Emeka Egbuka returns to Ohio State — can he fix NFL Draft stock?

Ohio State fans received great news on Thursday morning, as star wideout Emeka Egbuka announced his return to the program. After a down year in Columbus, Egbuka has a chance to reignite his NFL Draft stock with a strong showing in 2024.
Nov 18, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Emeka Egbuka (2) celebrates a
Nov 18, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Emeka Egbuka (2) celebrates a / Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA

Ohio State is on a three-game losing streak to bitter rivals Michigan, the longest skid since 1995-1997. It doesn’t help that Buckeye fans watched the Wolverines hoist a National Championship trophy earlier this week. But the one good outcome is that current players, including Emeka Egbuka, are willing to wait on the NFL Draft for a shot at redemption.

Emeka Egbuka Waits On NFL Draft, Returns To Ohio State

Egbuka was a highly-coveted wide receiver out of high school. He garnered a four-star rating via ESPN and ultimately chose Ohio State as his landing spot. Following a breakout 2021 campaign, the crafty wideout began hearing his name amongst the elite of the elite at the position.

Unfortunately, the 2023 season arrived, and with that came the departure of quarterback C.J. Stroud. In stepped Kyle McCord as the replacement behind center, resulting in much more inconsistency for the offense. Egbuka suffered from such tumultuous play.

Furthermore, the Dupont, Washington native dealt with nagging injuries for most of the slate. He missed action for a few games, and even in the contests he was present, it was clear that quarterback play and injury weighed Egbuka down.

Positives From Egbuka’s Tape

At 6-foot-1 and checking in at 206 pounds, the Ohio State star passes the eye test in terms of size. On tape, Egbuka is a crafty route runner with sure hands, typically thriving from the slot where he gets free release off the line of scrimmage. He is a willing blocker and uses his strength to impact the game in this area.

Egbuka flexes an expansive route tree with superb footwork, allowing for easy separation more often than not. An underrated part of his game is the knack for finding an open area in zone coverage, sitting down in it, and giving his quarterback a big target. He’s a true safety valve in an offense.

Negatives From Egbuka’s Tape

But, as many positives as there are in his game film, there are a couple of areas he falls short in. First, athleticism. Don’t get me wrong, Egbuka isn’t some scrub as an athlete, but his top gear is noticeably lacking. Plus, he is not very creative after the catch due to good-not-great short-area agility.

There were also instances on tape of Egbuka taking plays off. The motor was never an issue before this season, so hopefully, it’s nothing more than a symptom of his injuries in 2023. Either way, he will have a chance to redeem himself in more ways than one next season.

Not only against Michigan, a team he’s never beaten during his time in Columbus, but Egbuka also gets a chance to make up some lost money by regaining first-round status. If the Buckeye standout declared this draft cycle, he would have had an uphill climb to hearing his name on Day 1. A stacked class paired with a down year was not a recipe for success at the NFL Draft.

A Shot At Redemption For Ohio State, Egbuka In 2024

Emeka Egbuka carried a late second-round grade on NFLMocks’ current Big Board. Lack of elite top speed, profiling as a slot-only receiver, and his lack of explosiveness with the ball in tow are the leading reasons why. These aren’t the easiest areas to improve in, but Egbuka now has a chance to do so.

Ohio State recently brought in quarterback Will Howard from the transfer portal, signifying a major upgrade from Kyle McCord. While Howard will never be confused with C.J. Stroud, the former Kansas State star can better utilize Egbuka’s skillset, akin to what Stroud was able to do in 2021.

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