DBs Rule Once Again For Buckeyes

By Jeff Rapp, May 4th, 2017

Whenever you hear a college football analyst talk about the recent success of the Ohio State football program, invariably the conversation begins with running backs or the development of the offensive line or record-setting quarterbacks or, of course, head coach Urban Meyer.

When the talk shifts to defense, it takes even more time for most onlookers to praise the secondary, even though the Buckeyes have been as loaded as anyone in the country in that area of the field.

On Thursday night in Philadelphia, Ohio State had reason to finally be crowned Defensive Back U.

Not only did the Buckeyes send three players to the first round of the NFL, all of them arrived straight from the OSU secondary. That tied the mark for most at the position in one draft and set records over two drafts with four defensive backs chosen in the first round and three cornerbacks taken overall.

The trio of first-round DB picks, which tied the 2002 Miami Hurricanes – remember them? – developed thusly:

• Cornerback Marshon Lattimore, taken with the 11th overall pick of the draft by the New Orleans Saints;

• Safety Malik Hooker, selected No. 15 overall by the Indianapolis Colts; and

• Cornerback Gareon Conley, who was taken with the 24th pick by the Oakland Raiders.

Recalling that corner Eli Apple was the 10th overall pick of last year’s draft and just completed his rookie season with the New York Giants, Meyer and position coach Kerry Coombs certainly have bragging rights over all all NCAA programs when it comes to farming defensive backs for the pros.

Conley went in the fourth round despite recent rape allegations against him. Hooker was coming off his first full season as a collegiate starter. Lattimore also emerged in 2016 after most analysts labeled Conley as the team’s best cover man going into the season.

Whatever they did on the field and in off-season workouts, scouts certainly came away impressed.

The threesome moved Ohio State’ s first-round total to eight players in the last two seasons. OSU had set a school mark with seven first-round selections combined in the 2006 and 2007 drafts.

Meyer now has produced 19 first-round NFL draft picks in his short time on campus. The program has 77 first-rounders all-time, which trails only USC (80).

It didn’t take a few more Buckeyes long to hear their names called the following night.

Early in the second round, H-back Curtis Samuel became the 40th overall selection when the Carolina Panthers snagged him. Florida State tar running back Dalvin Cook went one pick later to Minnesota. OSU middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan also went in the second at pick No. 54. He’s now property of the Miami Dolphins.

In the third round, the Vikings stayed in offensive mode and tabbed OSU center Pat Elflein with the 70th pick.

On Saturday, Ohio State wide receiver Noah Brown was selected in the seventh round by the Dallas Cowboys to cap a seven-member draft class for a program. He left two seasons of eligibility on the table.

Meyer, who was hired in November 2011, has produced 19 picks the past two seasons and 33 in his five seasons as coach. In his 15 seasons as college head coach, Meyer has seen 69 of his players drafted.

A quick thumbnail on all seven of this year’s draftees follows:

1st Round, No. 11 – CB Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints
Lattimore was a redshirt sophomore who had a terrific 2016 campaign, starting all 13 games and being named first-team all-Big Ten Conference by the league’s coaches. At 6-0 and 192 pounds, Lattimore, from Cleveland, was second on the team with four interceptions and he also contributed 41 tackles and nine pass break-ups for 13 total passes defended on the year.

1st Round, No. 15 – SAF Malik Hooker, Indianapolis Colts
Hooker, from New Castle, Pa., was a unanimous first-team All-American in 2016 as a red-shirt sophomore. He ranked third nationally in interceptions with seven and interception yards with 181, and he was first in the nation with three interception return touchdowns, including a critical 16-yard return for a score in the win over Michigan. The 6-2, 205-pounder ranked third on the team in tackles with 74.

1st Round, No. 24 – CB Gareon Conley, Oakland Raiders
Conley, a 6-0, 195-pound redshirt junior this past season who has already graduated, was named second-team all-Big Ten by the league’s coaches in 2016. He played in 42 games for the Buckeyes and started 27 games at cornerback. A team co-captain from Massillon, Ohio, he ranked second on the team in 2016 with four interceptions and had six for his career along with 15 pass break-ups.

2nd Round, No. 40 – WR Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers
Samuel, from Brooklyn, N.Y., played three seasons with the Buckeyes (40 games and 13 starts) and is the only player in school history with at least 1,000 career rushing and receiving yards (1,286 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns plus 107 receptions for 1,249 yards and nine scores). He was the only player in the nation in 2016 with at least 700 rushing and 700 receiving yards. He was named a first-team All-American (Associated Press & The Sporting News) with 771 rushing yards, eight touchdowns and a 7.9 per carry average, and he also had 865 receiving yards off 74 receptions with seven more touchdowns.

2nd Round, No. 54 – LB Raekwon McMillan, Miami Dolphins
McMillan, a 6-2, 243-pounder from Hinesville, Ga., was Ohio State’s leading tackler the past two seasons with 102 in 2016 and 119 in 2015, and he finished with 270 career tackles, 17 tackles-for-loss and nine pass break-ups. He was a first-team all-Big Ten selection and a second-team All-American as both a sophomore and a junior, and he was a semifinalist for both the Butkus Award and the Lott IMPACT Trophy in 2016. He started 26 games for the Buckeyes, played in 40 and was a team captain in 2016.

3rd Round, No. 70 – C Pat Elflein, Minnesota Vikings
Elflein was a unanimous first-team All-American in 2016 who won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s outstanding center. The 6-3, 300-pounder from Pickerington, Ohio, made the move to center as a fifth-year senior. He played in 55 games, was a three-year starter and finished with 42 starts, including 41 consecutive starts to close his career. He was named all-Big Ten Conference three consecutive years – twice at guard and once at center – and was Big Ten’s Rimington-Pace offensive lineman of the year in 2016. He graduated in May 2016 with his degree in communications.

7th Round, No. 239 – WR Noah Brown, Dallas Cowboys
The 239th overall choice in this draft, Brown played in 28 games for the Buckeyes, 15 as a true freshman in 2014 and 13 in 2016, seasons sandwiched around a leg injury in 2015 that ended his season. Brown started all 13 games for the Buckeyes in 2016 and ranked second on the team with 32 receptions and 402 receiving yards. He shared the team lead with seven receiving touchdowns, including a school record-tying four in the win at Oklahoma, and was named honorable mention all-Big Ten Conference. His career numbers included 33 receptions for 411 yards (12.5 avg.) and seven touchdowns.

The draft was held outdoors this year along the Ben Franklin Parkway near downtown Philadelphia and near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Most NFL First-Round Draft Picks By School
1. USC – 80
2. Ohio State – 77
3. Notre Dame – 67
4. Miami (Fla.) – 63
5. Alabama – 55
6. Florida – 51
7T. Tennessee and Michigan – 45
9. Texas – 44
10. Oklahoma – 42
11T. Florida State and LSU – 41
13. Penn State – 36
14T. Michigan State and Texas A&M – 35
16T. Nebraska and UCLA – 33
18. Georgia – 31
19. Wisconsin – 30
20. Auburn – 29