- How Ohio State’s status as a contender and the Bosa family’s injury history factored into the decision to end Nick’s career at Ohio State, why it won’t affect his draft stock in the eyes of evaluators, and some other top talents who could follow his lead.
The consensus among NFL scouts is that Nick Bosa’s decision to leave Ohio State will not affect his draft stock. “He’s a top-five guy,” says one scout. “He’s too good for it to matter.”
On Tuesday Ohio State announced that the star defensive end would withdraw from school to rehab his core muscle injury and prepare for the NFL, rather than attempt a comeback from that injury, which required surgery in late September. The decision made headlines and sparked debate, but the scouts I spoke to for this story did not seem surprised. They’ve been following the Bosa family’s business decisions since Nick’s older brother Joey, the Chargers star who was the third pick of the 2016 draft, left Ohio State. Joey left Ohio State with a year of eligibility remaining, then missed 31 days of training camp and preseason practices in a contract dispute over offset language the Chargers wanted in his contract. Nick’s choice seems par for the course for the Bosas. “You’d like to see him finish out,” one scout says. “Or at least be around his team. If he wasn’t going to be able to play the rest of the year anyways, as a team sport, you’d like to see him be with his team.”
Nick Bosa isn’t the first college player to withdraw from school to focus on the draft after suffering an injury. Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack did the same as a junior in 2015 after he tore his meniscus during a UCLA practice in late September. But his head coach, Jim Mora, said Jack’s injury was season-ending at the time, while Urban Meyer has said he hoped to get Bosa back this season.
Bosa’s decision may not impact his own draft status, but one scout said he can see it becoming a more common path for a top prospect dealing with an injury. “This is so new,” the scout says. “I can totally see it happening more often now, but it’s only going to be the one-percenter in terms in talent.”
Bosa had already cemented himself as the kind of “one-percenter” who could make a decision like this, with standout seasons as a freshman and sophomore and four sacks in three games this season. There are a few other banged-up bluechip prospects who could follow suit, particularly Michigan junior defensive lineman Rashan Gary, who has an AC joint shoulder injury that has caused him to miss back-to-back games. Two other potential first-rounders, Stanford senior running back Bryce Love (missed two games this season with a left ankle injury) and Washington senior left tackle Trey Adams (season-ending back surgery in September) could be inspired to get a jump on draft preparation.
John Bosa, Nick’s father, told SI’s Michael Rosenberg that the lengthy rehab process of Nick’s injury is what led the family to make this decision: “The realistic timeframe is 12 weeks. Twelve weeks brings us into December. There’s timeframes for injuries, and then timeframes for an elite pass rusher. It’s not about rehabbing so you can be back on the used car lot or be a mechanic. When is he able to be safe and play at the same level? When you look at the preparation he goes through in preseason, that’s not a realistic timeframe for it to be safe. It’s just not.”
While it’s impossible to know the details of the recovery process without talking directly to Bosa’s doctor, the way John Bosa explained the time frame seemed open to interpretation, and some medical experts have differing opinions on the recovery time for a bilateral core injury. “I have seen players in the NFL return from this same injury in six weeks,” says Dr. David Chao, an orthopaedic surgeon who was the former head team physician for the San Diego Chargers. “However, not every player is the same and I have not examined Nick Bosa. Admittedly, those NFL players that returned at six weeks may not have been 100 percent, so it wouldn't surprise me if an athlete said, ‘I am going to need 12 weeks before I really felt 100%.’”
Maybe Bosa would have been 90% by Dec. 1, when Ohio State is expected to play in the Big Ten title game with a spot in the College Football Playoff on the line. The team would obviously have encouraged him to play, while Bosa and his family would be concerned with the risk of aggravating the injury, or suffering a different one. By leaving campus now, the Bosas avoid the potential for that kind of uncomfortable situation, one that could have damaged Nick’s reputation as a competitor in the eyes of some NFL teams. The only harm the decision to withdraw now might have done to Nick’s draft stock is calling attention to the Bosa family’s injury history. Joey has yet to play in 2018 while dealing with a bone briuse in his foot, and John, the No. 16 pick of the 1987 draft to the Miami Dolphins, had his NFL career cut short due to injuries.
Nick can expect to field several questions about his decision from teams at the combine. “Somebody will try to bust his chops about it, for sure,” a veteran scout says. “Some of it may just be to test him to see how reacts. But at the end of the day, this won’t affect how teams evaluate him. He’s damn good.”
A SCOUT’S NOTES: NICK BOSA EDITION
This week, we asked two evaluators to give their scouting reports on Nick Bosa...
