College football players who have been out of high school for three years or more have an important decision coming up.
Underclassmen must decide by January 20 whether they will stay in college for another year or turn pro and make themselves eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft.
It’s a big, life-altering decision that most of them have been working toward since they were little kids. Now they have a little over three weeks to make it.
The Ohio State football has more than a handful of players who could potentially make that leap. Those choices will have a major impact not only on those players, but also on the 2020 Buckeye team.
They range from total no-brainers to genuine debates. Here’s a look at the players who are likely to go, likely to stay for another year, and those stuck somewhere in the middle.
Likely To Go
DE Chase Young
You know this. Your kids know this. The guy at your office who wants to talk Buckeyes at the water cooler, but starts every conversation with, “So did they win last weekend?” knows this: Chase Young is headed to the NFL.
He would be insane not to go. Young is projected as a top-5 pick. If you are a top-5 pick, you go get that bag. End of story.
A word of warning: there will be a bunch of bloviating over the next few months about how Chase Young is not that good, actually because just look at his stats for the last few games.
The people saying this are idiots who don’t watch or understand football. Ignore them.
CB Jeff Okudah
Another likely top-10 pick, Okudah put together a fantastic season. He was frequently matched up with opponents’ top receivers and was consistently excellent.
There’s not much he could do to improve his draft stock further, so why risk an injury by coming back?
RB J.K. Dobbins
Starting in the spring, it was pretty clear that Dobbins was treating this as a contract year.
He changed his diet, got in peak condition, and then was consistently cited as a player who was standing out as an absolute stud during every practice.
Then the season started.
All he did was break Eddie George’s single-season rushing record, notch the first 2,000-yard season by a Buckeye, and put up a career-high 211 yards and 4 touchdowns against Michigan.
In the Fiesta Bowl, Dobbins carried it six times for 141 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter alone. He might have threatened George’s school single-game record of 314 yards if he hadn’t suffered and ankle injury in the second quarter.
Dobbins is considered one of – if not the – top running backs in this year’s class. The average career for an NFL running back is roughly 2.5 years.
There’s no reason to spend another year getting hit for free when he could be a first-round pick and start cashing NFL checks.
A Real Decision
CB Shaun Wade
Wade was the OSU defense’s Swiss Army knife this year. He did a little bit of everything, and he did it all pretty well.
Wade spent a lot of the year lined up over opponents’ slot receivers. The fact that he had the quickness to do that at 6-foot-1 is a testament at to the kind of complete package he brings.
He’s considered a likely late-first or early-second-round pick by most sources. That’s an area of the draft where you can earn life-changing money.
Leaving now would also move him closer to his second NFL contract a year or two sooner. That’s where the real money is for many players.
The counter-argument is that Wade could vault himself up to Okudah territory with another year of good film against top outside receivers. He would certainly slide over to Okudah’s spot next year, and get a chance to match up with opponents’ WR1s all season.
That could put him in the Thorpe Award conversation, and make him a potential top-10 pick in 2021. That would be the difference between a $7 million first contract and a $30 million one.
Wade has probably the toughest decision of any Buckeye this offseason. There’s a good argument for getting the money now. There’s also a good argument for buying an insurance policy to hedge against a potential injury risk and betting on himself by returning.
At the moment, it’s probably a little better than 50/50 that he turns pro, but it’s still anyone’s guess.
Likely To Return
OL Thayer Munford, Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis
All three said during the week leading up to the Fiesta Bowl that they planned to return to Ohio State.
Davis seemingly had the best case to leave, but reiterated after the game that he would be back as a Buckeye for 2020.
The return of all three would be an absolutely massive building block for the 2020 Buckeye offense, and allow them another year to improve in pass protection and build their draft stock.
This is about as win-win as it gets.
LB Baron Browning
Browning has the measurables to potentially be an NFL Combine winner, but needs another year in college.
If he can win a full-time starting job in 2020, he could be a high pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.