Michigan State vs Ohio State: NFL Talent Everywhere

Saturday, Michigan State and Ohio State will play their long-awaited game. For college football, this matchup has a significant impact on the College Football Playoff, as the two teams have a combined one loss. From the perspective of the NFL, this game is very important as well. How important you ask? Well, an Ohio State spokesman said that 19 NFL scouts have requested credentials for the game. Both the Spartans and the Buckeyes have future first-round picks and starters throughout their roster. Here is a unit by unit look at the players to watch. Expect to hear a lot of these names in April. Michigan State Offense [caption id="attachment_68141" align="alignleft" width="380"]Connor Cook Connor Cook will lead the Spartans in one of the biggest games of his career.[/caption] The prospect that everyone knows from the Spartans' offense is redshirt senior quarterback Connor Cook, who is the consensus top senior signal caller. Facing the Buckeyes' defense will be great for evolution purposes, due to all of the talent they possess. However, he suffered a shoulder injury last week against Maryland that saw him leave the game early. He is expected to be ready to play, but how healthy will he actually be? One thing to note with Cook is that he goes through bouts of inaccuracy. His career-best completion percentage is 58.7. Beyond Cook, Michigan State has three more offensive players to keep an eye on. Left tackle Jack Conklin is a potential first round selection and has steadily protected Cook's blindside for three years. There isn't anything flashy about his game, but, then again, offensive line play isn't flashy to begin with. Up next is center Jack Allen, a likely day three pick. Centers rarely receive much love, but their importance to an offense is well understood. By far the breakout player of Michigan State's season is wide receiver Aaron Burbridge. The 6-foot-1 receiver has caught 65 passes for 1,021 yards and six touchdowns. The senior picked the perfect time to improve his game and he is now firmly on the NFL's radar. Ohio State Offense By far the college team with the most NFL talent right now is Ohio State. Assuming the underclassmen declare, the Buckeyes should dominate the first round of the 2016 draft. On offense, everything starts with electric running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his last 15 games. Easily the most underrated part of playing running back is pass protection, and Elliott is perfect in that area this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Like the Spartans, the Buckeyes have a standout left tackle. Taylor Decker may not end up in round one, but he is going to hear his name called early in the draft. Ohio State saw receiver Devin Smith selected early in the second round last year, but they have an even better receiver prospect this year in Michael Thomas, who possesses a filthy double move. He has 45 receptions for 651 yards and eight touchdowns this year. The other Buckeye receiver is Braxton Miller. The former quarterback has transitioned nicely into his new role thanks to his insane athletic ability. Since he is new to the position, the pre-draft circuit (Senior Bowl, Combine, etc.) will be even more vital to his draft stock. Rounding out the Ohio State offense are two lesser known players. Guard Pat Elflein and tight end Nick Vannett aren't as well known as they other prospects, but they are steady contributors who could come off the board in the middle rounds. Of course, quarterback Cardale Jones is a prospect, but with J.T. Barrett starting, Jones isn't likely to see the field. Michigan State Defense When the Spartans' defense is on the field, you are probably going to be more inclined to watch the previously mentioned players from the Buckeyes' offense. This is because Michigan State features only one defender that is a quality NFL prospect, and that is edge defender Shilique Calhoun. If you feel like the 6-foot-5, 252 pound defensive end has been around for a while, don't worry, you aren't alone. A redshirt senior now, he has been talked about as a potential prospect since he recorded 7.5 sacks as a redshirt sophomore. With 24 career sacks, he has shown he knows how to get after the quarterback. Right now, he is probably a second round pick. [caption id="attachment_68459" align="alignright" width="366"]Joey Bosa Joey Bosa looks to play a big role Saturday[/caption] Ohio State Defense Without a doubt, the best player on the field Saturday will be Buckeyes' defensive end Joey Bosa. The versatile pass rusher is sure to top draft boards come April. He statistics may have fallen this season (4.0 sacks compared to 13.5 as a sophomore), but that isn't because he is playing poorly––it is because offenses are focusing so much attention on him. Alongside Bosa on the Ohio State defensive line is tackle Adolphus Washington, who is likely to be a top 50 selection. He has seven sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss since the start of the 2014 season. The linebacking corps in Columbus features Darron Lee and Joshua Perry, who are both in the discussion to be day two picks. Lee plays strongside linebacker and Perry, whose 124 tackles led the team last year, plays weakside linebacker in the Buckeyes' 4-3 scheme. Moving to the secondary, safety Vonn Bell and cornerback Eli Apple are two prospects to keep an eye on. Like the other defenders listed here, they both could come off the board early. Bell is a playmaker in the backend who led the team with six interceptions during their title run. Per CFB Film Room, Apple has been excellent in coverage in 2015, allowing only 45.5 percent of balls thrown his way to be caught. Like Lee, Apple is only a redshirt sophomore, so he may not declare for the draft. Matt Pearce is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp and is a journalism student at the University of Nebraska. Follow him on Twitter@Matt_Pearce13

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