2018 NFL Draft: 3 Buckeyes on Mel Kiper’s first Big Board

The 2018 NFL Draft may be months away, but three players from the Ohio State Buckeyes are listed on Mel Kiper’s Big Board.

The 2018 NFL may be many months away, but that’s not keeping guru Mel Kiper from doing his prep work.

Kiper released his first Big Board just before Ohio State kicked off its season against Indiana, and three Buckeyes found themselves on the list.

Surprisingly, I had to scroll all the way down to 20 before I found the first Buckeye listed.

Granted, there’s still A LOT of time before all this gets sorted out, it was just surprising because before stumbling upon Kiper’s article, I had just read how this Ohio State squad was being compared to Urban Meyer’s Florida’s teams from 2006 and 2007, which were loaded with NFL talent.

Quarterbacks owned the top of the board, with Kiper declaring USC field general Sam Darnold as the top overall prospect. Wyoming’s Josh Allen came in second, while UCLA’s Josh Rosen was third.

Here’s how Kiper ranked the Buckeyes on his Big Board going into Ohio State’s first week (subscription required). Remember, a big board is not a mock draft. It’s Kiper’s opinion as to whom is the most talented player.

No. 20 Denzel Ward

“I think Ward has a chance to be the next great Ohio State cornerback and first-round pick. He’s polished. Ward didn’t have an interception last season, but he plays the ball well and showed good instincts in coverage. He broke up nine passes. Listed at 5-10, 191, Ward plays bigger than that. I really liked what I saw on his 2016 tape, even as the Buckeyes had higher-ranked corners.”

Ward was the third ranked corner on Kiper’s list. He trailed Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden (No. 17) and Louisville’s Jaire Alexander (No. 19).

No. 23 DE Sam Hubbard

Hubbard isn’t a pass-rusher on the same talent level as former Buckeye Joey Bosa, but he’s consistently solid and reliable. At 6-5, 265, he stands out on a super-talented Ohio State defense. Hubbard had 3.5 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss in 2016 after posting 6.5 sacks, 8.0 tackles for loss and an interception the season before. Along with Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa, Ohio State has an immensely talented defensive line.

Kiper only considered Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell to be a better DE prospect at this point (No. 22).

No. 25 LB Jerome Baker

“The 6-1, 225-pound Baker fits today’s NFL, in which linebacker size doesn’t matter like it did 15 years ago. He’s not a traditional ‘backer, but he’s fast, can cover pass-catchers, rush the passer and is always in the middle of the action. Baker had 3.5 sacks, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and 9.5 tackles for loss last season.”

Baker was behind Boston College’s Harold Landry, who led the nation with 16.5 sacks last season (No. 7) and LSU’s Arden Key (No. 9), who’s tallied 17.0 sacks the past two seasons.

If the Buckeyes are as good as advertised, expect all of these players to take a step up in Kiper’s next big board.

When it’s all said and done, Ward could be a top 14 pick. Just look at Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley in last spring’s draft.

Ohio State has built a strong reputation, and if Ward is the promising player many believe he’ll be, his stock should only continue to trend upward.