Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5), linebacker Jerome Baker (17) , Malik Hooker (24) and defensive end Nick Bosa (97) tackle Maryland Terrapins running back Kenneth Goins Jr. (30) during the first quarter of their football game against Maryland Terrapins in College Park, Maryland, November 12, 2016. File photo by Molly Riley/UPI | License Photo
Ohio State junior Jerome Baker, an athletic linebacker with first-round potential, announced Monday he is entering the NFL Draft.
NFLDraftScout.com lists him as the top outside linebacker in the junior class with a first- or second-round grade. Baker, however, was a bit disappointing this season, when he made 72 tackles, including eight for loss and three sacks.
NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang wrote of Baker:
"Quick passes to backs and tight ends are forcing defensive coordinators to find athletic linebackers who can cover with many willing to sacrifice size for speed. Because of this fact, Baker has a chance to earn an early selection.
"That said, one shouldn't have to search for linebackers on tape and all too often that has been the case with Baker. No one denies that he possesses rare athleticism for the position -- including agility and straight-line speed -- but those traits must be complemented by greater awareness and take-on strength if Baker is to live up to the success of the Ohio State linebackers who preceded him."
Baker (6-1, 225) made 83 tackles as a sophomore, including 9.5 for loss and three sacks, and picked off two passes.
His ability to cover, which should be a strength, will be scrutinized as he goes through the draft process.
According to Rang, Baker "fails to consistently provide an initial pop to backs and tight ends, allowing receivers free release and immediate separation in man coverage. Though he is fast enough to recover, Baker too often turns back to steal looks at the quarterback, inexplicably losing track of his coverage responsibilities."
He is the third Ohio State player to leave early this offseason, joining cornerback Denzel Ward and defensive end Sam Hubbard.