Ohio State is returning several players in 2021 that could have gone to the NFL draft.
The deadline for juniors to declare for the NFL draft was on Monday. Many seniors took Monday as an opportunity to announce their intentions as well.
Others, like Jonathon Cooper, Justin Hilliard, and Baron Browning are seniors that were allowed an extra year of eligibility. They all announced, however, that they would be declaring for the draft as well.
Haskell Garrett ; Right as we went to publish this story, he announced he is coming back for the 2021 season. It is a pleasant surprise for head coach Ryan Day. The post season elevated Garrett’s likely draft status in the NFL. To get that level of player back, along with the others detailed below who had previously announced they were coming back, is huge.
The number of players returning to Ohio State in 2021 is still surprising. The experience they will bring next year will be important in their effort to return to the National Championship Game next season.
Ohio State Players Returning In 2021
Chris Olave, Wide Receiver
The biggest surprise was junior Chris Olave, who could have gone in the early rounds of the draft.
In 2020, Olave had more receptions than he did in 2019 with five fewer games. He was second in the Big Ten in receiving yards. Only Penn State’s Jahan Dotson had more, but did it in two more games. Olave was also second in yards per game, only one tenth of a yard behind Purdue’s David Bell.
Garrett Wilson is only a sophomore, so he will return in 2021 as well. This gives Ohio State the best returning wide receiver duo in the country.
Olave returning side-by-side with Wilson in 2021. Julian Flemming and Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be in their second years at Ohio State. Then with Emeka Egbuka coming in with the 2021 freshman class, the starting quarterback next year will have plenty of receiving options.
The Buckeyes’ third-leading receiver is returning. This means that the top three players in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns in 2020 are all going to play in Columbus next year.
Ohio State is not known for their use of the tight end, but they have made junior Jeremy Ruckert into a formidable red zone target. He only had 13 receptions in 2020, but five of those catches were touchdowns. In only five games this year, Ruckert had one less reception, but more yards and touchdowns than he did last year.
Ruckert is an efficient, yet seldom used, receiving option. He will try to carve out a larger role for himself in 2021 before declaring for the NFL draft.
Senior Thayer Munford will use his extra eligibilty to play for a fifth season, though it feels like he’s been at Ohio State for much longer than that.
Munford protected J.T. Barrett as a freshman and has been a part of some of the best offenses in Ohio State history. He helped Dwayne Haskins have the best season a quarterback has ever had at Ohio State in 2018. A year later, he helped J.K. Dobbins have the best season a running back has ever had in Columbus.
Munford will be the most experienced player on Ohio State’s offense in 2021. In addition to having great receivers, the quarterback in 2021 will have great protection on his blindside as well.
The Buckeyes’ defensive line took a while to find their identity in 2021. But once they did, junior Tyreke Smith was one of the most improved players.
Smith was a key member of the defensive line that held firm in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson. He had to miss the National Championship due to COVID-19 protocols, and the Buckeyes’ defensive line did not play well.
With an insanely talented stable of defensive ends, Smith will likely be a rotational player on the line. But he will be the most experienced of the group. He may not play a high percentage of snaps, but he will have plenty of opportunities to impress NFL scouts in 2021.