INDIANAPOLIS: If Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa’s self-assessment is accurate, the Browns might not be able to resist drafting him second overall on April 28.
“I do believe I’m the best player in the draft,” Bosa said Friday during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Plenty of players are willing to make the declaration, but there’s a better than decent chance Bosa is right. He’s widely regarded as a top-five pick.
Selecting a quarterback at No. 2 seems to be the likeliest scenario for the Browns. But if they opt to take the best-player-available route with their top pick and wait to nab a quarterback later — they also own the No. 32 choice — Bosa shouldn’t be dismissed as a legitimate candidate.
“[When] he was a true freshman and I was a true sophomore, I remember looking at their defensive roster and saying, ‘They’ve got a true freshman playing D-end. OK, I should be all right in the pocket,’ ” Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld said. “And he was a menace coming off the edge, and I was like, ‘This kid’s going to be really good.’ He’s just gotten better every year.”
In Bosa’s three seasons with the Buckeyes, he started 37 of the 41 games in which he appeared. He ranks third in school history in sacks (26) and fourth in tackles for loss (50.5). His five forced fumbles and two recoveries led to 44 points.
But Bosa is a 4-3 defensive end who would need to convert to a 3-4 outside linebacker if the Browns were to draft him for defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s scheme. Last week, Horton said he’s seeking an edge rusher and always will be.
“I’ve been working standing up and working on my linebacker drops,” Bosa said. “So I definitely feel I’m ready to play in a 3-4 or a 4-3.
“I guess you can say I’d be more comfortable [in a 4-3] because I’ve never played in a 3-4. But I can’t speak for it because I’ve never played in a 3-4. I think I’ll be comfortable staying wherever they see me.”
Talent evaluators might doubt Bosa’s ability to play linebacker, but his pedigree is undeniable.
His father, John Bosa, and maternal uncle, Eric Kumerow, were 16th overall picks of the Miami Dolphins in back-to-back years (1987-88). His younger brother, Nick, will begin his career with Ohio State in the fall and enters the program with even more acclaim than Joey did.
“Got to marry a tall, athletic girl and breed football players, I guess,” Bosa said.
He elicited laughter with several other entertaining responses during his media session at the combine.
• He doesn’t want to be called Joe. “I never see myself as a Joe. Maybe once I’m 50, I’ll be Joe. Old man Joe.”
• He deadpanned his targeted time in the 40-yard dash when asked if he had one. “Yeah, as fast as I can.”
• He measured 6-foot-5¼ and weighed 269 pounds, down a few pounds from his playing weight with the Buckeyes. “I’m just in really good shape right now, and training twice a day, six days a week, it’s tough when your metabolism is going like it is. I’m eating a ridiculous amount, and I don’t know where the hell it’s going.”
• He playfully told reporters they weren’t intimidating. “After meeting with a bunch of NFL coaches, you guys are nothing.”
He looks and sounds like a stereotypical surfer or skater.
Asked if he’s worried NFL teams might view him as too laid back, Bosa said: “I don’t know. It’s who I am. It’s my personality.”
An issue Bosa will definitely need to tackle when teams interview him at the combine is the one-game suspension he served this past season for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
“I really took that opportunity, and didn’t let it affect me negatively and let it help me grow as a person, as a leader and as a player,” he said. “I’ll discuss that with the teams, and I’m sure it’ll be a little uncomfortable, but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.”
He’ll also likely be questioned about his sacks dropping from 13½ as a sophomore to five as a junior.
“If I was double-teamed and not getting there, I knew somebody else was going to,” Bosa said. “As long as we’re succeeding as a defense, I was happy.”
Bosa’s teammates know his decreased production can be attributed to opponents using multiple blockers against him.
Buckeyes left tackle Taylor Decker said Bosa and Oakland Raiders All-Pro Khalil Mack are the best defensive linemen he has ever encountered.
“Joey is an incredible player,” Decker said. “He’s really complete. He plays the run really well. He’s strong. He’s quick off the ball. He’s good with his hands. He’s such a complete player. If you do something wrong, he’s going to expose you.”
Bosa believes he’s the best collegiate pass rusher in the nation, and the case for picking an elite edge rusher early instead of a top-rated quarterback is something the Browns must at least consider.
“I mean you watched the Super Bowl. That’s pretty much the only example I have to give,” Bosa said. “The defense won that game — 100 percent. Von Miller, he really showed what a pass rusher can do for a team.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.