The NFL scouting combine concluded yesterday. Teams will be conducting interviews and going to pro days over the next two months. We are getting a jump on the competition. We are going in-depth on a number of prospects that might be headed to the Texans. What better place to go then to our sister sites in the NCAA. Today, we go to Land Grant Holy Land, SB Nation’s Ohio State Buckeyes blog.
College scout Chris Renne (@ChrisRenneCFB) joins us from the site to dish on some of the best Ohio State prospects for the draft. Obviously, most of the attention will be on C.J. Stroud, but Renne walked us behind the scenes to take a deeper look at some other prosoects that could potentially go to the Texans in April.
Battle Red Blog: Houston holds the second pick of the NFL draft and seems committed to picking a quarterback. As someone that has watched C.J. Stroud more closely than most casual observers, how do you view him in comparison with other quarterback prospects like Bryce Young and Will Levis? Do you have a sense of what he is like off the field in addition to what he is like on the field? Do you see him as a potential face of the franchise type of player?
Chris Renne: Stroud is a much different quarterback than Bryce Young and Will Levis, his strength starts with ball placement and accuracy. When you look at how he plays compared to Levis, Stroud rarely throws footballs off target. He may not have the upper-tier arm strength or size of Levis, but he rarely misses on throws.
Now looking at the difference between Bryce Young and Stroud, they both layer throws extremely well and share similar skills from the pocket. Young showed a more consistent ability to create off-schedule, which Stroud was not the most comfortable with in his time at Ohio State. Stroud showed an ability to do that at times, most notably against Georgia. To me, Stroud offers a skill set that translates immediately to the NFL, and the decision comes down to the wow plays of Young, the consistency of Stroud, or the upside of Levis. For Texans fans, I think consistency might be the best bet at this point.
BRB: From the outside looking in, the knock on Ohio State quarterbacks is that they aren’t quite ready for NFL football because of the system they run. The immediate comparisons with Justin Fields and Dwayne Haskins are unavoidable for casual observers. As someone that has watched more Buckeye football than the rest of us, how does Stroud differ from those two prospects? Do you think he has a better chance to succeed than those two in particular?
CR: The most interesting part about this knock is Ryan Day has developed three first-round picks. Haskins went to Washington — where the league has seen the unfolding of how mismanaged the franchise was — and Fields played for a Bears team that had zero offensive talents with Matt Nagy as his head coach.
We saw Fields have significantly more success with Eberflus buying into his skillset, so there is some excitement there, but to come back around Stroud is the most pro-ready quarterback of the three. Comparing Stroud to them when he gets to the NFL, it starts with the program DeMeco Ryans has in place to develop him.
Stroud showed elite control of an offense that prioritized stretching the field vertically and horizontally with deep outs/comebacks. His skillset translates the most to more systems than the other two guys which would make Ryans’ job easier. From a skill set standpoint, Haskins could not throw to all three levels consistently and lacked the consistent ball placement needed to succeed in the NFL, those two aspects are Stroud’s strengths. Moving on to the Fields comparison, they are two entirely different quarterbacks. Stroud does not possess the elite athletic ability of Fields, but from a strictly quarterbacking standpoint, Stroud has the skills needed to succeed on day one as an NFL passer.
BRB: Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a player that has been mocked to the Texans with their 12th pick by a few mock drafters. He missed most of last season with an injury. Is that something that you think will affect him long-term or was that more of a freak injury that should resolve itself? Since most casual observers may not know much about him, what can you tell us about his game? Do you have any thoughts on how he might fit into an NFL offense? How did he compare with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave?
CR: The injury will definitely affect his draft stock, hamstrings are always touchy, but his sitting out the year should give him ample recovery time. To the casual observer, Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a technician who can run every route on the tree with ease and creates separation at an elite level. Comparing him to the other Ohio State receivers who were finalists for Offensive Rookie of the Year Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, Smith-Njigba is a blend of their skill sets.
When asked, both Olave and Wilson said Smith-Njigba was the best receiver of the three for that reason, he can do everything. Out of the slot is probably the place he’ll work out of most to start his NFL career, and in his lone season starting he had 95 catches and 1606 yards. Draft experts have questioned his top-end speed, but if you haven’t seen the games, go watch him against Nebraska, Utah, and honestly, just his entire 2021 highlights to see that speed is not an issue.
BRB: Paris Johnson and Dawand Jones have also been mocked into the first round by multiple sources. What can you tell us about their skills? Can they play both tackle spots or is one better at left tackle versus right tackle? Do you see them as immediate plug-and-play guys?
CR: Paris Johnson Jr. is the ideal NFL left tackle and Dawand Jones will probably excel at the right tackle position with swing tackle potential. Starting with Johnson Jr., he started at right guard in his second season in school to get on the field, he was incredibly reliable which showed a versatility most linemen don’t possess. In his lone year starting at left tackle, he only gave up 10 pressures according to PFF which is what a team like the Texans is looking for in a potential left tackle. Johnson needs to get stronger against bigger rushers, and in the run game. He will still only be 21 years old by the time he’ll be drafted, so the frame still has plenty of room to add strength making him a great long-term solution.
Jones is an interesting case, many projected him in Rounds 2-3, but after a strong Senior Bowl from a measurement and performance standpoint, he has now positioned himself as a first-rounder. Jones’ biggest challenge at Ohio State was getting to a healthy playing weight after coming to school close to 400 lbs. Once he got down to 360, he was an incredibly athletic player for his size and the strength was obvious. His movement in space and getting to the second level needs improvement, but he really is a tremendous prospect at right tackle. Forcing him to play on the left would not be the best move, his feet fall behind and elite pass rushers will give him trouble.
Both tackles are strong prospects, but if the Texans have a chance to get Johnson Jr. to go with whichever quarterback, that’s a strong start to an offensive rebuild.
BRB: Ohio State is always known as having some of the most talented players and deepest rosters in the Big Ten and in all of college football. Who are some names you expect to be called at some point in the draft that you think we should keep our eyes on?
CR: Outside of the players we talked about, two names that stand out to me are Zach Harrison and Luke Wypler. Harrison is a freak athlete who never fully found himself as a pass rusher on the outside, but I think NFL teams could find a dominant and athletic three-technique lineman. In the two games he played in the role at Ohio State, Harrison wreaked havoc and can be a player in the Deforest Buckner mold.
Luke Wypler is a steady center who can play all the interior positions; he fits the same mold of other former Buckeyes Corey Linsley of the Chargers and Josh Myers of the Packers. One other name is Taron Vincent, son of NFL executive and former NFL player and current Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the NFL Troy Vincent. Vincent is a good athlete for a defensive tackle and will fit in most NFL schemes making him a great depth option for teams.
We want to thank Chris for joining us and for Land Grant Holy Land for coordinating with us to get these indepth answers to our questions. If you want to see excellent coverage on all things Ohio State we invite you to visit their site. Also stay tuned to this space as we go behind the scenes with more prominent schools and their sites on the SBNation network.