Looking at the Former Buckeyes Who Have Made an Instant Impact in the NFL

By David Regimbal on February 3, 2020 at 2:50 pm
Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa
© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State has a long history of sending players the NFL, but that pipeline has surged with Urban Meyer and Ryan Day at the helm. 

Over the last five NFL drafts, a staggering 40 former Buckeyes have heard their names called. Twelve of those 40 selections came in the first round and another seven came in the second, meaning nearly half of those draftees were high-round picks.

That means the former Ohio State players enter the league with both talent and potential, and over the course of the past five years, many of those Buckeyes are delivering drastically positive results at an early stage in their careers.

That group includes league leaders in rushing and receiving, shutdown defensive backs and // gestures vaguely // Bosas.

It's harder to appreciate Buckeye efforts when they're not contributing to an Ohio State stat sheet, but it's truly remarkable to look at the output of these players and how much impact they're having for their new teams.

The Firepower 

Michael Thomas was overlooked in the draft.

After he was criminally underutilized at Ohio State, teams with a big need at wide receiver found reasons to pass on the former Buckeye. Five teams drafted wideouts before Thomas was taken by New Orleans late in the second round — Cleveland took Corey Coleman with the 15th overall pick (kill me aggressively), Houston, Washington and Minnesota took Will Fuller, Josh Doctson and Laquon Treadwell at 21, 22 and 23 and the New York Giants selected Sterling Shepard midway through the second round.

None of those wideouts became more than second-tier options, while Thomas has flourished as the most productive receiver in the league.

The former Buckeye holds the NFL record for most receptions through his first four seasons with 470, and in 2019, he set the record for receptions in a single season with 149.

West of New Orleans in Dallas, Ezekiel Elliott has anchored the Cowboys offense in most of his four season in the league. He led the league in rushing yards in his rookie season and again in 2018, and he's averaging 130 yards of total offense to complement 48 career touchdowns.

Other offensive standouts like wideouts Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel and quarterback Dwayne Haskins made an early splash and are projected to have solid NFL careers ahead of them.

The Ballhawks 

The wave of secondary playmakers Ohio State has sent to the league in recent years is enormous.

Denzel Ward has become the star of Cleveland's secondary. As a rookie in 2018, he burst onto the scene by picking off a pair of Ben Roethlisberger in his NFL debut. He finished his rookie season with 44 tackles, 11 passes defended and three interceptions while earning an invite to the Pro Bowl.

A year before Ward was drafted, Marshon Lattimore came into the league after New Orleans selected him 11th overall in the 2017 NFL draft. He started for the Saints out of the gate and thrived, totaling 52 tackles, 18 passes defended and five interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown). He was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017 and made the Pro Bowl in both '17 and 2019.

The Bears

The Bosa brothers anchored Ohio State's defensive line during their collegiate careers, and during their young professional careers, they're doing the same for the Los Angeles Chargers and San Francisco.

Joey Bosa was drafted third overall by the Chargers in 2016, and his game translated perfectly to the next level. In his first season, he played in just 12 games but registered 10.5 sacks and 41 total tackles. He was named to the Pro Bowl in the 2017 and 2019 seasons and likely would've made it again in 2018, if not for a foot injury that cost him most of his season. But since his rookie campaign he's played in 51 games and has 40 total sacks.

Younger brother Nick Bosa had a similar fast start in the league. Selected No. 2 overall by the 49ers in last year's draft, he piled up 47 tackles, nine sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception. He saved his best for last, however, registering four sacks in San Francisco's postseason run, and he was all over the field during the Super Bowl Sunday night.

Both Bosa brothers were named Defensive Rookie of the Year. 

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