Making the case for Chase Young as the B1G's best NFL Draft prospect of the 21st century
I’m gonna do my best to not let recency bias impact what I’m about to say.
I really am. As hard as it is to pretend like this past season is just as important as 2002, I will do it for the integrity of this argument.
What’s the argument, you ask? Well, if you read the headline, you probably know what it is.
I think Chase Young is the B1G’s best NFL Draft prospect of the 21st century.
Let me explain the criteria here. Obviously we have the benefit of hindsight for past draft prospects. I know that Charles Rogers and Robert Gallery flamed out in the NFL and were 2 of the bigger draft busts of the last 20 years. Again, for the integrity of this argument, I’ll attempt to take that out of the equation. This is about how we valued these players as draft prospects.
Context is needed to make a statement like that. Young isn’t going up against a No. 1 overall pick at quarterback like Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck or John Elway. Well, Joe Burrow might join that group, but for this argument, we’re just focusing on the B1G’s best draft prospects of the 21st century.
In my opinion, you have to have been a top-3 pick in order for that to be a legitimate consideration. If 3 teams passed on a player, it’s fair to say that there was at least 1 legitimate concern about their NFL potential. That could be the position they played, an injury or how they performed in their pre-draft season.
Young, barring something wild, is also going to be a top-3 pick this April. He’ll join this list of the B1G players who came off the board in the first 3 picks in the 21st century:
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As talented as that group is, I can actually pick apart all of those guys in a way that I can’t really with Young.
Part of this is indeed the position that Young plays. In this passing boom era, the ability to rush the quarterback I’d argue is at an all-time high. That gives Young or the Bosas a better argument as a top prospect than someone like Barkley who, as great of a prospect as he was for a tailback, still had major questions by many who argue that no team should draft a running back that high. I could say that same thing about receivers like Edwards and Rogers.
In the 21st century, only 3 positions went No. 1 overall. There were 14 quarterbacks, 4 defensive ends and 2 tackles. That’s what’s valued most at the next level, and if you don’t believe that, go look at any list of the highest-paid players in the last 10 years. By process of elimination via position value, that leaves us with these players to compare to Young:
- Nick Bosa, Ohio State DE
- Joey Bosa, Ohio State DE
- Robert Gallery, Iowa OL
- Joe Thomas, Wisconsin OT
- Courtney Brown, Penn State DE
- Jake Long, Michigan OT
Let’s start with the Bosas.
Most of you remember what the pre-draft criticisms of them were. Nick Bosa shut it down in mid-September of his pre-draft season because of his core-muscle injury. And while Bosa showed that he was healthy at the combine, let’s not forget some of the skepticism that was raised about some of his social media behavior. There were questions about if he’d fit in at a place like San Francisco. Bosa has since shown he was absolutely worth the No. 2 overall pick, but that criticism was there.
Joey Bosa, on the other hand, had to answer the proverbial “why were your pre-draft season numbers so down” thing. He had people questioning his 5 sacks, despite the fact that he’d often see triple teams and still racked up 16 tackles for loss. Fair or not, that’s life as a top prospect. Had Bosa been more can’t-miss, I’d argue that Tennessee and Cleveland would’ve held on to their top-2 picks instead of trading out for teams who wanted to draft a quarterback.
Brown, however, was deemed a worthy No. 1 overall pick. That was in a draft that had 1 quarterback selected in the first 2 rounds, which would just never happen in 2020. With all due respect to Chad Pennington, AKA the lone quarterback who came off the board in those first 2 rounds, but he wasn’t considered the prospect that Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert are.
Back to Brown vs. Young. It, for my money, is the best comparison to make because of the position they played and how they took off in their final college seasons. As incredible a career as Brown had with a then-NCAA record 33 sacks in 4 years, Young finished with 31 in just 3 seasons in Columbus.
The interesting thing, however, was that Young was a unanimous All-American and he won the Bednarik and Nagurski Awards while receiving 4th in the Heisman Trophy voting (he finished 2nd in 1st-place votes). Brown didn’t accomplish any of those things. He didn’t even get a Heisman vote.
Here’s the other interesting note — what do both Young and Brown have in common? Well, besides being physical freaks who were extremely productive college players without an NFL ceiling, they were both coached by Larry Johnson. They’ve been developed in extremely similar fashion. I’d argue that the upside we saw from Young as the best player every time he stepped on the field, was more impressive than Brown, who also had the benefit of playing in the same front 7 as the aforementioned Arrington throughout his career.
Again, this has nothing to do with how Brown turned out in the NFL. Injuries put him in the “bust” category. That’s irrelevant for this argument.
As for the 3 offensive linemen prospects, I’d argue there was at least a fair knock against them that was more noticeable than Young.
Gallery was dubbed a “once-in-a-decade” offensive lineman prospect coming out of Iowa. The fact that he still went No. 2 overall in a draft that had quarterback talent like Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger speaks to that. Even though it was the Raiders, nobody called Gallery a reach. But probably the lone pre-draft knock on Gallery was that there was at least some skepticism about if the converted freshman tight end could play left tackle at the next level. As impressive a physical specimen as he was, he was a touch on the raw side in terms of technique in pass protection.
Thomas was a little bit of the inverse. The technique was never in question like it was with Gallery. The question about him as a prospect was whether he could get a touch bigger. There was skepticism that he might not have the upside of a Hall of Fame guy, but that several Pro Bowls were in his future as a set-it-and-forget-it left tackle (we found out later that his upside was indeed at a Hall of Fame level).
Long was also considered more of a “safe” pick than a high-upside freak like Gallery. Thomas was believed to be a better prospect than the Michigan standout, which proved to be the case. He didn’t earn national individual honors like Young did, either. It was by no means a unanimous No. 1 selection. Long was part of an era that in hindsight, overvalued the tackle position a bit too much at the top of the draft.
What are the pre-draft knocks on Young? That he didn’t play as well in the last few games as Ohio State fans were hoping for? Yeah, go back and watch what he did against Clemson:
Excellent breakdown of Chase Young vs. Clemson pic.twitter.com/6iy3q14p4F
— MyBookie CFB (@MyBookieCFB) March 1, 2020
You could absolutely make the case, like Young did, that he’s the best overall prospect in the draft, but Burrow’s position is valued even more than an edge rusher. That hasn’t been said about B1G players much in the 21st century. He grades out as a 7.4 on the NFL.com’s 8-point scale, which is “perennial All-Pro.” That’s better than both Nick (7.0) and Joey Bosa (6.72). Young actually had the same pre-draft grade as Barkley, but because of the aforementioned position value, Young is a more coveted prospect.
Will Young be drafted No. 1 overall like Brown and Long were? It’s all but certain that won’t happen. A quarterback delivering the best season in college football history will probably be the reason that Young “falls” to No. 2.
Young isn’t just a “safe pick,” nor is he someone with untapped potential. He dominated the game in a way we haven’t seen from a defensive player since Ndamukong Suh. When Ohio State’s Pro Day rolls around, don’t be surprised when Young reminds everyone of that.
It’s definitely not a slam dunk, but for my money, give me Young over any B1G draft prospect in the last 20 years.