What a run it has been for the Ohio State football program when it comes to sending players to the NFL.
In each of the last seven years, at least one Ohio State product has been taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. It started with five former Buckeyes going in the first 20 picks in the 2016 draft. There have been 18 first-round picks since 2016 and that doesn’t count players who transferred out of Columbus and were drafted from another program. That was the case with 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow.
There are plenty of former Ohio State players showing up as top contenders for NFL individual awards. Receiver Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints is about to remind people why he is considered one of the most sure-handed pass catches in the NFL. According to the NFL picks, he is tied for fifth at +1000 in the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Odds. Washington defensive end Chase Young comes in 11th at +1400 on that list.
Here’s a breakdown of the storylines involving Ohio State products currently in the NFL.
Best Position – Defensive Line
Even if this list stopped at the Bosa brothers, that would be enough to push the defensive line to the head of the class.
When you add in Chase Young, Sam Hubbard and Jonathon Cooper, among others, that brings the number of sacks from Ohio State products over 40 during the 2021 season. It seems more than likely that sack number will increase in 2022.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) July 29, 2022
Beginning with Joey Bosa going third overall in 2016 to the Los Angeles Chargers, who were playing in San Diego at that time, there were three Ohio State pass rushers who were top-three selections in a span of five drafts. Nick Bosa was the second selection by San Francisco in 2019 and Young went second overall to Washington the following year.
According to the NFL betting lines, Nick Bosa (+1100) is fifth in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds, followed closely by his older brother Joey and Young at +2000.
Not all the standout linemen are among the first defensive players selected in their draft year.
Cooper was a seventh-round pick in 2021 who outplayed many of those in his position group drafted ahead of him, while 2020 third-round selection DaVon Hamilton and 2019 third-rounder Dre’Mont Jones are worth keeping an eye on. Hubbard, also a third-round pick, has the second most sacks among the players drafted in 2018. Based on the track record of Ohio State linemen heading into the NFL, keep an eye on Seattle Seahawks fifth-round selection Tyreke Smith to see if he outperforms his draft position.
Skill Positions Well Stocked
Imagine being able to put out an offense featuring quarterback Justin Field, running backs Ezekiel Elliott, JK Dobbins and Trey Sermon along with Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell and Michael Thomas at receiver. The tight end position isn’t quite as strong as the other skill positions but perhaps that will change thanks to the arrival of New York Jets rookie Jeremy Ruckert.
Speaking of rookies, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave were the second and third receivers taken in the 2022 NFL Draft according to the NFL predictions. Curtis Samuel of the Washington Commanders is another receiver out of Ohio State who could deliver in 2022.
Wilson (+850) is third among receivers in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds with Olave coming in fifth at +1000.
Shutting Down Opposition is No Problem
There must have been some unforgettable receiver/cornerback matchups at Ohio State practices.
Marshon Lattimore was taken 11th by the New Orleans Saints in 2017 and the Cleveland Browns made Denzel Ward the fourth selection the following year.
If both corners played on the same team, it would be a nightmare for receivers to try to get much done. While some of the other cornerbacks from Ohio State selected early haven’t been as productive as expected, that is easy to overlook when Lattimore and Ward lead the list of former Ohio State cornerbacks.
Safety Jordan Fuller is another talented defensive back to come out of Ohio State. The jury is still out on Jeff Okudah, the third overall selection in 2020.
Looking into the Future
- Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers DE: Being limited to just two games due to injury in his second NFL season hasn’t slowed Bosa’s ascension as one of the best defensive players in the NFL. He broke out with 15½ sacks in 17 games in 2021 and that could be just the start.
- Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns CB: There is a lot of dysfunction within the Cleveland Browns. However, it is hard to find much fault with Ward. He has 10 interceptions in his first four seasons. He has allowed passing ratings of 72.8, 62.2, 78.3 and 76.6 in his time in the NFL while allowing completions on just 53.3% of the passes when he is the primary defender.
- Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders WR: One could only imagine the numbers McLaurin would put up with even average quarterback play. He’s had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Perhaps the addition of rookie receiver Jahan Dotson will open up even more room for the reliable McLaurin to work.
- Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints CB: The numbers weren’t quite as impressive over the last two seasons than during Lattimore’s brilliant 2019 campaign. However, he has allowed just 53.6% of the passes against him to be completed over the last three seasons playing in a division loaded with talented receivers.
- Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers DE/LB: The thought of Bosa teaming with Khalil Mack must be making AFC West offensive coaches a tad bit anxious.
The 27-year-old Bosa already has four seasons with at least 10 sacks. Had he not been limited to seven games in 2018 and 12 in 2020, that number would probably be at six.
The four-time Pro Bowler is not just a pass rusher. He registered 54 solo tackles in 2017 and 47 in 2019.
Quarterback C.J. Stroud is not only listed by the sportsbook as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, but he is vying with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young to be the top player selected in the 2023 draft. The last time a player out of Ohio State went first overall came in 1997, when the Rams took offensive tackle Orlando Pace.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba could be the first receiver selected in the next draft. Keep an eye on offensive lineman Paris Johnson as he moves from right guard to left tackle. Teams will need to wait a little bit for star running back TreVeyon Henderson considering that he just completed his true freshman season.