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Ohio State's 5 Best NFL Draft Picks in the Urban Meyer Era

Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas

Congratulations to the seven Ohio State Buckeyes who were recently selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. Urban Meyer was named Ohio State's head coach on Nov. 28, 2011. From the end of the 2012 season, through and including the 2017 campaign, Meyer's Buckeyes teams have produced 40 draft picks, which is quite an accomplishment.

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While all 40 former Ohio State players were taken in the NFL draft, some clarification is needed. After all, Meyer did not coach for Ohio State until the 2012 season, so it would be only fitting to give some credit to the head coaches who preceded Meyer – Jim Tressel and Luke Fickell – for the recruiting and development of some of these players. For example, while Meyer was the head coach during the 2012 season for eventual ’13 second-round pick Johnathan Hankins, it should be noted that Hankins played for Tressel in 2010 and Luke Fickell in ‘11.

With that in mind here is the criteria I used for coming up with the five best Buckeye NFL draft picks during Meyer’s tenure.

- The player had to be in one of Meyer’s recruiting classes (2012-15) OR

- The bulk of the player’s Buckeyes career had to coincide with Meyer’s tenure

Here are the five best Ohio State players to taken in the past five (2014-18) NFL drafts.

5. Ryan Shazier, LB

The 15th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Shazier was a two-year starter for Ohio Stae and earned All-American recognition as a junior prior to declaring early. A Pro Bowler in 2016 and ’17, Shazier was injured while making a tackle on Dec. 4 that ended up being diagnosed as a spinal contusion. His season over, he later underwent spinal stabilization surgery and it’s uncertain if he has played his last game. The Steelers recently placed Shazier on the reserve/PUP list, but he has continued to make a remarkable recovery. Besides walking on to the stage at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to announce Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in April’s draft, he also attended the Ohio State spring game as an honorary captain. He received a standing ovation from those in attendance.

4. Marshon Lattimore, CB

A first-round pick (No. 11 overall) in last year’s draft, by the New Orleans Saints, Lattimore was a first-team All-Big Ten performer in 2016 as a redshirt sophomore. Nagging injuries limited him to 20 total games played in two seasons (he redshirted in 2014). Lattimore certainly made his first season in the NFL count, as he was named to his first Pro Bowl and earned AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after starting 13 games for the Saints. He was credited with 52 total tackles, five interceptions and 18 passes defended.

3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB

The fourth player taken in the 2016 NFL Draft, Elliott finished his Ohio State career second on the career rushing list with 3,961 rushing yards to go along with 43 touchdowns on the ground alone. Elliott also was instrumental in the Buckeyes winning the inaugural College Football Playoff in the 2014-15 season. Elliott hit the ground running in the NFL, leading the league with 1,631 rushing yards to earn first-team All-Pro honors and his first Pro Bowl invite. A six-game suspension marred his second season, but Elliott enters the 2018 campaign averaging 104.6 rushing yards per game as a pro.

2. Joey Bosa, DE

The third overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft by the then-San Diego Chargers, Bosa (above, right) was a two-time All-American for the Buckeyes. He had 26 sacks in those two seasons and was a dominant force up front for Ohio State’s 2014 national title-winning team. He declared for the draft a year early and was the first defensive player taken. Despite a contract holdout and nagging hamstring injury that saw him miss the first month of his rookie season with the Chargers, Bosa still wound up with 10.5 sacks in 12 games and was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2016. He followed that up with 12.5 sacks and his first Pro Bowl invite last season.

1. Michael Thomas, WR

The Buckeyes’ leading receiver in both 2014 and ’15, Thomas was taken in the second round (47th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. Thomas verbally committed to Ohio State in Oct. 2011 when Luke Fickell was still head coach. After playing sparingly in 2012, he redshirted the following year before emerging in the 2014 and ’15 campaigns. One of his biggest highlights as a Buckeye came in the 2015 Sugar Bowl against Alabama, a game that also served as the College Football Playoff semifinal.

As a rookie with the Saints, Thomas exploded out of the gate finishing in the top 10 of the league in receptions (92), receiving yards (1,137) and touchdown catches (nine). He increased both is catches (104) and yards (1,245) last season while earning his first Pro Bowl invite. In just two seasons, Thomas has already established himself as one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers.

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is writing and podcasting for Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.