2016 NFL Draft: Fiesta Bowl Scouting Preview: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame


2015 may not have turned out the way Ohio State wanted it to. The returning, and first time college football playoff, champions the Buckeyes had loftier goals that getting into one of the major bowls that wasn’t included in this year’s playoff.

A team loaded with talent really were inconsistent this year, especially at the quarterback position where the team was seemingly crowded at. The one real consistent player, and conference offensive player of the year, was Ezekiel Elliott. He put together another strong season, finishing in the top 5 rushing in the country.

Notre Dame was another team coming into the season with high hopes, and then in the blink of an eye their starting QB Malik Zaire was done for the year. But the team has rallied around DeShone Kizer who has went 8-2 as a starter this year under center. Another team loaded with talent, leaning a lot of C.J. Prosise who is eyeing to return in the Fiesta Bowl, after missing the Stanford game.

This game will have a lot of NFL scouts watching, as there will be a lot of players who will be looking for a spot on NFL rosters next season.

By: Matt and Mike Vahey

Ohio State

Ezekiel Elliot, #15, RB
A junior who has already stated that he will be turning pro, may be the best prospect on a team full of talent and the 2015 Big Ten offensive player of the year. Elliott will be the number 1 running back available in the draft and it’s easy to see why.  He has an extremely well rounded game, who possess a great combination of size (6′, 225 pounds) and speed.  When you watch Elliot run, he has excellent vision and is has great patience letting the holes open to put his foot in the ground then shows burst through the hole and there are countless times where he breaks off big runs.  He always runs with great pad level and you will always see him falling forward to gain an extra yard.  As with OhioState this year, the passing game was very inconsistent and he was not able to really showcase any real pass catching ability.  None the less, Elliot is on his way to being a first round selection in the 2016 draft.

Taylor Decker, #68, OT
Another solid season for Decker, who helped pave the way for Elliot and another 1500+ yard season on the ground. Has the size that all NFL teams covet (6’7″ and 315 pounds) really solidify him as a top senior tackle prospect this year.  He has long arms which allow him to extend and keep separation from him and the defender.  What he has really improved on his pass protection, his kick slide looks smooth and covers a lot of ground quickly due to his size.  He is also very athletic for his size and a natural “bender” and does not often lean.  He has the ability to be a late first round to second round prospect.

Joshua Perry, #37, OLB
The unquestioned leader on the Buckeyes defense, really possess the size and speed of today’s outside linebacker prospects, he is 6’4″ and 254 pounds and extremely athletic.  Perry earned first team all-conference honors this year, which was well deserved. He does not rely solely on his size and athleticism, but he plays whistle to whistle with a non-stop motor.  He will not allow blockers into his body and easily sheds and pursues and makes a lot of plays for the Buckeyes defense.  Will do things a lot of other players can’t do because of the way he plays and size and athleticism.  Sometimes the way he plays will actually hinder him and takes himself out of position, but does a good job of regrouping and getting back into the play.  Not as highly graded as some of the other players on the defense but he is definitely a mid-round prospect at the least.

Adolphus Washington, #92, DT
A second team all-conference selection at the tackle spot.  He is a big time player, 6’4″ and 290 pounds, has the size and skill which NFL teams will be looking at.  Compiled 7 tackles for loss and 4 sacks this year, was a very disruptive force in the middle to compliment Joey Bosa on the edge.  He is extremely quick on the snap of the ball which really puts the offensive line at a disadvantage early on.  Very stout at the point of attack and rarely gets pushed off the ball.  Another early round prospect for the Buckeyes for the 2016 draft.

Obvious Others to Watch
Joey Bosa, #97, DE (Junior)
Braxton Miller, #1, WR


Notre Dame

Ronnie Stanley, #78, OT, RJr
Stanley, currently, is one of the top tackles in the class (and would have been last year as well). He has a sound frame with long arms coupled with good foot quickness needed for the tackle position. Shows plus awareness in both the run and pass game coupled with good patience for a player as young as he is. He’s a competitive and gritty player which scouts will love, particularly offensive line coaches. However, though he’s gotten better this season as a technician, he still needs refinement in this area. He tends to play high and also needs to work on his anchor ability, as players can get into his chest and walk him back to the quarterback. Will suffer some bumps and bruises early in the NFL, but has the combination of size, length and athleticism that teams covet and will be drafted high.

Jaylon Smith, #9, OLB, Jr
What else can said other than Smith is an overall “freak”. Took home several awards after this season, the Butkus Award along with All-American honors. He’s a silky smooth athlete who couples the quick twitch and explosiveness with flexibility and balance to excel in both coverage and against the run as well as rush the passer. He’s a lean player who can be exposed by lack of elite strength who can get engulfed by lineman where he struggles to shed blocks. However, he’s a scheme diverse prospect who is a true three down linebacker in an age where specialty is king in the modern NFL defense.

Nick Martin, #70, C, RSr
The brother of Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin who took the NFL by storm. One of the top centers in the country, he’s also one of the most NFL ready and versatile players for the position as well. He’s well built for the pivot with good lower half thickness with a solid and sturdy frame. Shows plus football IQ, making the line calls as well as providing a stabilizing presence on the line. Plus combo blocker showing an adept ability to peel off to linebackers as well as pick up blitzes and stunts. Lacks ideal arm length and isn’t as rangy or athletic as his brother, tending to fall off blocks and lunging at defenders. He’s a gritty player who plays through pain and has the tenacity to succeed in the NFL.

Sheldon Day, #91, DL, Sr
A player in the Aaron Donald mold, playing with exceptional explosive quickness and burst off the ball. He’s able to knife through the line of scrimmage and disrupt plays in the backfield with the ability to bend and change direction throwing lineman off balance. He’s a high motor player who will track down the ball on every play. However, his lack of size leaves him vulnerable to anchor against the run, particularly against double teams. He’ll need to add play strength in order to hold up against bigger stronger players in the NFL. Although he’s had a laundry list of injuries, we do expect him to at least go day 2 in the draft.

Others to watch:
C.J. Prosise, #20, RB, SR
Joe Schmidt, #38, ILB, SR


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