You have heard it plenty already: Ohio State is the definition of an NFL factory, one that has only kicked into an even higher gear the last few seasons under Urban Meyer.
The Buckeyes shelled out more NFL Draft picks over the last two seasons (19) than any other program and in all, Meyer's five teams have produced 33 picks during his tenure in Columbus. Since the NFL Draft went to a seven-round format in 1994, the Buckeyes have 147 draft picks — more than any other school. Ohio State saw seven more players get drafted over the weekend in what might become to be known as a "down" year in that regard. After all, numerous potential picks elected to return to school for the 2017 season.
That should only make the team's 2018 NFL class that much more grandiose, with names like Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Billy Price all players who could have made noise in this year's draft had they decided to turn pro. On another scale, those three names and others on Meyer's current team could help the Buckeyes inch closer to rivaling one of the top teams of the early 2000s.
The Miami Hurricanes sent 19 first-round picks to the NFL from 2001-04. That is the most first-round selections over a four-year span since 2000 where a program had at least one top pick every year, the scale we will use for this story. Ohio State had five first rounders in 2016 and three more this past weekend. So in the middle of the four-year span from 2016-19, the Buckeyes trail the Hurricanes by 11 first-round picks.
With a load of talent prime to maneuver itself among the first 32 picks next year — Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Dre'Mont Jones even Damon Webb are names popping up on way-too-early 2018 mock drafts — the opportunity is there for the Buckeyes to catch the Hurricanes. With how Ohio State is recruiting, it might have to shift the four-year span down a few years if high-level talents like Jeffrey Okudah, Shaun Wade, Baron Browning, Chase Young, Wyatt Davis and others pan out the way they are supposed to.
Here are the best four-year stretches for programs exporting first-round talent (at least six picks), starting with the 2000 NFL Draft. Remember: Miami is the benchmark with 19 over that 2001-04 stretch. Such potency has not been replicated since.
|PROGRAM||YEARS||1ST ROUND DRAFT PICKS||NOTES|
|MIAMI (FL)||2001-04||19||2001: four; 2002: five; 2003: four; 2004: six|
|ALABAMA||2011-14||13||2011: four; 2012: four; 2013: three; 2014: two|
|OHIO STATE||2006-09||10||2006: five; 2007: two; 2008: one; 2009: two|
|OHIO STATE||2016-present||8||2016: five; 2017: three; 2018: ? 2019: ?|
|LSU*||2004-09*||7*||2004/05/06: one; 2007: four; 2008: one; 2009: one*|
|TEXAS A&M||2011-14||7||2011: two; 2012: one; 2013: one; 2014: three|
|FLORIDA STATE||2013-16||7||2013: three; 2014: one; 2015: two; 2016: one|
|FLORIDA||2007-10||7||2007: two; 2008: one; 2009: one; 2010: three|
|FLORIDA||2013-16||7||2013: two; 2014: one; 2015: two; 2016: two|
|USC||2003-06||7||2003: two; 2004: one; 2005: two; 2006: two|
|LSU||2011-2014||6||2011: one; 2012: two; 2013: two; 2014: one|
|ALABAMA||2015-present||6||2015: one; 2016: one; 2017: four; 2018: ?|
|TENNESSEE||2007-10||6||2007: two; 2008: one; 2009: one; 2010: two|
|GEORGIA*||2001-05*||6*||2001: two; 2002: one; 2003: two; 2004: one; 2005: two*|
|TEXAS A&M*||2011-17*||6*||2011/12/13: one; 2014: three; 2015/16/17: one*|
|CLEMSON||2014-17||6||2014: one; 2015: two; 2016: one; 2017: two|
Note* — Georgia had six first-round picks over two four-year spans, first from 2001-04 and then also from 2002-05; since those stretches overlap, they are listed together. The same goes for Texas A&M from 2011-17 and LSU from 2004-09 — one can view their four-year stretches differently as long as 2014 is included for the Aggies and 2007 is for the Tigers.
According to our research, a college football program pumped out at least six first-round draft picks over a four-year span 19 times since 2000, if you count the overlaps for Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU as noted above. Like LSU, the University of Florida did it two separate times, first from 2007-10 when seven players went in the first round and again in 2013-16 when seven more came off the board among the first 32 picks (or 31 in 2016).
The NFL talent in the form of top draft picks correlates closely to college football national championships, which makes sense. Miami won the 2001 national title and lost to Ohio State the following year. Alabama won three of four titles from 2009-12, the Buckeyes won in 2014, Florida — under Meyer — snatched the 2006 and 2008 crowns. USC won it all in 2004 and lost to Texas the following year. Florida State bucked the trend of SEC national champions by taking down Auburn to close the 2013 season. And finally, Clemson beat Alabama this past year for the championship.
Ohio State already has the third most among the teams listed, with eight first-round picks over the last two years. That is why Meyer's program has a real chance to not only pass Alabama from 2011-14 (13) over the next two NFL Draft cycles but also at least threaten Miami's absurd 19 first rounder from 2001-04.
- Oklahoma had five first round picks from 2004-07 and then shelled out four in the 2010 NFL Draft alone: quarterback Sam Bradford, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, offensive tackle Trent Williams and tight end Jermaine Gresham. The Sooners have not had a first-round pick since 2013.
- With two first-round picks this year, Michigan now has 11 since 2000.
- Alabama has the longest active streak of years with at least one first-round draft pick, dating back to 2009. Texas A&M is second, dating back to 2011; Florida would hold that record (dating back to 2007) but did not have a first-round pick in 2012.
- 90 different college football programs (FBS, FCS and Division II) have had at least one first-round pick since 2000
- USC has the most first-round picks all-time, with 80. Ohio State is second with 77. Next-closest is Notre Dame, with 66.
- The Trojans had seven first-round draft picks from 2008-09 and could have threatened Miami's total for a four-year stretch. But zero first-round selections in 2007 and 2010 kept that from happening.
- The same goes for Texas. The Longhorns had two first-round picks each in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006 but none in 2003 or 2007 prevented them from making the table above.
What can be gleaned from this data? The college football programs that produce the most first-round NFL talent typically are in the conversation for the national title by season's end. Plus, Ohio State is currently experiencing such success with first-round draft picks that is only rivaled by two schools: Miami (FL) from 2001-04 and Alabama from 2011-14.
The Buckeyes have two more cycles to churn out 11 more first-round picks to catch the Hurricanes. The 2018 class looks mighty strong and with recruiting classes consistently ranked near the top of the country annually, Meyer's program certainly has a shot to catch Miami.