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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Former Buckeyes Try To Improve NFL Stock With Ohio State's Pro Day

Year after year, Ohio State's Pro Day traditionally is well-represented by every NFL team with a plethora of head coaches, general managers, and scouts. This year, Ohio State's smaller group of seniors (and its only declared junior Thaddeus Gibson) were able to attract 29 different NFL teams, but no head coaches.

Thaddeus Gibson is projected to be the first Buckeye drafted. It remains to be seen if Gibson will move up into the first round, but I would be surprised if Gibson remained available midway through the second round.

While critics like to compare Gibson to former Buckeye Vernon Gholston, who has struggled in the NFL, I do not consider those comparisons valid. While Gholston has struggled in the pros, I believe Gholston's best position would be as down defensive lineman, which is how he was used to his best at Ohio State. Asking Gholston to drop back into coverage at almost 270 lbs. seems foolish. Consequently, Thaddeus Gibson's best position in the NFL would be as 3-4 linebacker who could drop back in coverage, while also providing pass-rushing capabilities on the outside.

Thaddeus Gibson had solid workouts at the NFL Combine as well as at his Ohio State Pro Day. Are the Pittsburgh Steelers in Gibson's NFL future? We will not know until draft day, but I am guessing the Steelers have an interest in Gibson as they conducted Gibson's linebacker drills for the workout.

Kurt Coleman is projected to be the second Buckeye selected in the NFL draft. Coleman played safety for Ohio State, but was a cornerback in high school and may project to that position in the NFL.

Coleman is one of those players I believe can have a solid NFL career along the lines of former Buckeye and current Titan Donnie Nickey. While Coleman may be undersized at safety, Coleman is a solid tackler and could contribute on special teams as well as on pass defense. I would be happy if the Browns selected Coleman in the third or fourth round. I also believe Coleman can play cornerback in the NFL.

Doug Worthington is a defensive end who may be ideally suited for the 3-4. Supposedly, Worthington has workouts scheduled with the New England Patriots and New York Jets in this next week. It would not surprise me if Worthington emerged as a late round selection sometime on day three of the NFL draft.

Pleasant surprises were the performances of Austin Spitler and Jim Cordle. Spitler was relegated to primarily special teams duty and as a backup linebacker until this past season, while Cordle moved from his natural center position to guard, then tackle this past season. Of the two, I would project Cordle to be a late round selection, due to his versatility - Cordle will likely play guard at the next level, but could also serve as a backup center and even emergency right tackle if need be in the NFL. I project Spitler to be a free agent.

I was disappointed to hear that TE Jake Ballard suffered a hamstring injury and was unable to complete the workout. I believe Ballard could be a value in the later rounds, as he was tremendously underused in Ohio State's offense as a receiving tight end. I would project Ballard to be a free agent.

Aaron Pettrey is coming off a knee injury that could determine his NFL draft status. Pettrey may not be selected in the NFL draft, but he will be in an NFL training camp for sure.

The enigmatic Ray Small and Robert Rose also participated in Ohio State's Pro Day. If Small had been able to play in the Rose Bowl, after all of the self-inflicted challenges he faced during his Ohio State career, I may have believed Small would have a chance at being picked in the draft. While I believe Ray Small will be in an NFL training camp this summer, I do not believe an NFL team will invest a draft choice in a player with repeated transgressions, at least until the later rounds. Small could be a keeper as a kickoff and punt returner in the NFL, if he can keep his head on straight.

Overall, the stock of Thaddeus Gibson and Kurt Coleman seem to have a positive trajectory. The stock of Doug Worthington seems to remain steady. And the stock of Jake Ballard seems to have taken a pessimistic turn. As for the other draft eligible Buckeyes (Aaron Pettrey, Austin Spitler, Jim Cordle, Ray Small, Robert Rose), it remains to be seen if their NFL stock will boom come April.

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