A Look Back at the Five First-Round Cornerbacks Kerry Coombs Developed at Ohio State

By Kevin Harrish on January 21, 2020 at 3:25 pm
Five first-round picks.

During Kerry Coombs' last stint in Columbus, Ohio State was just cranking out first-round corners.

In Coombs' six seasons in Columbus, the Buckeyes had five cornerbacks selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, three of which were selected among the top-11 picks.

With Coombs now returning to Columbus, we take a look back at the careers of Coombs' five first-round picks – Bradley Roby, Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward.

Bradley Roby – Pick #31 – Denver Broncos – 2014

Even though Bradley Roby began his career as a starter the season before Kerry Coombs arrived in Columbus, he became one of the top corners in the country under Coombs' tutelage.

A three-star prospect coming out of high school, Roby redshirted in 2010 before starting all 13 games his redshirt freshman season in 2011. In 2012, he became one of the nation's top corners, earning second-team All-American honors after leading the country in passes defended. Roby returned for his fourth season in 2013, and finished 69 tackles, 16 passes defended, three interceptions and two blocked punts.

Roby was selected by the Denver Broncos with the 31st overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He played five seasons in Denver, starting 29 games and winning the Super Bowl in 2015. In 2019, Roby signed with the Houston Texans, where he started every game he was healthy.

Eli Apple – Pick #10 – New York Giants – 2016

Eli Apple came to Ohio State as the No. 52 player in the 2013 class, but redshirted his initial season on campus. His second season, Apple emerged as a starter at cornerback opposite of senior Doran Grant and was a crucial part of the team's national championship run, finishing the season with a team-high 10 pass defenses along with three interceptions and 53 total tackles.

In his third season in 2015, Apple was regarded as one of the top cover cornerbacks in the country and finished the season with seven pass breakups and one interception. He was also named the defensive MVP of the team's 2016 Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame.

Apple was one of Ohio State's five first-round picks in the 2015 draft as he was selected by the New York Giants with the No. 10 overall pick. Apple emerged as a starter just five games into his rookie season but was ultimately traded to the New Orleans Saints after some off-field drama in New York. Apple has started every game since he's been a member of the Saints.

Marshon Lattimore – Pick #11 – New Orleans Saints – 2017

Marshon Lattimore was the No. 55 prospect in the country coming out of high school, but didn't see regular meaningful action until the 2016 season due to lingering leg injuries.

In that 2016 season, Lattimore emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the country in one of the most dominant Ohio State secondaries of all time. Playing opposite of Gareon Conley and also in rotation with Denzel Ward, Lattimore had four interceptions and tied for the team lead with nine pass defenses.

Lattimore was selected No. 11 overall by the New Orleans Saints and continued his upward trend in the NFL as he was named the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and made the Pro Bowl in both 2017 and 2019.

Gareon Conley – Pick #24 – Oakland Raiders – 2017

Coming out of high school, Gareon Conely was a four-star prospect rated No. 153 in the nation. After redshirting his first season on campus, Conley was a regular contributor for the 2014 national championship team, seeing action in all 15 games as a reserve player.

In 2015, Conely became a regular starter opposite of Eli Apple, starting all 13 games and finishing with 49 tackles and two interceptions and five passes defended. In 2016, Conley started opposite of Marshon Lattimore and in rotation with Denzel Ward as part of what would go down as one of the most dominant Buckeye secondaries of all time. That season, Conley had four interceptions and eight pass defenses.

Conley was selected with the No. 24 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. After his rookie season was cut short after just two games due to injury, Conley emerged as a starter the following season and started most games in 2018 and 2019.

Denzel Ward – Pick #4 – Cleveland Browns – 2018

The last of the Kerry Coombs' coached first-round picks at Ohio State was also the one selected highest in the NFL Draft.

Denzel Ward arrived at Ohio State as a four-star prospect ranked No. 270 in the nation and played sparingly as a true freshman. As a sophomore, Ward was part of Ohio State's cornerback rotation, seeing essentially equal snaps as 2017 first-round picks Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore despite never officially getting the start. Ward finished the season tied with Lattimore for the team lead in pass defenses.

As a junior, Ward emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the country and finished the 2017 season with two interceptions along with a team-high 15 pass defenses and was named a consensus All-American.

Ward was the No. 4 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns following the season and was named to the 2018 Pro Bowl as a rookie.

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