COLUMBUS - Two months ago, Ohio State's Santonio Holmes was considered a top-10 pick in the NFL draft.
He was expected to be the first wide receiver taken on April 29.
But Holmes (5-foot-10 1/2, 186 pounds) has slipped a bit since then on most draft boards. He has been passed by Florida wideout Chad Jackson (6-1, 213), who is bigger and quicker.
Jackson was the fastest offensive player at the NFL scouting combine in February. He surprised even himself by running the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds.
Holmes ran in the mid-4.3s at Ohio State's pro day last month. He, Jackson and Miami's Sinorice Moss are the strongest receivers at a relatively weak position in this draft.
One analyst has Holmes going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 23rd pick of the first round; another has the Chicago Bears choosing him 26th.
Holmes, who described himself as an "all-around playmaker, one of the best wide receivers possibly in the game right now," will be happy wherever he ends up.
He is eager to start his pro career and show off his skills.
"That was my reason for going to Ohio State, to be one of those top guys chosen," Holmes said.
Holmes, from Belle Glade, Fla., was thrust into a starting role with the Buckeyes midway through the 2003 season when Drew Carter went down with a season-ending knee injury.
Holmes has been the team's go-to guy the last two seasons.
He had a team-high 53 catches for 977 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He snagged a TD pass in the regular-season finale against hated Michigan and grabbed five passes for 124 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.
Seconds after that game ended, Holmes announced he was bypassing his senior year to enter the NFL draft.
He closed out his career as the fifth-leading receiver in Ohio State history with 141 receptions. His 25 touchdown catches and 2,295 receiving yards both rank third in school history.
Holmes, who averaged 16.3 yards per catch the last three seasons, said his decision to leave school early was easy.
He needed a security blanket for his ever-growing family - sons Santonio II (3) and Nicori (1) and daughter Saniya, who was born on Valentine's Day - and jumped at the opportunity to earn millions.
"Knowing I have three kids to take care of, I want them to have a dad, something I didn't have," Holmes said. "I want to be there to support them. My mom was always a single parent raising four kids. I really want to support my mom."
Holmes, who redshirted in 2002, originally considered turning pro after his sophomore season. But after being told that he would be the fourth or fifth-best receiver in a deep class, he called an audible and dashed back to the Buckeyes.
NFL scouts and general managers like Holmes' hands, his blocking ability and his production.
But some questioned his route-running ability in college and wonder if he'll be able to fight his way off the line of scrimmage.
Holmes shrugged off the criticisms.
He points to his boyhood hero, future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, for inspiration.
"He wasn't the fastest guy ever," Holmes said. "He's the type of guy that wouldn't let anybody outwork him."
Holmes plans to follow a similar blueprint.
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