As the college football world gets closer and closer to the 2021 season, the reality for NFL scouts and personnel directors is that they are already laying the groundwork for the 2022 NFL Draft. When it comes to Ohio State, there are several players that will be evaluated, as all of the players listed below could have declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, yet chose to come back to Columbus for one more year.
1. Chris Olave, WR (Sr., 6-1, 189)
An upcoming senior, Olave's decision to return to Columbus was surprising yet overwhelmingly welcomed. Olave led Ohio State with 50 receptions for 729 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020. With another strong season, Olave could be among the first wide receivers selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
2. Thayer Munford, OT (Sr., 6-5, 325)
An upcoming senior, Munford's decision mirrored Olave's surprising decision to return in 2021. Munford will help solidify the Ohio State offensive line, protecting the new Ohio State quarterback who will be replacing Justin Fields. The embedded tweet below explains why Munford decided to return for his senior season.
3. Jeremy Ruckert, TE (Sr., 6-5, 252)
An upcoming senior, Ruckert is projected to start at tight end for his final season. Coming off a 2020 season where Ruckert caught 13 passes for 151 yards and five touchdowns, Ruckert could move into the first round with a strong 2021 performance.
4. Haskell Garrett, DL (Sr., 6-2, 300)
Similar to Olave and Munford, Garrett surprised Ohio State fans with his decision to return in 2021. Garrett's decision was even more surprising, considering the traumatic shooting he endured before the 2021 season. Garrett can build upon his 2020 All-American performance to move up on NFL draft boards.
5. Tyreke Smith, DE (Sr., 6-3, 260)
Tyreke Smith will help to bolster the Ohio State defensive line, as Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson continually rotates his pass rushers. Smith has battled nagging injuries as a Buckeye, but he came up big in the Sugar Bowl/College Football Playoff Semifinal versus Clemson.
BONUS: Garrett Wilson, WR (Jr., 6-0, 188)
As mentioned earlier, many of the players listed were not expected to return in 2021, but Ohio State fans were happy that they made those decisions. Buckeyes fans will similarly hope that Wilson will stick around for his senior year in 2022, but that may be wishful thinking.
Wilson will likely declare for the 2022 NFL Draft. He had a strong sophomore season as a slot receiver, with 43 receptions for 723 yards and six touchdowns, and is going to move to the outside this coming season. With another strong season, Wilson could be a high selection in the 2022 draft, along with running mate Olave.