The Pro Day cycle is in full swing, and things are heating up this week. A total of 30 schools are inviting NFL personnel this week — including USC (Tuesday), Auburn (Tuesday), Alabama (Friday), Penn State (Friday), and Boston College (Friday).
Also on that list is Ohio State, which will open its doors on Wednesday. The New England Patriots will be among the NFL teams in attendance, and their contingent features a specific mix of representatives: per a report by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, the Patriots’ wide receiver and offensive line coaches will be in Columbus.
In total, New England is sending five representatives. They will be taking a close look at more than a dozen draft hopefuls, including a few potential early-round targets at those particular positions: wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba as well as offensive tackles Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones.
Smith-Njigba was limited to just three games in 2022 because of a hamstring injury, but he will not make it out of the first round: he is arguably the best pass catcher available this year. The 6-foot-1, 196-pounder is more of an interior option, but he still projects to be on the Patriots’ radar even with them seemingly in good shape there. That is especially true after they already met with him at the Scouting Combine.
Johnson Jr. was also on the Patriots’ meetings list in Indianapolis. At 6-foot-6, 313 pounds, he offers ideal size as an NFL offensive tackle, and combines it with explosiveness and an impressive motor. Considering that he played only one season at the left tackle spot, he might have as high a ceiling as any OT in this year’s class. Unsurprisingly, he projects as a first-round draft pick as well.
Jones, meanwhile, is a fringe first-rounder. Not because of a lack of size, however: he is a mountain of a man who was measured at 6-foot-8, 374 pounds at the Combine. Jones needs some fine-tuning, but offers an impressive combination of size and functional athleticism; he too projects as a starting offensive tackle at the next level after filling the right tackle spot opposite Johnson Jr. last year.
In addition to those three men, the workout will also feature interior offensive lineman Luke Wypler. A potential mid-round prospect, he will play center at the next level — a position New England currently has filled with veteran and team captain David Andrews.
Additionally, quarterback C.J. Stroud, tight end Mitch Rossi, defensive linemen Jerron Cage, Taron Vincent and Zach Harrison, linebacker Palaie Gaoteote, defensive backs Cameron Brown, Tanner McCalister and Ronnie Hickman, and long snapper Bradley Robinson are also scheduled to participate in the Pro Day.
The biggest name on the list is Stroud, a potential candidate to get drafted first overall by the Carolina Panthers. As for the Patriots, they will keep a close eye on all of them, either as potential draft targets or players they might have to face at one point in the future.
Of course, New England investing draft picks in Ohio State players is a rare occurrence. Since Bill Belichick’s arrival as head coach and de facto general manager in 2000, the club drafted only one former Buckeye: special teamer Nate Ebner was brought aboard in the sixth round in 2012.