How Ohio State Draftees and Signed Free Agents Fall On The Depth Charts Of Their New Teams

By Eric Seger on May 7, 2016 at 7:15 am
Looking at where former Buckeyes fit on the depth charts of their new teams as rookie camps open.

There are a few future starters, a couple expected first season contributors, a wild card and trio fighting for a job.

Welcome to the NFL, rookies.

Ohio State sent 15 players from its 2015 team into the top football league in the world last weekend. Twelve were drafted by nine different teams, while Tyvis Powell, Chase Farris and Jalin Marshall all signed free agent contracts after going undrafted.

Rookie minicamps open this weekend, some starting as early as Thursday but most running through Sunday. The Buckeyes had at least one player selected from every positional group outside of specialists in the 2016 Draft, so a scarlet and gray hue is set to descend across the league when players either attempt to show why they were a first round pick or try to earn a job.

Five players — Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Eli Apple, Taylor Decker and Darron Lee — were first round picks, providing a terrific kickstart to a banner weekend for Urban Meyer's program. They're widely expected to be starters early on in their careers at the next level — it comes with the territory of being a top-20 selection.

Who will they and their teammates compete with for playing time this summer and into training camp ahead of their NFL debuts in September? Let's examine.

Joey Bosa — Defensive Lineman, San Diego Chargers

All the speculation over Bosa's position at the next level sort of went for naught the night of the draft when the Chargers picked him third overall. San Diego stayed put and took the best player they saw available, after Los Angeles and Philadelphia moved up to take quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.

Chargers brass believes Bosa will fit right in with their 3-4 scheme at outside linebacker because they like to show a four-man front on the majority of defensive snaps. He'll battle with Jeremiah Attaochu, Tourek Williams, Melvin Ingram, Kyle Emmanuel and others for time at outside linebacker, but San Diego expects Bosa to start alongside Manti Te'o, Denzel Perryman and Ingram. The Chargers made him their top pick for a reason.

Ezekiel Elliott — Running Back, Dallas Cowboys

Darron McFadden rushed for 1,089 yards in the 2015 season, his first in Dallas. McFadden only found the end zone three times, however, and since he is a free agent following this season, the Cowboys jumped at the chance to take Elliott fourth overall.

With that in mind, it makes sense to think Elliott won't be splitting carries with McFadden too much. Dallas is set to pay McFadden $1.2 million in 2016, however, so he'll get some run. But you don't take a running back in the top-5 of the draft and not expect him to start right away, especially one of Elliott's caliber that can play on every down.

Eli Apple — Cornerback, New York Giants

Apple signed his first professional contract Friday with New York, but he probably won't walk right into MetLife Stadium as its starting corner. Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie is in the third year of a massive five-year contract he signed in 2014 and the Giants signed free agent Janoris Jenkins to a five-year $62 million deal last month.

Eli and Annie Apple

Apple will likely be expected to back up Rodgers-Cromartie or Jenkins but also make an impact in New York's nickel package. Not a bad gig all things considered, especially with two bonafide veterans in place for Apple to learn from as he develops his game.

Taylor Decker — Offensive Tackle, Detroit Lions

Detroit selected Decker 16th overall for one reason and one reason only: to start from Day One. The Lions tallied a league-worst 1,335 rushing yards in 2015 and quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked 44 times. As a result, the franchise knew it had to bolster its offensive line — it started to do that by drafting Decker.

The question is which side of the line will Decker patrol? It looks like he'll land at right tackle, with 2012 first-round draft pick Riley Reiff solidifying himself at left the past few seasons. Incumbent starter Michael Ola, who Detroit claimed off waivers in the middle of last season, will try to fend off the rookie.

Darron Lee — Linebacker, New York Jets

The Jets took Lee with the belief that he'll be a boost to a long dominant defense in the NFL. Led by Darrelle Revis and Sheldon Richardson, the Jets expect to get the type of production from Lee he put forth at Ohio State where he made a host of big plays.

Lee is excellent in space, but it a tad undersized for the prototypical NFL linebacker. However, he is part of a new age at the position with his speed and tenacity. Lee will likely be in the rotation at linebacker with expected starters Erin Henderson, Trevor Reilly, David Harris and Lorenzo Mauldin. He probably won't find his name atop the depth chart to start his career, but don't be mistaken: He'll play plenty in New York his rookie year.

Michael Thomas — Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints

New Orleans cut ties with 10-year veteran wide receiver Marques Colston in February and believe Brandon Coleman is ready to step in as the "big slot" receiver in its pass-happy offense. Thomas fits among the starters on the depth chart with Coleman and Brandin Cooks, though, as a big outside receiver with an outstanding catch radius. Plus, quarterback Drew Brees can never have enough weapons at his disposal.

Brees is among the league's best at spreading the ball around and even though he is near the tail end of his career, he will be wise to look Thomas' way often in 2016. Expect Thomas to produce, provided he stays healthy and shows he has enough speed to make an impact at the next level.

Vonn Bell — Safety, New Orleans Saints

All things considered, it's pretty convenient for both Bell and Thomas that they get to begin their NFL journeys in the same city with nearly the same expectations. Both second-round selections, each guy projects to see the field plenty in New Orleans in their rookie campaigns.

