The final rounds of the NFL draft have not been kind to the Ohio State Buckeyes the past couple of years.
That’s a joke, mostly. The Buckeyes have had so many drafted players early that not many are left for later. A year ago, all 12 of Ohio State’s drafted players went in the first four rounds. Tyvis Powell and Jalin Marshall were not taken but stuck in the NFL as free agents.
The only Buckeye taken Saturday was receiver Noah Brown, chosen by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round with the 239th overall pick. That’s because, like last year, Ohio State’s top prospects were long gone.
Marshon Lattimore (New Orleans), Malik Hooker (Indianapolis) and Gareon Conley (Oakland) were first-round picks Thursday. On Friday, Curtis Samuel (Carolina) and Raekwon McMillan (Miami) were taken in the second round, and Pat Elflein (Minnesota) went in the third.
Brown will be reunited on the Cowboys with former Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year in 2016. Elliott evidently did some lobbying on Brown’s behalf.
“I don’t mind telling you that our No. 1 agent for Noah Brown was Zeke Elliott,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told Dallas reporters.
Brown surprised many by entering the draft after his redshirt sophomore season. He was spectacular against Oklahoma last season when he caught four touchdown passes, including one caught behind a defender’s back. But the rest of the season, he was mostly an afterthought in Ohio State’s inconsistent passing game.
Brown finished the season with 32 catches for 402 yards and seven touchdowns. But after missing the 2015 season with a broken leg, Brown did not want to risk another potentially career-threatening injury in college.
“That was one of the biggest parts of my decision,” he said at the NFL combine. “When I was hurt, I realized how quickly football could be taken away. This is the dream of my childhood. So I decided that with everything I did last year and being injured the year before that, this was the best opportunity.”
Brown was the 31st wide receiver taken.
Soon after the draft, two Buckeyes agreed to terms with teams as a free agent. All-Big Ten punter and Ray Guy Award finalist Cameron Johnston will sign with the Philadelphia Eagles. Receiver Dontre Wilson landed with the Los Angeles Chargers.
With having so many players drafted in 2016 — most with eligibility remaining — Ohio State’s 2017 draft class figured to be relatively small. Elflein was the only senior taken. Even so, only six schools had more players drafted, led by Michigan’s 11.
Next year’s draft should be another Buckeyes bonanza. Ohio State has a strong senior class with players like Tyquan Lewis and Billy Price, and underclassmen such as Sam Hubbard, Jerome Baker and Denzel Ward, among many veterans likely to be coveted if they continue to develop.
Then there are the players who’ve been working in the shadows waiting for their chance. After all, a year ago the outside world knew little about Lattimore or Hooker.