COLUMBUS — Maybe it was the timing, maybe Ryan Day didn’t want to jinx anything for Ohio State in the NFL Draft.
After all, when the Buckeyes coach popped on for a press conference with the Chicago Bears to talk about his former quarterback being a first-round pick, at that time Justin Fields was the only product of the program who had come off the board.
So, Day kept the focus on that position and the talented targets in the Ohio State pipeline. But it was obviously not a conclusive list, as the rest of the weekend again proved for the Buckeyes.
“I think it’s an exciting time to be a quarterback or a receiver at Ohio State,” Day said on Friday afternoon. “It’s fun to be a part of this.”
Turns out there’s plenty to like about playing tight end, linebacker, running back, defensive back or just about any position on the roster for Ohio State given the depth of NFL talent it’s churning out in every spot.
The Buckeyes made more history with another double-digit class of draft picks over three days at the NFL Draft, capping that off with a couple notable free-agent signings as well. So, what does that professional haul mean for Ohio State both looking back and ahead to next year? Lettermen Row is breaking down What We Learned from the three-day party in Cleveland.
Ohio State was always facing long odds in title game
Only one team in the nation could match the depth of high-end talent of a full-strength Ohio State, and it should come as no surprise that it was the other team in the national championship. Set aside the fact that the Buckeyes were clearly not 100 percent thanks to positive COVID tests, a hip injury for Justin Fields and nagging issues for numerous starters. Even if everybody had been available in South Florida, though, the flood of Crimson Tide first-round picks on Thursday was a clear reminder why it was widely considered a heavy favorite to win the crown all season. Ohio State was clearly well stocked with professionals, and it’s Sugar Bowl destruction of Clemson proved that. But Alabama had a historically loaded roster, and it’s even more clear in hindsight what an uphill battle the short-handed Buckeyes were facing.
Quarterback recruiting pitch for Buckeyes gets stronger
The slide out of the top-10 picks doesn’t make a lot of sense, and there’s nothing Ohio State can do about the misguided narrative about the success of the program’s quarterbacks until one breaks through again. Neither of those things really matter for the Buckeyes, though. Justin Fields gave Ohio State a second first-round quarterback in three years, and that’s what is going to continue to resonate with elite recruits at the position and ensure the pipeline keeps flowing. The program can’t control at all what happens to Fields with the Bears or what Dwayne Haskins will do with his second chance in Washington. Getting quarterbacks to that level is what Ohio State is responsible for, and that evidence that Ryan Day and his staff can get passers first-round ready is undeniable.
Ohio State on pace to break more NFL Draft records
The Buckeyes could have easily tacked on a couple more draft picks and actually accelerated the run to double-digits if guys like Chris Olave, Thayer Munford or Haskell Garrett had decided to leave school. But those three sticking around just sets the table for what could be another epic NFL Draft performance for the program next year at this time. With Garrett Wilson almost certainly turning pro, Jeremy Ruckert building himself into a monster at tight end, Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith emerging into stars at defensive end and some intriguing potential in the secondary, Ohio State is well on its way to producing another record-setting class. Just like at quarterback, this documented blueprint of not only signing top talent but developing it into a draft-worthy commodities has become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. The best players want to go where they can compete for championships and get to the NFL, and Ohio State is one of only a couple programs in the country doing that on annual basis.