NFL: Despite Ohio State’s success, players ignored in draft

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Adam Cairns | Dispatch
John Simon, a defensive end for Ohio State, might play linebacker for the Ravens, who drafted him in the fourth round.

Yesterday’s third day of the NFL draft was supposed to supply most of the action for Ohio State’s pro prospects.

Instead, it was barely a trickle, and even the two players selected went later than anticipated. The Baltimore Ravens selected Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year John Simon late in the fourth round (129th overall pick). Simon had been projected as a third-rounder.

Offensive tackle Reid Fragel was considered a mid-round pick. The Cincinnati Bengals took him in the seventh round (240th overall).

If it seemed odd that players from a 12-0 team had so few players taken, that was only one layer to the strangeness. The Big Ten team that had the most players selected was Illinois (four), which went 2-10. Rutgers, which joins the Big Ten in 2014, had seven players taken.

Count Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer among the ones scratching his head.

“I was disappointed,” he said. “I thought we had more than three draftable players. I know we have more guys who can play in the National Football League. I know they will all get a shot, and they’ll have to make the most of their opportunity.”

Most of the Buckeyes who hoped to be drafted agreed to free-agent contracts shortly after the draft. Linebacker Etienne Sabino will join second-round pick Johnathan Hankins with the New York Giants.

“It’s been a long day,” Sabino said, “but I have the opportunity and I’m going to make the most of it.”

Cornerback Travis Howard, safety Orhian Johnson and fullback Zach Boren are headed to the Houston Texans. Tight end Jake Stoneburner agreed to terms with the Green Bay Packers. Linebacker Nathan Williams did the same with the Minnesota Vikings, and defensive tackle Garrett Goebel joined the St. Louis Rams.

“I’ve got a feeling a bunch of them are going to make a team,” Meyer said. “They’re high-character people who are winners and really good players.”

The first sign that the day might not go as well as hoped for OSU players came when Simon slid. He played defensive end for the Buckeyes but has been projected by many as a linebacker in the pros.

Simon’s work ethic and intangibles are considered off the charts, and he fits the Ravens’ defensive mold — tough and relentless.

“They’re a tough, hard-nosed team, and that’s how I feel I play the game,” said Simon, who grew up in Youngstown as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. “I’m excited to be a part of the organization, and I look forward to getting to practice.”

Simon required shoulder surgery in February, which affected his pre-draft preparation. He said that’s no longer an issue.

He will be joining a Ravens team that is the defending Super Bowl champion but must replace the two rocks from its defense — linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed. But Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome has a reputation for finding value in the draft.

“I think that’s the steal of the draft,” Meyer said of Simon. “I think everybody knows how I feel about that guy.”

The long wait by Fragel might have been even more surprising. The former tight end had a bumpy early transition to tackle, but by season’s end was considered the embodiment of Ohio State’s rise from mediocrity. Fragel will be considered a development project by the Bengals, who have re-signed free-agent right tackle Andre Smith.

“I had a feeling in my gut that Cincinnati was going to be the spot,” Fragel said. “I thought it might have been a little bit earlier, but I’m happy to be a Bengal and I’m very excited.”

On Monday, the Bengals were the last team to have a private workout with Fragel.

“He’s just an impressive young prospect that is still on the come,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “And we really feel like he is a great addition to the football team up front.”

Dispatch reporter Tim May contributed to this story. brabinowitz@dispatch.com@brdispatch

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