New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. (77) blocks Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Jordan Williams (59) during the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. (Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY Network)

The Patriots have only drafted one Ohio State player in the Bill Belichick era. That was Nate Ebner, who they took in the sixth round in the 2012 NFL Draft. Could a second – and third – player be added to that list this year?

Not only does Ohio State have one of the most impressive draft classes of any school this year, the Buckeyes entering the league almost all play positions the Patriots are expected to target in the draft. That includes offensive tackles, wide receivers, and safeties.

  • Given the way Ohio State’s prospects line up with the Patriots’ needs, it wasn’t surprising to find out the team sent a large contingent to Columbus last month for the Buckeyes’ pro day. As it turns out, those who were there were busy.

    Appearing on the Greg Bedard Podcast late last week, SI’s Albert Breer shared some of the Patriots’ plans from that pro day. “They sent both Adrian Klemm and Ross Douglas, their line coach and their receivers coach, and they had extensive private meetings with Paris Johnson Jr. and Jaxon Smith-Njigba,” Breer said.

    Johnson is part of the elite tackle group of this class, and some expect him to be the first player at that position to get drafted. Johnson, who measured in at the Combine at 6-foot-6, 313 pounds, started the 2021 season at right guard for the Buckeyes then moved to left tackle – the position he’s expected to play in the NFL – in 2022. Last season he allowed 14 pressures and two sacks on 449 pass-blocking snaps, while being called for just one penalty.

  • Smith-Njigba, like Johnson, is considered to be among the elite players at his position in the draft and could be the first receiver off the board. An elite route runner who projects as a slot receiver in the NFL, Smith-Njigba was the consensus WR1 at the start of the season but was limited to just three games due to a hamstring injury. In his last full season in 2021 he caught 95 passes for 1,595 yards and nine touchdowns.

    This wasn’t the first meeting with the Patriots for either player. Both spoke with the Patriots at the Combine. For a complete list of Patriots pre-draft meetings, check out our Patriots Pre-Draft Meeting Tracker.

    Does all this mean the Patriots will break their trend of not taking Buckeyes? One other thing to keep in mind in that regard – the Patriots’ new director of college scouting Camren Williams is a former Buckeye himself, having played linebacker at Ohio State before getting into scouting. Perhaps that familiarity with the program could be a factor.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].

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