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C.J. Stroud’s low S2 score is the latest in a long line of Ohio State draft stock attacks

Ohio State players keep falling close to the draft. Why?

NFL Combine Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

We’re less than one week out from the 2023 NFL Draft and in a move that’s become clockwork, Ohio State prospects are falling, and being slammed at the same time. The latest comes with the release of the scores in the S2 Cognitive Test, which has become the chosen testing method for quarterbacks over the outdated Wonderlic.

The scores, which aren’t hard numbers, but rather percentile marks, reportedly place Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud dead last in this year’s QB class, scoring in the 18th percentile. Meanwhile Bryce Young reportedly scored a 98, Will Levis a 93, and Anthony Richardson a 79. Immediately that’s become the focal point of draft discussion on Friday morning, as fans are taking the bait and eviscerating Stroud. Meanwhile, proponents of the S2 test are dismayed that scores are being weaponized.

There’s something deeper happening here than just Stroud’s poor score. Even if he scored low in the S2, we’re seeing an unparalleled pattern against Ohio State players in the pre-draft process. No other school is seeing their prospects so regularly getting critiqued with position-damaging information prior to the draft. and no other school is seeing their players fall as far down the board, as often, as Ohio State is.

But why?

The recent history of Ohio State pre-draft chatter and draft position

If we look back at the draft classes from Ohio State the pivot really happened in 2021. The 2020 Buckeyes class was absolutely loaded with top-end talent. Four players finished in Daniel Jeremiah’s top-50 prospects, and scouting matched reality as EDGE Chase Young and CB Jeff Odukah went No. 2 and No. 3 respectively, followed by CB Damon Arnette at No. 19.

In hindsight these have all been pretty disastrous. Young has struggled to stay healthy and hasn’t bounced back to his Defensive Rookie of the Year form. Odukah was one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory and was traded for change to the Falcons this offseason, while Arnette is no longer in the NFL. He was both mediocre in the league, and released following various off-field charges.

Despite this, entering the 2021 NFL Draft there wasn’t a great reason to doubt Ohio State players. Young was the DROY, Odukah showed flashes before injury. Their players looked good.

Then came 2021. More specifically, then came Justin Fields. For almost the entire pre-draft process there was a stone-cold lock at quarterback for No. 1 and No. 2. It was going to be Trevor Lawrence first overall, and then Fields would be the second QB off the board. At no point during the combine or immediately after was there any thought Fields would fall out of the top-5, let alone the top-10 — and it was even more unthinkable that Zach Wilson and Trey Lance would jump Fields in draft order. But that’s precisely what happened.

Fields excelled at the combine, he tied Joe Burrow’s score on the S2. Everything seemed locked and ready to go. Then suddenly there were rumors about Fields having a horrible work ethic, being the “last one in, first one out.” Both Fields, and Ohio State head coach Ryan Day tried to assuage the rumors, but they stuck. Suddenly Fields was branded as “lazy,” while Zach Wilson was held aloft like Simba from The Lion King as the great one.

Nothing on tape or paper showed that Wilson would be elite — but he didn’t carry the criticism Fields did. Ultimately Fields would fall to No. 11, before the Chicago Bears pulled the trigger on a trade for him, while Wilson was the second QB taken, followed by Lance third.

It wasn’t just Fields in that 2021 class. Funny things happened to Ohio State prospects further down the board too. Offensive linemen Josh Meyers and Wyatt Davis were both seen as fringe first round picks, more likely taken among the first picks of the second round. They went at picks No. 62 and No. 86 respectively. They didn’t carry the fanfare that Fields did, but both experienced their own fall too.

It’s important to note that dropped stock of Ohio State players really only applies to offensive players. For the most part defensive players were drafted close to their projected position.

We saw this again in 2022. Much like Fields, there was a very solid 1-2 lock for Ohio State at wide receiver with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Wilson was easily the best at getting separation — while Olave was the purest route runner in the class. Suddenly, immediately before the draft we saw wild rumors begin. Wilson, apparently, was “so bad in interviews” that he was being moved off of boards. For the second-straight year the No. 1 draft prospect from Ohio State was dealing with character assassination before the draft, and for the second straight year it worked.

The Atlanta Falcons passed on Wilson, taking Drake London as the top receiver in the draft. London had a solid rookie campaign, but Wilson went on to be named Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Other Ohio State offensive players were caught in the crossfire too. OT Nicholas Petit-Frere, seen as a 2nd round pick wasn’t taken until the third. The same occurred for TE Jeremy Ruckert, another second round prospect who fell a round.

Now we’re in 2023 and it’s happening all over again. We’re less than a week out from the draft and suddenly C.J. Stroud’s stock is being hit by reports of a poor S2 score. Now there’s a very real chance he’ll be jumped by Will Levis, or potentially Levis and Anthony Richardson. He’s not the only one either.

Offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr, long seen in play as a Top 5 pick, and easily the top OT in the class, is now sliding down boards. Nothing has changed talent wise, but somehow he’s been jumped by the likes of Peter Skoronski and potentially even Broderick Jones.

Rounding out the trio is Jaxon Smith-Njigba, another top Buckeye long seen as the No. 1 WR off the board. Now there is chatter teams are suddenly worried about a hamstring injury he sustained last season. There’s talk that Smith-Njigba could be the second WR off the board behind Quentin Johnson, and a slim edge case that Zay Flowers could jump him too.

Seriously, what is happening?

Something is going down at Ohio State on the offensive side of the ball that’s causing these players to get knocked down ahead of the draft. Perhaps, to put it more bluntly, who at OSU is pissing off people in the NFL?

It’s definitely possible we’re seeing some lingering hangover from Urban Meyer affecting the Buckeyes, but Ryan Day might play a big role in this too. Day notably had several offensive coordinator interviews lined up after 2016, and was offered the offensive coordinator role with the Tennessee Titans. Day infamously blew them off to join Meyer at Ohio State in the same role, which was seen as a slap in the face in the NFL.

Make no mistake: NFL teams have long memories, and they can be petty as hell. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that this is reprisal for Day spurning the shield and making a statement that a top-tier college program is more desirable than a middling NFL team.

Day also has a tendency to be extremely arrogant and abrasive at times. This could mean that when teams inquire about prospects’ characters they don’t feel like they’re getting truthful answers, or really learning much about the player from their head coach.

It’s not a coincidence that this draft stock problem hits the offensive side of the ball, where Day cut his teeth, and not on defense.

What do we make of all this?

Well, for the most part the character assassination of Ohio State offensive players is utter bullshit. Justin Fields has already showed far more promise than Zach Wilson or Trey Lance, and with upgrades to the offensive line, paired with a true No. 1 receiver in D.J. Moore, Fields could ascend to become a top-tier quarterback this season.

Meanwhile Garrett Wilson was the best rookie receiver in the NFL last year, Chris Olave wasn’t far behind — and both were better than Drake London.

Take all this stuff about C.J. Stroud with a mammoth grain of salt. Something is up at Ohio State and history shows that teams passing on these highly-touted players out of late-breaking fears only burns them in the long run. If Bryce Young is indeed the No. 1 pick this year (and all signs point to that being the case) then whoever is next to take a quarterback would be moronic not to take Stroud as the QB2. This stuff is getting dumb.