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NFL draft recap: Seven former Buckeyes move on to the NFL

OSU junior H-back Curtis Samuel (4) scores the game-winning touchdown in the second overtime of the Buckeyes’ 30-27 win over Michigan on Nov. 26. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo Editor

A year ago, the Ohio State football team was dealt a massive exodus of talent. Twelve former buckeyes players were selected in the 2016 NFL draft – seven early entries – requiring OSU to reload.

The Buckeyes passed the challenge with flying colors. Just one year later, seven former OSU players were selected in the 2017 NFL draft. It is the second-most Buckeyes drafted since 2009, and the three former OSU first round picks is the second-most first-round draft picks since the 2006 draft.

Of the seven former OSU players drafted in the 2017 NFL draft, four were first-year starters in 2016.

Nineteen former Buckeyes players were drafted in the 2016 and 2017 drafts combined. This is the most in back-to-back drafts since 19 were selected between the 2003 and 2004 drafts.

Three-fourths of OSU’s starting defensive backfield in 2016 – cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley and safety Malik Hooker – were drafted in the first round.

Lattimore, selected No. 11 overall, joins forces with former OSU safety Vonn Bell in New Orleans as the duo mans the defensive backfield for the Saints. The Indianapolis Colts drafted Hooker with the No. 15 pick and, despite a rape accusation, Conley was taken No. 24 overall by the Oakland Raiders.

Three more players, including the first on the offensive side of the ball, were drafted in the next two rounds.

Former OSU H-back Curtis Samuel will join forces with former Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey as an offensive weapon for the Carolina Panthers. McCaffrey, who was drafted No. 8 overall, and Samuel (No. 40 overall) were the top two picks by the Panthers.

The duo will give Panthers quarterback Cam Newton quick, explosive threats to accompany leading receiver tight end Greg Olsen and wideout Kelvin Benjamin.

Former OSU linebacker Raekwon McMillan, a former five-star prospect from Georgia, returns south to join the Miami Dolphins. He was taken in the second round with the No. 54 overall pick. A stout, run-stuffing linebacker, McMillan will be called upon to help improve a Dolphins defense that allowed 140.4 rushing yards per game in 2016, the third-most in the NFL.

The Minnesota Vikings selected 2016 Rimington Award-winning offensive lineman Pat Elflein with the No. 70 overall pick in the third round. Elflein enters Minnesota as a versatile option, able to play multiple positions. The first-team Associated Press All-American in 2016 started at guard as a redshirt junior before moving over to center as a redshirt senior.

He joins former OSU offensive linemen Alex Boone and Reid Fragel on the Vikings. Elflein was the second pick of the day for Minnesota as the Vikings took former Florida State running back Dalvin Cook with the No. 41 overall pick in the second round.

Two players whose times in Columbus were filled with up and downs, wide receivers Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson, will have to battle to make rosters. Brown was selected with the No. 239 overall pick in the seventh round and Wilson went undrafted.

Brown surprised many by declaring for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season, having caught 30 passes for 402 yards and seven touchdowns his final year in scarlet and gray. He exploded for four touchdowns against Oklahoma in the third week of 2016, but scored just twice during the remaining 10 games. He started just one season as he suffered a broken leg his second year at OSU and missed the entire 2015 season.

If Brown makes the final 53-man roster, he and the Cowboys will face Conley and the Raiders on Dec. 17.

Wilson, a highly-touted four-star prospect from DeSoto, Texas, accrued 460 combined rushing and receiving yards and averaged 24.9 yards on 21 kick returns as a freshman. But his career at OSU never took off. In his four years as a Buckeye, he caught 77 passes for 925 yards and rushed 65 times for 428 yards. He showed potential as a punt returner, but struggled with fumbles and was eventually replaced midway through the 2016 season.

Wilson tweeted after the draft that he signed with the Los Angeles Chargers.

This will be the second year in a row a former OSU wideout entered the NFL draft went undrafted. Jalin Marshall left Columbus early, signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent and made the final roster.

Punter Cameron Johnston and wideout Corey Smith also went undrafted and are expected to sign with teams as undrafted free agents.

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