Ohio State Football: Grading the Drafted Buckeyes

The 2013 NFL Drafted finished with three former Buckeyes selected:  Johnathan Hankins (DT), John Simon (DE), and Reid Fragel (OT).  The total represents the fewest Ohio State players taken in any draft since 2008 (also three), and the second lowest total since 1998 (zero).

For fans, it was a bit of a letdown as Nathan Williams, Zach Boren and a handful of other NFL hopefuls were left on the board.  In their place, we saw players drafted out of Division II Chadron State, Missouri Western, and Northeast Oklahoma State, among other less well-known programs.  On the one hand, it’s great to see players from these universities get a crack at fulfilling every collegiate player’s dream.  On the other, it was a shame to see former Buckeye starters be passed over, round after round.

Ohio State Buckeyes offensive linesman Reid Fragel made the switch from tight end to tackle, but how will he fare in the pros?  (Columbus Dispatch/ Robertson)

Ohio State Buckeyes offensive linesman Reid Fragel made the switch from tight end to tackle, but how will he fare in the pros? (Columbus Dispatch/ Robertson)

OSU was lucky to get even three off the board.  It wasn’t until the late seventh round that the Cincinnati Bengals took a flier on Fragel, leaving the 6’8″, 308-pounder little more than a dozen slots away from being the infamous Mr. Irrelevant.  Fragel’s fate wasn’t terribly surprising.  Although there were whispers of him being a mid-round pick, NFL teams obviously shied away.  With only one season’s worth of experience on the offensive line, Fragel represents a high-risk player; he has the physical tools and size to contribute as a lineman, but his first 39 games were played at the tight end position.

Elevenwarriors.com drew a nice comparison to Colorado’s Nate Solder.  Like Fragel, the former Buffalo and current Patriot is a 6’8″ specimen who made a need-based move from TE to OT, bulking up, improving his footwork, and mastering a whole new game plan.  The Bengals are clearly hoping that Fragel can follow Solder’s lead, and the team has every reason to be confident.   By the time the seventh round rolled around, any risk attached to taking Fragel was essentially gone.  Yet plenty of teams still passed him by.  Will they proven wise, or will the result be bulletin board materials for Fragel?

All things considered, the Fragel selection grades out as an A-.  Little is expected from a seventh-rounder, and if Fragel doesn’t pan out, it’s not that big of a deal for Cincy.   But the possibility of Fragel contributing in the pros is very real.  We’re talking about a player talented enough to be a scholarship player at one of the highest-profile programs in the country, and he did so at two different positions.

The 2013 draft was lineman-heavy, particularly in the first round.  Instead of the usual debate over which QB would be taken in the Top 5, the four days belonged to the trenches.  The other two Buckeyes, Simon and Hankins, were standouts in OSU’s defensive front.

Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year John Simon moves on to the Baltimore Ravens

Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year John Simon moves on to the Baltimore Ravens (Cleveland.com)

Simon ended his draft wait as a fourth-round selection, taken by the defending Superbowl champion Baltimore Ravens.  The 6’1″, 257-pound defensive captain carried some obvious pros and cons into draft day, and his mid-round position makes a lot of sense in context.  Simon is likely too small and too slow to play defensive end at the next level.  His probable home is at outside linebacker, much like the role enjoyed by one of his coaches, Mike Vrabel.  Simon’s lack of an explosive first step and his limited length and height are, perhaps, legitimate drawbacks.  But his upside, which includes tremendous strength and conditioning along with lockerroom leadership, shouldn’t be ignored.

If you’ve ever watched John Simon play, you know he’s one of those players who is more than a sum of his parts.  The term “high-motor guy” gets tossed around a lot by the draft’s talking heads, but in this case it’s an understatement.  Urban Meyer, typically a man of few words in pressers, couldn’t help but erupt in praise over Simon’s intensity after the team’s narrow victory versus Cal, and that win was hardly the only one in which Simon played a pivotal role.  Simon was the heart and soul of the defense that led Ohio State to a perfect record.  Post-season or no, the team’s success, and Simon’s personal accomplishments, speak volumes.

As the final non-compensatory pick of the fourth round, Simon was a solid bargain.  Sure, he could end up being just another workout warrior suited only to specific situations on the field.  And yes, there were, apparently, concerns over the shoulder injury that hampered him at the Senior Bowl.  But at that point in the draft, the Ravens did very well to nab the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year.

In fact, it’s the team and the fit that really elevates this selection’s grade.  Baltimore lost a lot of defensive talent; Ray Lewis and Ed Reed headlined the departures, but the team has more concerns beyond those two Hall-of-Famers. DE Paul Kruger- gone.  LB Danell Ellerbe- gone.  Big-hitting defensive back Bernard Pollard- gone.  As the defense rebuilds, a versatile player like Simon could play a major role.  The highly motivated college superstar will be eager to prove his critics wrong, making this pick another A-.

New York Giant Johnathan Hankins was Ohio State's highest drafted player in 2013.

New York Giant Johnathan Hankins was Ohio State’s highest drafted player in 2013 (Cleveland.com)

Frankly, the poorest grade belongs to the Hankins pick.  By far the highest selection at 49 overall (17 in Round 2), Hankins’ selection gets a B primarily because of the fit.  In terms of talent and potential, Big Hank probably went right where he was supposed to go.  But in the Giants’ system he’ll likely be no more than a rotational player who lacks the versatility to play anywhere other than tackle.  At DT he’s a 6’3″, 320-pound run-stopper.  Better yet, he has quick feet and excellent lateral movement.

But the Giants had fairly serious needs elsewhere.  Taking Hank pushed back their selections at defensive end and in the secondary.  The decision was a bit odd considering their preexisting depth in the middle of the d-line.  Another negative is that Hankins’ weight and build could limit his role.  He doesn’t possess the type of conditioning or stamina that would allow to be an every-down player, but since he’ll be sharing time with several other guys, that might not matter.

If New York is satisfied with a part-timer with limited applications, that all will be well.  But a top 50 pick is a lot to spend for an asset like that.  Still, Hankins clearly has pro-level talent and could develop beyond these expectations.