and fellow future professional hopefuls) TreVeyon Henderson and Dallan Hayden, who’ve comparable dashing makes an attempt this season. Williams lacks the body and breakaway velocity to ever obtain early-round NFL Draft consideration, however he’s fast to and thru the opening, and bounces off defenders like a bumper automotive — traits that challenge very effectively on the subsequent stage.

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

The youthful brother of former Notre Dame offensive lineman Liam (at present on Injured Reserve for the Miami Dolphins), Eichenberg possesses the instincts and depth to comply with his siblings’ footsteps to the NFL, albeit at a unique place. At 6-foot-2, 235 kilos, Eichenberg possesses a prototypical body for a modern-day linebacker, displaying the important thing and prognosis abilities to smell out performs, in addition to good velocity to the flanks and a strike zone that might make a pitcher within the Main Leagues envious, persistently bringing down opponents with a clear hit-drive-wrap method. On a workforce stuffed 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. 

Learn extra:

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

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