Bell sits behind incumbent starters Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd on the depth chart, both still in the prime of their careers and with at least two years remaining on their current contracts. However, New Orleans allowed a league record 45 passing touchdowns in 2015, so Bell is a sign of a youth movement and the franchise simply looking for bodies to boost the performance of the back end of its defense. Bell made a ton of plays at Ohio State, so he'll see action early as a rookie, whether it be at safety or in various other defensive packages.

Adolphus Washington — Defensive Tackle, Buffalo Bills

Washington and Cardale Jones are a bit like Bell and Thomas in New Orleans in the sense they get to begin their NFL careers with a former teammate in the same city. Washington fits in Buffalo as a rotational player along its defensive line, unlikely to reach the apex of the depth chart at the position behind Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams.

Both Dareus and Williams are looked as integral parts of Buffalo's interior defense, but the latter is 32 years old so the selection of Washington made sense for the future. Dareus signed a monster contract (six years, more than $96 million) last year, so his standing with Buffalo is clear. Washington must be able to play well in the opportunities he's given in 2016, but should get plenty of chances along with other rookie defenders Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland.

Braxton Miller — Wide Receiver, Houston Texans

Houston drafted four offensive players with its first four picks in the 2016 NFL Draft, including a pair of wide receivers in Miller and Notre Dame's Will Fuller. The selection of those two guys made Bill O'Brien's direction clear: He wants more speed on the outside.

Miller has a ton of that and is a shifty player in space. Though he is raw at the receiver position since he is only about a year removed from switching there from quarterback, how Houston weaponizes him in the slot will be key to his development. The Texans have more established wide receivers on roster with DeAndre Hopkins, Cecil Shorts, Keith Mumphery and Fuller, but drafting Miller in the third round means they think he can be an asset with his athleticism. Where they use him remains to be seen, but it makes sense to think he'll get plenty of shots.

Nick Vannett — Tight End, Seattle Seahawks

You probably know the name that sits atop the depth chart in Seattle: Jimmy Graham. Next to New England's Rob Gronkowski, Graham is the toughest matchup in the NFL in the passing game. Though his numbers dropped when New Orleans traded him to Seattle last year, Graham still is Russell Wilson's No. 1 option at tight end.

Vannett also sits behind Luke Willson, who proved to be serviceable in 2015. Still, Seattle brought Vannett in to push him for playing time with Willson entering a contract year. Vannett might not get much time early on, but must stay ready in the event of an injury or lack of production from the guys in front of him.

Joshua Perry — Linebacker, San Diego Chargers

Perry project as an inside linebacker in San Diego's 3-4 scheme, behind Manti Te'o and Denzel Perryman. San Diego drafted him to provide depth in its linebacking corps, which Perry will do admirably.

Perry is likely to cut his teeth on special teams, but don't be surprised if the Chargers try to work him in certain packages during the preseason to see what he can do in the pass rush. His big frame and long arms provide an opportunity for growth in that part of his game, but initially he'll be a backup.

Cardale Jones — Quarterback, Buffalo Bills

Jones is a project, there is no way around it. His head coach, Rex Ryan, said as much on Friday. However, Jones' raw ability and size allows him to have a significant opportunity to make it in the NFL.


The Bills are set at quarterback for the immediate future with Tyrod Taylor as their starter and E.J. Manuel as the No. 2, but the latter has not lived up to his first-round draft status. Taylor is only signed through 2017, so how Jones progresses will go a long way to how Buffalo moves forward with its quarterback situation in the next few years. This is for certain, though: Jones will hold a clipboard and learn for a year as Buffalo's No. 3 quarterback.

Tyvis Powell — Safety, Seattle Seahawks

Powell was no doubt disappointed he went undrafted, but enters and excellent situation in the great northwest. Seattle's secondary of Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner is arguably the best in the league. It isn't getting any younger, however.

Seattle didn't draft any defensive backs, so the fact it signed Powell means he has a chance to prove he could be part of its future in the unit. Powell won't wow you with outstanding athleticism, but he has long limbs, a good frame and a penchant for making big plays. Will that be enough for him to make the roster come fall camp?

Jalin Marshall — Wide Receiver, New York Jets

Marshall enters a wide receivers corps that features a former Buckeye in Devin Smith, someone Marshall said he spoke to often in the pre-draft process. Marshall left after just two years of playing experience at Ohio State, but is in a good spot with the Jets — at least when it comes to special teams.

Marshall served as Ohio State's lead punt returner in 2014 and 2015. That might be his ticket to making an NFL roster. Jeremy Kerley is penciled in as New York's lead returner, but his numbers from 2015 (48 punt returns, 411 yards, no touchdowns) weren't anything special. Can Marshall bump him? We'll find out soon.

Chase Farris — Offensive Lineman, Detroit Lions

Farris is the only player on this list to not receive an invitation to the NFL Combine in February, but he, like Marshall and Powell, signed as an undrafted free agent. Doing so in Detroit puts him up north with former teammate and tackle Taylor Decker.

Farris is projected as a guard in the NFL. The Lions drafted guard Joe Dahl from Washington State and center Graham Glasgow from Michigan to team with Decker as reinforcements on their offensive line. Farris likely will need to beat out Dahl or backup Geoff Schwartz to make Detroit's roster.

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