Mel Kiper names three Ohio State players in his top 25 for the 2023 NFL draft

Mel Kiper names three Ohio State players in his top 25 for the 2023 NFL draft

USA News

The godfather of the NFL draft analysts is at it again, this time almost a year out from all the brouhaha that is the annual NFL draft. It’s only been a couple of weeks since we saw all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the 2022 version in Sin City, and now ESPN’s Mel Kiper is looking ahead to (clearly not Vegas) Kansas City for 2023.

And once again, YOUR Ohio State Buckeyes look to be well-represented. In fact, Kiper has three Buckeyes in his top fifteen of the top 25 big board (subscription required) for the next draft cycle.

We’re sure you can guess a couple of the players he has in the mix, and if you’ve followed other way-too-early mock drafts, you might have all three, but where does he have each ranked?

We’re ready to run through all three players for you, where Kiper has them ranked, and what he says about each.

C.J. Stroud, Quarterback

Predicting every Big Ten football team's starting quarterback for 2022 Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) calls a play during the first quarter of the NCAA football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network

Mel Kiper Overall Prospect Ranking

No. 3

What Kiper Says

“It was Stroud, not Young, who led the FBS in Total QBR last season (91.6 to 87.6). Stroud had an inconsistent start to the season, but he finished on a tear, throwing 36 touchdown passes and just three picks in his final nine games. Can he improve even more in Year 2? He’s only scratching the surface of his talent, and he has a big-time wideout to throw to in Jaxon Smith-Njigba.”

What We Say

This could be too low for Stroud. Taking nothing away from Bryce Young, but Stroud has more God-given ability and he’s a late bloomer. Once he decided to focus solely on football, his development has taken off at Ohio State. He’s got a great chance of assaulting some of the single-passing records in the Big Ten and should be even better with his reads and decision-making in year three of him learning the offense.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Wide Receiver

Ranking every Ohio State touchdown in the 2022 Rose Bowl vs. Utah Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba fends off Utah cornerback Kenzel Lawler as he races to the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter of the Rose Bowl. Syndication The Columbus Dispatch

Mel Kiper Overall Prospect Ranking

No. 5

What Kiper Says

“Smith-Njigba led Ohio State in catches and yards, even on a team with two wide receivers drafted in Round 1 in April. He averaged 16.9 yards per reception, showing stellar burst and explosiveness. He’s a hands catcher who can run the entire route tree, and he can make defenders miss after the catch. Most of Smith-Njigba’s work came from the slot — all but eight of his catches came from when he was aligned there — but he’ll play more outside in 2022. He led the FBS in receiving yards per route run (4.0).”

What We Say

Smith-Njigba is the real deal. He doesn’t have the top-end speed you see from other explosive receivers, but his quickness and burst get him separation on almost anyone, and his ability to make the simple move while still moving forward against defenders is the best we’ve seen in a while. We’re not sure about him moving to the outside because OSU has other receivers more suited for that, but he’ll get plenty of touches, yards, and publicity. He too has a chance to have one of the truly historical seasons any wide receiver has ever had at Ohio State.

Paris Johnson Jr, Offensive Tackle

Ohio State lineman Paris Johnson has article published - Buckeyes Wire Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. (77) against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 CFP National Championship Game. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mel Kiper Overall Prospect Ranking

No. 15

What Kiper Says

“Johnson was a stellar guard for the Buckeyes last season, but he’s going to move outside to left tackle in 2022. I think he could move all the way into the top 10. He has projectable traits and an ideal skill set for the position. He’ll also be helped by several really good edge rushers having left the Big Ten for April’s draft. I’m projecting Johnson to be one of the country’s top tackles this season.”

What We Say

It’s true that Johnson is a star waiting to break out, and we’ve seen his name mentioned as a first-rounder in a slew of way-too-early mock drafts, but we’re not sure that breakout to a dominant force out on the edge happens until later in the year. Remember, he’s been inside so far in his Ohio State career, and while he was thought to be a tackle coming out of high school, it’ll take some time for him to adjust to edge rushers at the college level. By the end of the season, he’ll be really good, but we’re just not sure it will be in time to land inside the top fifteen. But hey, the talent is there, and maybe we’re wrong.

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