Former Ohio State receivers Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jameson Williams drafted early

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch

During spring practice in 2021, Ohio State knew it had an ultra-talented wide receivers unit.

Thursday night revealed just how special it was.

Three players from that position group went in consecutive picks in the first round of the NFL draft.

The New York Jets began the run by taking Garrett Wilson with the 10th pick. New Orleans traded up to pick Chris Olave next, as did the Detroit Lions to select Jameson Williams at No. 12.

Williams wasn’t a Buckeye entering the draft, which only underscores how deep the OSU wide receivers room was a year ago.

Williams started for the Buckeyes in 2020, but the emergence of young receivers such as Jaxon Smith-Njigba caused Williams to transfer after spring practice last year to a school he believed could give him more of an opportunity. He chose that little upstart program in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and blossomed into a game-breaker for the Crimson Tide before tearing an ACL in the national title loss to Georgia.

Ohio State producing star wide receivers is nothing new. But it had been 15 years since Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez in 2007 that OSU had one taken in the first round. Michael Thomas and Terry McLaurin have played like first-rounders, but the Saints took Thomas in the second round in 2016 and Washington picked McLaurin in the third round in 2019.

Entering this year’s draft, Wilson and Olave were considered sure first-rounders, with most analysts expecting Wilson to be taken slightly ahead of Olave.

It turned out that very little separated them. It was a mild surprise that USC's Drake London, picked eighth by Atlanta, was the first receiver selected.

Ohio State receiver Garrett Wilson after being selected as the 10th overall pick by the Jets.

Garrett Wilson to the New York Jets

The Jets picked Wilson to give quarterback Zach Wilson, who was last year’s second overall pick, a prime target.

“It’s a feeling of insane excitement,” Wilson said. “I think (Zach’s) got a lot of talent, especially arm talent. I remember watching his pro day last year, and it was a really good pro day. I feel he approaches the game the right way, and I’m excited to get up there and start getting some reps with Zach.”

Ohio State receiver Chris Olave after being selected as the 11th overall pick by the Saints.

Wilson, who spent six years of his youth living in Dublin before moving to Austin, Texas, caught 143 passes for 2,213 yards and 23 touchdowns in 32 career games with the Buckeyes. Last year, he had 70 receptions for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Blessed with rare body control, Wilson was a slot receiver his first two years as a Buckeye before moving outside last year.

Wilson will be joining a Jets team that has known only futility in recent years. The Jets haven’t made the playoffs in 12 seasons.

“I’m aware of the history, but I want to focus on what’s going to happen now and what’s going to happen this season,” he said. “We have to try to put our best foot forward and build, and that’s what I plan to do.”

Jameson Williams after being selected as the 12th overall pick by the Lions.

Chris Olave to New Orleans Saints

Olave is headed to a team with an established Buckeye connection. In addition to Thomas, the Saints have cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Bradley Roby, tight end Nick Vannett and linebacker Pete Werner.

"They told me in the process they love the Buckeyes," Olave said, "so I know it’s going to be a good fit for me."

A superb route-runner with exceptional speed, Olave set an OSU record with 35 career receiving touchdowns. He caught 176 passes for 2,711 yards as Buckeye.

New Orleans traded its 16th overall pick and its third- and fourth-rounders to Washington to move up to take Olave.

"I had no idea they were going to trade up," Olave said, "and when I got the call after my teammate got selected, that’s when my dreams turned into reality."

It's highly unlikely the Buckeyes will have another 15-year wait between first-round receivers. Smith-Njigba looks to be a lock to be a top pick next year, and sophomores Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka appear on track to follow.

Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at brabinowitz@dispatch.com or on Twitter @brdispatch.

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