By Bill Rabinowitz
COLUMBUS: Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer has learned from watching NFL Drafts over the years that fondest dreams are often dashed by cruel reality.
That reality hit hard for Buckeyes players hoping their pivotal contributions to Ohio State’s 12-0 season would be reflected by their selection in the draft.
“I shared that with a couple of players that I’ve talked to,” Meyer said. “I’ve been around more disappointments than positives [in the draft]. I think everyone gets their hopes up, and no one really knows until people start selecting names.”
As a result, Meyer has given up trying to predict the draft.
“I used to,” he said, “but I’ve never been right. Never. I’ve sat through a lot of drafts with players.”
Only three Ohio State players were drafted — defensive linemen Johnathan Hankins by the New York Giants in the second round and John Simon by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth, and offensive tackle Reid Fragel by the Cincinnati Bengals the seventh.
Special-teamer Nate Ebner was drafted in the fifth round by New England a year ago, so this year’s Buckeyes had reason to be optimistic. Most of them — Zach Boren, Etienne Sabino, Jake Stoneburner, Nathan Williams and Travis Howard — were multiyear starters.
But the players who weren’t drafted came with questions that proved too great to warrant a pick in the view of NFL teams.
Sabino and Howard, for example, excelled as seniors, but their mediocre play in previous seasons held them back.
“They weren’t on the radar,” Meyer said. “[NFL] guys would talk to me about that. They were concerned that there was not much consistency.”
Meyer has relationships with many coaches and executives in the NFL. He said he vouched for the ability and character of all the seniors.
“I fought for them,” he said. “I said that I’ve watched them play and told them what kind of people they were.”
Injuries were also a factor. Sabino suffered a fractured fibula against Nebraska, though he said he is now healthy. Howard fought neck stingers throughout his final season. Williams came back from microfracture knee surgery. Boren (knee) and Simon (shoulder) had postseason surgery.
Then there were the questions about position. Simon said yesterday that he doesn’t know where the Ravens plan to play him, and doesn’t care.
“I’m going to play wherever they put me,” he said.
Williams played defensive end at Ohio State but will try to make the Minnesota Vikings as a linebacker, his high-school position. Boren switched to linebacker midway through his final season, though he’s projected as a fullback. Before the draft, he wondered whether the switch might have hurt his NFL chances, though he said it’s a sacrifice he’s happy to have made.
As disappointing as the draft might have been, the overlooked Buckeyes’ NFL hopes are not dead. Numerous undrafted players make rosters every year.
Receiver Dane Sanzenbacher and center Michael Brewster have done so the past two years. Brewster signed with Jacksonville and started the last seven games in 2012 at right guard.
“All I know is it’s how you finish in this league,” Brewster said. “Your start is a given. Your finish is earned.”
Here is a breakdown of the Buckeyes who moved on to the NFL: Drafted
DT – Johnathan Hankins, Giants, ???third round
DE – John Simon, Ravens, fourth
OT – Reid Fragel, Bengals, seventh
LB – Etienne Sabino, Giants
CB – Travis Howard, Texans
FB – Zach Boren, Texans
S – Orhian Johnson, Texans
TE – Jake Stoneburner, Packers
DE – Nathan Williams, Vikings
DT – Garrett Goebel, Rams
Dispatch reporter Tim May contributed to this story.