Knowing where to find what's needed

The players available come from everywhere and anywhere; there were 16 of them from LSU at the NFL Scouting Combine and also one from Saint John's (the one in Minnesota) and one from Lenoir-Rhyne (it's in Hickory, N.C).

But sometimes the trick to the NFL Draft is knowing where to look specifically to fill a specific need.

Take the perceived best defender available, for example.

In three of the last four drafts, the first defensive player off the board has played at The Ohio State University.

In 2016, it was defensive end Joey Bosa, who went third overall to San Diego.

In 2018, cornerback Denzel Ward was taken with the No. 4 selection of the first round by Cleveland.

And in 2019, defensive end Nick Bosa's named was called second by San Francisco.

"We're gonna see another one this year," NFL Network analyst Peter Schrager maintained.

The reference was to Buckeyes edge rusher Chase Young.

And there's more where he came from, enough that a trip to Columbus might constitute the NFL equivalent of one-stop shopping.

"It's not a Combine if we don't have like five skill guys from Ohio State," NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah observed in February.

There was also this from Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock during a Combine chat with Jeremiah and NFL Network host Rich Eisen about the evaluation process: "That Clemson-Ohio State game was really fun to watch, watching those corners get after each other's wideouts."

And high praise from Schrager during the Combine regarding Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah: "I spoke to an executive and he said, 'If you need a starting corner, No. 1, for the next 10 years, you just take Okudah and you never worry about it again.' That's how polished a product he is he is. I got to speak to with him on 'Good Morning Football,' he said every one talks about LSU as 'DBU.' He said, 'I go to Ohio State, it's 'BIA,' we're the Best in America.'"

Ohio State had 11 players at the Combine, tied with Michigan for second behind LSU's 16.

Alabama and Georgia each had 10.

The Buckeyes also showed up on the offensive side of the ball.

"Isn't it interesting, though, when you talk about Wisconsin, LSU, Ohio State, Georgia, these same schools keep churning out running back after running back after running back," Jeremiah observed.

Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU), J.K. Dobbins (Ohio State) and D'Andre Swift (Georgia) are the latest such representatives.

Jeremiah might have also mentioned Alabama in that category (Mark Ingram, first round, 2011; Eddie Lacy, second round, 2013; Derrick Henry, second round, 2016; Kenyan Drake, third round, 2016; Bo Scarbrough, seventh round, 2018; and Josh Jacobs, first round, 2019).

Some schools become attractive to teams no matter the position.

That's one reason Jeremiah, a former scout in Baltimore, perceives Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray as a potential fit with the Ravens.

"They just like shopping at Oklahoma," Jeremiah maintained. "It's been a nice rate of return there when you go get a Mark Andrews (tight end, third round, 2018), go get a (Marquise) 'Hollywood Brown' (first round, 2019). Orlando Brown (third round, 2018), their stating right tackle, obviously he's a great player out of Oklahoma, so they've had good fortune.

"And it is like that, when you have success with one school that matters."

That doesn't mean having a track record of success with a prospect's alma mater is a prerequisite.

Nor is an institution being an FBS powerhouse.

Saint John's (Minnesota) offensive tackle Ben Bartch is a converted tight end with a third-fourth round grade according to Dane Brugler of The Athletic. He made it from NCAA Division III to the Senior Bowl.

Safety Kyle Dugger showed up in Mobile, Ala. from Lenoir-Rhyne.

Dugger was the only NCAA Division II invitee among the 337 players at the Combine.

"He sure looks the part," NFL network analyst Charles Davis said of Dugger (6-foot-7/8, 217 pounds).

Liberty wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden also has a relatively humble resume. His offers coming out of high school, according to Brugler, were from Elon, Mercer, Murray State, Kennesaw State and Samford (the school that sent quarterback Devlin Hodges to the Steelers).

What Gandy-Golden put on tape at 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds was reminiscent of Adam Sandler.

"I wrote down in my notes, 'He's Billy Madison at recess the way he's just throwing these dudes around like they're little kids out there,'" Jeremiah said.

Added NFL Network analyst Steve Smith: "This is a kid that can flat-out play. He doesn't go to a big-time school but he makes big-time plays each and every week."

Teams seeking a heady player might want to take a look at Princeton quarterback Kevin Davidson, who reportedly had to take a proctored exam during the week preceding the East-West Shrine Bowl and also brought homework with him to the Combine.

Those that value players in great shape might want to check out N.C. State.

"I feel like I give a shout out to N.C. State's strength program every year at the Combine," Jeremiah said. "They do a wonderful job."

As for refuse-to-take-no-for-an-answer types, Michigan linebacker Jordan Glasgow qualifies. His brother Ryan, a defensive tackle with the Bengals, was a fourth-round pick in 2017. And brother Graham, a guard who recently signed with the Broncos, was a third-round pick of the Lions in 2016.

All three walked on initially at Michigan.

So it's happened before, twice.

That's a trend with which the teams getting ready to draft this April are no doubt well aware.

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