Mel Kiper Jr. has three Ohio State players in his latest NFL mock draft

Perhaps nobody has thrown out NFL mock drafts longer and with more fanfare than ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. There are so many mock drafts these days, and so many different versions, it can be a little dizzying and confusing to follow them all.

Kiper continues to use his knowledge and connections to do the best he can to figure all the shenanigans of the upcoming NFL draft out, and he just dropped his most recent one (subscription required).

There have been three Ohio State players continually up in the first round of most NFL draft experts, and Kiper falls right in line with that, naming three in the first round, but with some different options and landing spots than prior. Here is a look at where Kiper thinks C.J. Stroud and two other Buckeyes will be selected in the 2023 NFL draft in April.

C.J. Stroud, Quarterback

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud throws for NFL representatives during Ohio State football’s pro day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus on March 22, 2023. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Pick

No. 1 Overall – Carolina Panthers

What Kiper Says

“Welcome to the top of the board, Carolina. The Panthers went big right before free agency, sending a bevy of picks and wide receiver DJ Moore to Chicago for the No. 1 selection. It’s a lot to give up, but the trade gives the Panthers their choice of quarterbacks in this class, which they’re still working through. If they hit on that passer, they could have a 15-year starter. If they miss? Well, general manager Scott Fitterer and coach Frank Reich likely won’t be around to see the end of their pick’s tenure. It’s a monumental decision for a team that has missed on recent deals for Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. Which way will Carolina go now?

“I’m leaning toward Stroud based on what I’m hearing. He’s super accurate, has impressed everyone throughout the pre-draft process and is the ideal size profile of recent Frank Reich quarterbacks. He has the slight edge over Bryce Young based on fit. Carolina added veteran Andy Dalton to guide the rookie, but whoever this quarterback ends up being needs more playmakers around him. Without Moore, its No. 1 receiver now becomes Adam Thielen, who was signed to a deal this week. Laviska Shenault Jr., Terrace Marshall Jr. and running back Miles Sanders are on the roster, but this group is among the league’s worst. Thanks to the Christian McCaffrey trade, the Panthers had extra selections — they still have second- and third-rounders to add players — but this is not likely to be a team that challenges for a playoff spot in 2023.”

Paris Johnson Jr., Offensive Tackle

Watch: Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr., Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler go through NFL combine workouts

Watch: Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr., Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler go through NFL combine workouts

Mar 5, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson, Jr. (OL24) during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pick

No. 9 Overall – Chicago Bears

What Kiper Says

“As a reminder, here’s what Chicago got from Carolina for surrendering the No. 1 pick and dropping down eight spots:

  • Wide receiver DJ Moore

  • Picks Nos. 9 and 61 in April’s draft

  • Carolina’s first-round pick in 2024

  • Carolina’s second-round pick in 2025

“That’s an incredible haul, and the 2024 pick might end up being the best of the bunch. While the Bears could be in play for a defensive lineman here — particularly if Jalen Carter drops — I see offensive tackle as their biggest hole after their moves in free agency. They added guard Nate Davis to start on the right side, but are they really trusting Teven Jenkins to lock in the right tackle job? They could have their choice of the class’ tackles here. Johnson played both tackle spots and right guard for the Buckeyes, and he already has blocked for quarterback Justin Fields. Chicago needs to keep supporting Fields and get him a stellar lineman with this pick, and it could still address the defense with its two second-round picks (Nos. 53 and 61) and early third-rounder (No. 64).”

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Wide Receiver

Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba catches a pass during Ohio State football’s pro day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus on March 22, 2023. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Pick

No. 20 Overall – Seattle Seahawks

What Kiper Says

“This was a tough pick for me. It could be a front-seven player; Seattle ranked 27th in yards per carry allowed (4.9) last season, though it added free agent tackle Dre’Mont Jones to help. Edge rushers Will McDonald IV (Iowa State) and Myles Murphy (Clemson) could make sense. I also thought about interior offensive line, but it might be a little too high for guard O’Cyrus Torrence (Florida). So if I’m getting the Seahawks a project quarterback at No. 5, why not add a wideout who could make things easier on offense?

“Smith-Njigba has a chance to develop into a true No. 1 receiver. He didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the combine, but he looked effortless in the pass-catching drills and led all receivers with a 6.57-second 3-cone time and a 3.93-second short shuttle. A hamstring injury limited him to just five catches last season, but he caught 95 passes for 1,606 yards in 2021. He could be a plug-and-play starter for a team that already features Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. He could alternate reps outside and in the slot.”

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Story originally appeared on Buckeye Wire

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