The 2016 NFL Draft at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre is set to have significant Ohio State flavor to it.
The Buckeyes sent more players to the NFL Combine in late February (14) than any other team, and five top players from Urban Meyer's program are scheduled to attend the draft as presumed first-round selections. Defensive lineman Joey Bosa, running back Ezekiel Elliott, cornerback Eli Apple, offensive tackle Taylor Decker and linebacker Darron Lee all accepted invitations to the draft, which opens April 28, the league announced Tuesday.
Bosa, Elliott, Apple, Decker and Lee are five of 25 players the league invited to Chicago to learn their draft fates, more than any other school. Ole Miss is second with three. The five invitations from one program ties a record set by Alabama in 2012.
The five Buckeyes (four of whom left Ohio State with eligibility remaining) are all projected top-25 picks in the eyes of most draft analysts, making their invitations all the more expected. Bosa and Elliott could even come off the board in the top 10.
Bosa, a two-time All-American and two-time Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, tallied 26.0 sacks in his three seasons in Columbus, good for third in program history. He earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2014, when he came within a half-sack of tying Vernon Gholston's record 14 quarterback takedowns in a single season.
Elliott won the 2015 Chicago Tribune Silver Football and the Big Ten named him its player and running back of the year following his 1,821-yard, 23-touchdown junior season. He was the straw that stirred the drink to Ohio State's offense last season, as the Buckeyes figured out their quarterback situation and is widely considered the best prospect at his position.
Lee exploded onto the scene his redshirt freshman season in 2014, when he recorded 7.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss, both second on the team behind Bosa. He added 11.0 more tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks in 2015, and finished his brief Ohio State career with three defensive touchdowns — two fumble returns and a pick-six this past fall against Northern Illinois.
Apple's name shot up draft boards before, during and after the NFL Combine, when he displayed excellent speed (4.40-second 40-yard dash) and strong ball skills. He, like Lee, only contributed to the Buckeyes for two seasons after redshirting in 2013 but made quite an impact. Opposing offenses didn't throw his way much last season, but he still finished second on the team with eight passes broken up. Apple ended his Buckeye career with 86 tackles, 18 passes defended, four interceptions, one forced fumble and returned a fumble for a touchdown in 2014 during Ohio State's win against Rutgers.
The lone senior Buckeye set to attend the draft, Decker was named the 2015 Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year in the Big Ten. Decker was a three-year starter for Meyer, beginning his career at right tackle as a sophomore before flipping to left to anchor the line his final two seasons. Decker served as a team captain in 2015.
Meyer is also set to attend the Draft, according to the NFL.
|CB Eli Apple, Ohio State||OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State||CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida||S Keanu Neal, Florida||DT A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama|
|DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State||WR Josh Doctson, TCU||LB Myles Jack, UCLA||DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss||OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame|
|DT Vernon Butler, LA Tech||DE Kevin Dodd, Clemson||DT Chris Jones, Mississippi State||LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama||WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss|
|WR Corey Coleman, Baylor||RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State||DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson||CB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State||OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss|
|OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State||QB Jared Goff, California||LB Darron Lee, Ohio State||DT Jarran Reed, Alabama||QB Carson Wentz, NDSU|
Coaches who accepted an invitation:
- Art Briles, Baylor
- Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
- Sonny Dykes, California
- Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
- Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
- Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
- Chris Klieman, North Dakota State
- Urban Meyer, Ohio State
- Jim Mora, UCLA
- Gary Patterson, Texas Christian
- Nick Saban, Alabama
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson