Ranking the Top-10 Former Ohio State Players Currently Playing in the NFL

By Kevin Harrish on July 2, 2017 at 7:15 am
Joey Bosa is quickly becoming one of the top players in the NFL.
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Lately, Ohio State has been pumping players to the next level like an NFL factory.

The past two years, 19 former Buckeyes have been selected in the NFL Draft, with eight of those players being taken in the first round. Ohio State alums are flooding NFL rosters. Last season alone, over 35 former Buckeyes played an NFL snap.

We decided to try to make a little sense of all that talent by putting together a top-10 list of former Buckeyes currently playing in the NFL. So if you wondered what you missed last year, want a little preview of next year or simply need a reason to think about football in early July, here's something to keep you going.

10. The Slobs

I'm going to be honest, I haven't seen enough games nor am I a good enough at evaluator of offensive line talent to accurately rank the former Ohio State offensive linemen currently playing in the NFL, especially when I'm also doing it against skill players.

There are a slew of former Buckeyes owning the trenches in the NFL, and quite a few of them should probably be pretty high on this list, but for simplicities sake, just going to give them all a shoutout here at No. 10.

Andrew Norwell, Taylor Decker, Corey Linsley, Jack Mewhort and Alex Boone were all starters during the 2016-17 season. You could make an entire starting NFL offensive line with former Buckeyes. That's pretty impressive.

9. Carlos Hyde

Carlos Hyde's NFL career has been injury-plagued, and the 2016-17 season was no different. The former Buckeye bruiser appeared in just 13 games during the season, but he flashed his potential, especially early on.

Through week four, Hyde led the NFL in rushing touchdowns with five scores to his name. He also managed to finish the season with 988 rushing yards and 1151 total yards from scrimmage.

If he was able to stay healthy, El Guapo would be a hot commodity for any NFL team.

8. Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor has played wide receiver for exactly one season, but here's the thing, it was one damn good season.

Pryor was legitimately the Browns' best, and sometimes only offensive threat throughout the 2016-17 season. Defenses knew that, and Pryor still put up 1,007 receiving yards with four touchdowns.

It's possible Pryor's 2016-17 performance was a fluke or a one-off and he's going to disappear on a new team, but I don't think that will be the case. He's a freak athlete who looked more like a natural receiver last season than some players who've played receiver their entire football careers.

If anything, I'm worried that No. 8 is far too low of a ranking for for Pryor, but look at it this way: it gives him a chance to prove somebody else wrong.

7. Bradley Roby

Bradley Roby is a situational-type cornerback in Denver, meaning he's not necessarily a starter and isn't on the field every play. That doesn't mean he isn't great at what he does.

Roby has been fantastic in man-to-man coverage, defending an average of 10.6 passes a season since his arrival in the league. He sticks to his men in coverage, plays the ball nicely and is even great after the catch is made.

He also had two pick sixes during the 2016-17 season, which was tied with fellow Buckeye Malcolm Jenkins for the most in the NFL.

6. Kurt Coleman

Since his arrival in Carolina in 2015, Kurt Coleman has been one of the NFL's top ball hawks.

During the 2015 season, Coleman led the team in interceptions with seven, which was also good for second-best in the NFL. He picked up right where he left off in 2016, picking off four passes and returning one for a touchdown.

Coleman also finished the season with 65 total tackles and forced one fumble. He'll look to be a vital part of the Panthers secondary this upcoming season.

5. Michael Thomas

If not for two of his former teammates, Michael Thomas may have had a case for rookie of the year.

Thomas led all rookies in receptions (92), receiving yards (1,137), touchdowns (9) and catches of 20+ yards (18) despite being just the sixth wide receiver taken in the NFL Draft.

Thomas' rookie season was so good that Football Insiders called it the best rookie season of any wide receiver since Randy Moss – which is pretty good company. And it wasn't just dump passes or slants, Thomas proved to be a reliable downfield receiver, and was statistically one of the best deep threats in the NFL.

Looks like you really can't guard Mike, after all.

4. Ryan Shazier

Ryan Shazier has been hampered by injuries for most of his NFL career, but when he's healthy he's a scary, scary human.

Shazier finished the 2016-17 season with 55 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. But it wasn't all bashing and smashing, the former Buckeye also showed off some coverage skills. He intercepted three passes during the season, including two at clutch moments in the playoffs.

Also, he has a thing for warming up shirtless in below-freezing temperatures, which earns him considerable tough-guy points and boosts him on this list.

3. Malcolm Jenkins

Malcolm Jenkins is the best Buckeye defensive back in the league right now.

The former Buckeye cornerback turned NFL safety turned into quite the ball hawk during the 2016-17 season, intercepting three passes. However, it wasn't the interceptions themselves that were so impressive, but rather what he did with them once he caught them.

Jenkins returned two interceptions for touchdowns last season, leading the league in pick-sixes. He also had nine passes defended throughout the season and finished the year with one sack.

Jenkins was one of just three players to be voted into the NFL's top 100 players, joining Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliott on the list.

2. Joey Bosa

It's hard to justify ranking a rookie this high on this list, especially when that rookie missing 25 percent of his first season in the NFL. But Joey Bosa absolutely earned this spot.

Playing just 12 games during his rookie season, Bosa led all rookies in sacks with 10.5, coming just four shy of the rookie sack record. He also had the league's second-most sacks per game, behind only Atlanta's Vic Beasley.

Even when he wasn't getting to the quarterback, Bosa was affecting the play. The rookie had more quarterback pressures in his first 12 games than any player of the past 11 years.

It's no wonder he was the defensive rookie of the year.

1. Ezekiel Elliott

This one is not that hard. After just one season in the NFL, Ezekiel Elliott is already one of the best, if not the best running back in the league.

In his rookie season, Elliott was the NFL's leading rusher, racking up 1,631 yards on 322 carries, just shy of Erick Dickerson's rookie rushing record of 1,808. He also led the league in rushes for over 20 yards and accounted for more first downs than anyone else in the NFL.

Just last week, the NFL players voted Elliott the league's top running back, and the No. 7 player overall. Even if he suffers some sort of sophomore slump, Elliott still figures to be one of the top players in the NFL during the 2017-18 season and is an obvious choice for No. 1 on this list.

The fun thing is, a year from now this list could look completely different. With a new crop of rookies entering the NFL and last season's newcomers still developing, we may see some new Buckeyes emerge as superstars this upcoming season.

We'll just have to wait and see.

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