2017 NFL Draft: Will This Ohio State Class Shine?

Apr 16, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer reacts during the Ohio State Spring Game at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 16, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer reacts during the Ohio State Spring Game at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

Great day for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The 2016 NFL Draft was special for the Ohio State Program.  Even better was how the key players exceeded expectations as rookies last season.

Will this year’s class make a similar impact?

Their names are not as flashy and their careers not quite as impressive, but make no mistake, these young men are prepared to shine in the NFL.

At Thursday’s Pro Day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the who’s who of NFL coaching were on hand to get a taste of what these guys can do.

They walked away impressed, especially New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton who told Eleven Warriors,

“One thing about an Ohio State football player,” Payton said, “Man, they come ready. … You know you’re getting somebody who has been battle tested. They’re accustomed to winning. They’re accustomed to competing.”

He should know.  He drafted Vonn Bell and Michael Thomas last year and added Ted Ginn, Jr. in free agency earlier this month.  He’s also coached Malcolm Jenkins and Will Smith.

Will Peyton select another Buckeye this year?  Maybe.  The Saints need a cornerback so Marshon Lattimore is a definite target, but it is unlikely he’ll be on the board by the time the Saints pick at 11.

Joining Lattimore in the first round will be fellow secondary teammates Malik Hooker and Gareon Conley.

Hooker’s a Top 10 pick and Conley will fall late. All three should make a run at starting as rookies.

Pat Elflein may not go in the first round, but he’ll be a starter from day one.  He’s a leader and demonstrated tremendous versatility which is coveted in the NFL.

If he lands with a team that loves to run the ball, Elflein has a chance to equal what Taylor Decker did for the Detroit Lions last year.

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The natural comparison for Curtis Samuel is Percy Harvin.  A gifted athlete and playmaker that sits somewhere between wide receiver and running back, but Samuel’s natural fit in the NFL is receiver.

He would be perfect fit for a team like New England.  Then again, what receiver wouldn’t flourish with Tom Brady?  Regardless, with a solid a year coaching, Samuel will take off next year.

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Raekwon Macmillan is a sure second round pick.  Most scouting reports say the same thing, he has the size and toughness to play middle, but may be best suited for the SAM.

Like Samuel, MacMillan will need a year to adjust to the pro game.  If he catches a break and lands with the right team, he may become a starter as a rookie.  My bet is he sits for year and has a breakout year in 2018.

The long shots in this year’s group are Dontre Wilson and Noah Brown. Wilson’s career was up and down due to injuries.  He could make it as a specialist.

Brown has all of the tools to make it in the NFL, but he’ll likely fill a backup role for a couple of seasons and hopefully develop into an average starter by year three.

It may be unfair to compare this draft class, or any, to last year’s class. That’s just how it is at programs like Ohio State.  Expectations are enormous.

I think this class will surprise a lot of people and end up being solid despite not having the superstars.  The difference is it might take a couple of seasons before they make a significant impact.

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Most of these players will have long careers in the NFL barring injury, and that speaks volumes for the work Urban Meyer and his coaching staff are doing to develop NFL ready talent.