Ohio State had 12 players drafted in 2016 and three additional sign undrafted free agent contracts. Those 15 players were all instrumental in the Buckeyes’ success over the last two seasons — a run which included a Big Ten and national championship in 2014.
Five of those players — defensive end Joey Bosa, running back Ezekiel Elliott, cornerback Eli Apple, offensive tackle Taylor Decker and linebacker Darron Lee — were all selected in the first round within the first 20 picks. It was a truly historic night for the Ohio State program.
So as NFL minicamps across the country wrapped up recently, we figured it'd be as good a time as ever to check in and see what was being said about those five former Buckeyes who were selected in the first round as they now wait for their first-ever NFL training camp in August.
Several of these former Ohio State standouts figure to make a big splash as NFL rookies, so let's dive in and see what their professional teams are saying about the Buckeyes' five first-round picks:
Joey Bosa — San Diego Chargers defensive end
The former All-American’s situation is a bit different for the simple fact Bosa skipped the Chargers’ recent minicamp due to ongoing contract negotiations. It’s a situation that has left San Diego general manager Tom Telesco “disappointed.”
“We’re disappointed he’s not here,” Telesco said, via the San Diego Union-Tribune. “This is a big part of the learning process for all players, not just rookies.”
Despite the holdout, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers told CBS Sports he felt the team “nailed” the Bosa selection. Once Bosa finally gets his contract situation figured out, he figures to be a key part of San Diego's defense.
Ezekiel Elliott — Dallas Cowboys running back
If you select a running back in the first round, he had better be an immediate contributor. When you take one with one of the Draft’s top-five picks like the Cowboys did with Elliott, expectations are even higher.
There are already people touting him as the franchise’s next Emmitt Smith and, because of where he was selected, he’s drawing Adrian Peterson comparisons despite being a totally different player. The expectation level is absurdly high.
But Cowboys’ running backs coach Gary Brown is buying into the hype.
Even Gary Brown, Dallas’s running backs coach, couldn’t help himself recently. After describing how the team’s first priority with Elliott is insulating him from unrealistic expectations and unfair pressure, Brown called his newest rusher the most complete rookie back he has ever seen.
“Clearly he’s that. Clearly,” said Brown, himself a former NFL running back. “Run, catch, block — he does it all.”
Eli Apple — New York Giants cornerback
Though Apple was projected as a first-round pick, many believed the Giants selected him a little high with the No. 10 selection. New York, however, wanted to shore up a secondary that finished dead last a season ago in pass defense, allowing just under 300 yards per game through the air.
According to the New York Post, Apple was "turning heads" during minicamp and received a good amount of reps with the Giants' first-team defense as the slot or nickel corner.
“I tried to get my hand on a lot of balls, competing out there,” Apple said, via the Post. “I got a lot of reps with the ones, for sure. It was fun being out there with the ones.”
The Giants may have found themselves an answer in the secondary.
Taylor Decker — Detroit Lions offensive tackle
A mainstay on Ohio State's offensive line for three seasons, Decker was a surefire first-round pick as one of the best tackle prospects in the 2016 class. He didn't travel far for the beginning of his professional career, either, selected by the Detroit Lions with the No. 16 overall selection.
When picked, it was originally thought Decker would be the Lions' starting right tackle. But after strong performances at OTAs that included first-team reps at left tackle, Decker appears to have a real shot to anchor the offensive line at the most important position as a rookie.
“If he’s the best left tackle, then I’d be happy with it,” Lions general manager Bob Quinn said recently, via the Detroit Free Press. "It's going to be a competition amongst a lot of players, so Taylor's definitely right in the mix."
Darron Lee — New York Jets linebacker
There may not be a former Ohio State player with higher upside at the next level than Lee, who will only be in his third season playing the linebacker position. The Jets selected him at No. 20 overall, and he seems to be an instant impact type player who will be one of the league's fastest defensive players at linebacker.
Like Bosa, however, Lee is yet to sign his first contract. There's no rush now, though, as there are several weeks before training camp begins, and the Jets are hoping to ink their first-round linebacker prior to that starting.
Lee is reportedly starting off as an inside linebacker in the Jets' 3-4 defense, but his versatility allows him to play nearly every position.
“He can play as a nickel [linebacker] right now,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said, via The New York Post. “He can grow into a three-down backer as he goes forward. He’s going to make us a lot faster and we can do a lot of things with him. He’s a very good pressure guy, he’s a very good cover guy and he runs sideline to sideline.”