The Ohio State Buckeyes football team has become synonymous with the College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014. With five CFP appearances, two championship game bouts, and one title, the Buckeyes have been among the college football elite alongside Clemson, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Georgia. Ohio State’s success has primarily been attributed to its loaded rosters and NFL talent.
The Buckeyes send their players to the league at a hefty rate, evident by the number of players selected in the NFL draft every year. However, their success has become well documented, especially with current youngster and Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud vying for the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2023. With Stroud a virtual lock for ROY, the Buckeyes are looking at having a representative for the Rookie of the Year Award, offense or defense, six separate times since 2016. So the question begs to be answered: is Ohio State “Rookie U?”
Ohio State may officially be Rookie University.
The Buckeyes might be the BEST program at producing young NFL talent in all of college football.
The 2016 DROY: Joey Bosa (Chargers)
The 2017 DROY: Marshon Lattimore (Saints)
The 2019 DROY: Nick Bosa (49ers)
The 2020 DROY:… pic.twitter.com/vKzFjSjjJl
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) November 14, 2023
Ohio State Buckeyes: First-Round Talent turned NFL Stars
The Ohio State Buckeyes have had plenty of elite talent entering the league, dating back to 2016. San Francisco 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa houses a Defensive Rookie and Player of the Year Awards, while his brother Joey also won DROY in 2016. Meanwhile, Saints corner Marshon Lattimore (2017) and former Commanders defensive lineman Chase Young (2020) also won DROY. On the offensive side of the ball, wideout Garrett Wilson hoisted the Offensive Rookie of the Year after a stellar 2022 campaign, and current first-year player C.J. Stroud has thrown for 2,626 yards and 15 touchdowns against two picks in nine games this season.
The Buckeyes have also had many household names come through the NFL with massive success despite winning little to no hardware. Cleveland cornerback Denzel Ward and New England running back Ezekiel Elliot have earned multiple Pro Bowl nods as first-round picks. At the same time, defensive back Eli Apple and offensive tackle Taylor Decker have carved out successful NFL careers.
Buckeyes wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. could lead the next crop of successful Ohio State players in the NFL. The star expects to hear his name called early in the first round of the 2024 NFL draft.
Buckeyes Struggling to Live Up to the Hype
However, some highly touted Ohio State Buckeyes products have failed to meet their first-round expectations. Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is the highest-profile Buckeye to post lackluster numbers in the professional ranks. The third-year pro has thrown just 35 touchdowns to 27 interceptions in 33 games. He has compiled a 6-25 record as a starting quarterback while registering a lowly 82.3 rating. However, some caveats favor Fields, mainly playing for the dysfunctional Chicago organization. Another is that he ran for 1,100 yards in 2022.
The 2020 NFL draft featured two Buckeyes selected in the first round with iffy careers. Edge rusher Chase Young and corner Jeff Okudah. While Young won Defensive Rookie of the Year, injuries derailed his career from 2021-2022. The former Washington Commander now suits up for the San Francisco 49ers while attempting to regain his elite form. The same could also be said about Okudah, who played in just ten games over his first two seasons and has been steadily declining.
Dwayne Haskins, Gareon Conley, and Darron Lee are another trio of Ohio State Buckeyes to sour on their first-round value. Haskins threw 12 touchdowns against 14 picks before he died in 2022, while Conley played just three years in the NFL. Meanwhile, Lee bounced around the league while injuries and off-the-field issues took a hit on his career.
Alabama Crimson Tide: Really “Rookie U?”
The Alabama Crimson Tide has a rightful claim for being considered ‘Rookie U.” Current first-year play Jahmyr Gibbs has looked the part running the ball for the Detroit Lions. At the same time, linebacker Will Anderson Jr., the third overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, has spearheaded the Texans’ turnaround on defense. The Crimson Tide have also produced Patrick Surtain, Josh Jacobs, Marlon Humphrey, Jonathan Allen, Quinnen Williams, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tua Tagovailoa, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, and Calvin Ridley as first-rounders since 2016.
However, like the Ohio State Buckeyes, they have had their fair share of swing-and-miss. Quarterback Mac Jones has faltered since his first season, running back Najee Harris remains an inefficient option for Pittsburgh, Henry Ruggs is in prison, and O.J. Howard never lived up to the hype as a first-round tight end.