An AFC exec: “Cut and paste his brother; they are very, very similar. They play extremely hard. Great edge setters and presence vs. run, great pass rush. Get-off is really good. First step. Can turn the corner with speed or go right down the middle of the OT with power. They are a lot alike.”
An NFC exec: “Versatile, tough and high-effort guy. Good edge rush and can also drop inside and rush effectively due to quickness, strength and hand use. Good closing burst and heavy on contact. Negative is he can be over-aggressive and not consistent reading keys. Good athlete—not great—but you love the effort and violence in his play. Should come in and contribute/start early. Love the play style and aggressiveness he would bring.”
SENIOR BOWL SCOUTING NOTEBOOK
Former longtime NFL scout and current Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy shares the matchups he’s monitoring this week…
N.C. State OC Garrett Bradbury vs. Clemson DT Christian Wilkins
This promises to be an excellent matchup between an already well-known name, Wilkins, and a name that all draftniks will be familiar with by draft time, Bradbury.
To the surprise of many, Wilkins opted to return to school this season for his final year of eligibility, and his decision was a smart one. After receiving a second-round grade back from the NFL’s advisory committee, Wilkins was one of the few college players that actually took the board’s recommendations and worked to improve his game.
Going into this season, one knock that some scouts had on Wilkins was that his game was too finesse. Like many players with high-end athletic ability, Wilkins tended to rely too much on his get-off quickness and short-area niftiness to slip and jump-around blocks. While it’s hard to question a player for using what works best for him—and Wilkins has been a highly productive player his entire Clemson career—he will not be able to simply out-athlete people when he gets to the next level.
Unlike many undersized defensive tackles who have no choice but to use their quickness to beat blocks, Wilkins actually has the lower mass and upper body power to compliment his athleticism. Wilkins reported to fall camp this year at 312 pounds, which is up 10 pounds from a year ago, and he did 30 bench reps (at 225 lbs.), so there is power in his body. Many people remember Wilkins for his celebration dance following the 2016 national title game win over Alabama, and I go back to that moment to make the point that scouts always look at things through an evaluative lens. What my scouting eyes saw was a super-flexible and uncommonly nimble big man, and Wilkins’ ability to dip and bend under and around blocks is what makes him such a disruptive player.
Like Wilkins, the two things that jump out on tape with Bradbury are his initial quickness and overall mobility. In order to handle someone as slippery as Wilkins one-on-one, an offensive lineman must have what scouts commonly refer to as “recoverability,” and Bradbury is excellent in that area. While it is mostly used as a term for a cornerback’s ability to stick with people in coverage, offensive linemen must have good “reactive athleticism” to mirror an opponent’s movements and stay in front of them. In the tape we have seen so far on Bradbury, he is rarely off-balance or out of position. Even when guys manage to get on his edges, which Wilkins will certainly do on Saturday, Bradbury has the foot quickness to recover and re-establish leverage.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of evaluating players is when you come across a guy that does something at a truly elite level, and Bradbury’s ability to reach block is on that level. The best centers in the NFL generally are adept at snap-stepping, which is exactly what it sounds like—the ability snap the ball and make the initial step at same time. Bradbury’s ability gain ground right off the snap allows him to work laterally about as well as any center I have seen in recent years.
NFL scouts are always looking for great individual battles and in this matchup they will be focused on how consistently Bradbury can reach Wilkins at his three-technique alignment (outside shade of the guard). Wilkins is difficult to block once he gets on the move, so if Bradbury can handle him on zone runs it will help boost his draft stock.
The Senior Bowl is hoping this is just Round 1 between Wilkins and Bradbury, with the re-match coming in Mobile during our practices from January 22-26. The Senior Bowl saw N.C. State play in the season-opener versus James Madison and we will see Clemson a week from Saturday when they play at Florida State.
OTHER MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Mississippi State S Johnathan Abram vs. LSU TE Foster Moreau
Abram and Moreau are usually the toughest players on any field they step on, so we will be keyed in on the matchup between these two throwback-type competitors.
Colorado LB Drew Lewis vs. Washington RB Myles Gaskin
Lewis is a fearless and violent second-level player; he will be looking to slow down the undersized but elusive Gaskin.
Oregon DL Jalen Jelks vs. Washington State OT Andre Dillard
Twitch vs. twitch. Dillard has such good feet that he is seemingly always balanced and square in front of defenders, but NFL scouts will want to see how he handles someone with Jelks’s length.
Florida Atlantic CB Shelton Lewis vs. Marshall WR Tyre Brady
Lewis has an intriguing blend of size and athleticism. He will be put to the test on the outside against Brady, who is getting a lot of attention from NFL scouts.
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