Marshon Lattimore should be the first cornerback off the board.
Photo by Dan Harker
One year ago, Ohio State sent five players into the first round of the NFL Draft, and while they may not match that number this year, nobody will be able to blame the members of the Buckeye secondary for falling short of last year's high-water mark.
On Wednesday, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay released his Mock Draft 3.0 and cornerback Marshon Lattimore, safety Malik Hooker, and cornerback Gareon Conley all found themselves in the first round. They were the only Buckeyes included in McShay's one-round mock draft.
McShay has Lattimore as the first Buckeye off the board, going to the New York Jets at No. 6 overall. Lattimore is seen by most draft analysts as the top cornerback in the draft this year.
The next Buckeye won't have to wait long if McShay is correct, as he has Hooker joining former teammates Joey Bosa and Joshua Perry in San Diego with the No. 7 pick.
Bringing up the rear, which is a remarkably inappropriate usage of the phrase when talking about a first-round mock draft, is Conley, who McShay has heading to Green Bay with the No. 29 pick overall.
Speaking on ESPNRadio's Mike & Mike program, McShay talked about the depth of the defensive backs in this draft and where Conley falls in that mix.
"It's rich," he said. "Gareon Conley, who was the other cornerback at Ohio State playing opposite Marshon Lattimore and with Malik Hooker at safety in that same secondary, Conley has been overlooked. But now all of a sudden -- you go back and watch the tape and he's a good player -- his workout was exceptional. The cornerback position more than any, I think when you get the proper length and speed and agility drills in terms of numbers, guys tend to really rise up because you just can't find -- there's only so many individuals out there that have the length and speed and agility that you're looking for at that position. I think Gareon Conley's going to move up and potentially be a first-round pick."
For the fans of the Ohio NFL teams, McShay has the Cleveland Browns selecting Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett No. 1 overall and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson at No. 12. He has Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster headed to the Cincinnati Bengals with the No. 9 overall pick.
Also, McShay has just one Michigan Wolverine in his latest mock draft, with defensive end Taco Charlton headed to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 28.
Conspicuous by his absence is UM linebacker Jabrill Peppers, who McShay says will need to find a team with a specific plan of how to use him.
"He's been a brutal evaluation," he said. I did five games of Michigan's live and just watched how great he was in terms of the return game, on offense, everything that he did on the defensive side, but when you're starting to really look at what he can do in the pros outside of the punt return aspect...I just don't know, I didn't see a player that was making enough plays and had the right fit, because he's not a fit at linebacker. He's not a Deone Bucannon. He really isn't.
"He's bulked up to 213, but the pile inspecting, bouncing around. Just his inability -- he can slip (blocks), but he can't take (them) on. So he gets washed out entirely too much. Then you watch him in coverage and there's some stiffness and tightness, so he's really limited to a small range in terms of what he can do. I think a team will draft him late first, maybe second round, and will have a plan for him and he'll wind up being a good player. It's just you really have to have that specific plan and the tape was really hard because I know he's so gifted, but I just didn't see a first-round playmaker. And the ball production's not there either. One career interception off of a tipped pass."
The first round of the NFL Draft will be held on Thursday, April 27.