COLUMBUS — The list of NFL draftees from Ohio State in recent years has been astounding, with at least five Buckeyes selected in each of the last five drafts. And the Scarlet and Gray pipeline to the next level will not be stopping anytime soon.
Five players — Nick Bosa, Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Weber, Michael Jordan and Dwayne Haskins — make up the underclassmen that elected to forgo seasons of eligibility at Ohio State for the NFL Draft this season, along with other seniors like Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin. Sure, that’s plenty of talent departing Columbus, but with more coming in and already abundant within the program, Ohio State will be touted to make another run at a national championship.
Looking ahead to the end of next season, and like every year, more Buckeyes will face the decision of whether to return to the Scarlet and Gray or leave early for the shot at the next level. Who are the most likely candidates? Lettermen Row is checking out a group of guys that may likely have that choice to make next January.
Okudah may not surprise you to be on this list after being one of the more consistent players in a struggling secondary this past season. His five tackles and two pass breakups against Washington were a part of the Silver Bullets excellent Rose Bowl performance, earning the Buckeyes the title.
The native of Grand Prarie, Texas, racked up 34 tackles on the year, tied for ninth-best on the team, along with eight pass breakups and a fumble recovery against Minnesota. He also is a special teams all-star who helped Ohio State contain the opponents’ starting field position on drives all season.
Going into his third year, Okudah will bring plenty of experience to a very talented cornerback room and will be a key player with fellow defensive backs Jordan Fuller and Damon Arnette. After the year, though, don’t be shocked if he’s played himself into the early rounds of the draft.
Another name you’d expect to be on here, Young has been a threat on the Buckeyes defensive line since he first arrived in Columbus. Both of his biggest games last season came on massive stages, including a six-tackle and two-sack performance at Penn State and three-tackle, three-sack showing in the Big Ten Championship against Northwestern.
His 34 tackles were tied with Okudah for ninth best on the team, and he brings an electrifying presence every time he touches the field. Once Nick Bosa went down early on in the year, Young started to get double-teamed much more often, but still managed to rack up 10.5 sacks on the year.
In terms of the NFL, Young is almost a guaranteed first-round pick if he continues to produce at this rate. And with the frame, athleticism and just pure talent he has, the team that selects him will have an immediate force on its defensive front.
Dobbins is finally looking forward to his first season as the feature back at Ohio State. After splitting carries with Mike Weber for back-to-back seasons, the second team all-Big Ten selection will finally be the guy taking most of the burden at the running back position and will begin to truly solidify his case for the next level.
He followed up his record-breaking freshman season and led the group with 10 touchdowns last season, as well as accumulating over 1,000 yards on the ground for the Buckeyes. With Weber nearly reaching 1,000 himself, the duo was a one-two punch to opposing defenses, with both creating a nice rotation each of the last two seasons. Now, Dobbins has the chance to show everyone what he can do as the go-to guy on what he believes is a national-championship contender.
He’ll absolutely have a decision to make after next season regarding the NFL, and don’t be surprised whatsoever if he decides to go.
A player you may not have expected to be listed, Munford started all 13 games at left tackle for the Buckeyes this past season in just his second year. Heading into the spring, he’ll be the only full-time returning starter on the offensive line, leaving the opportunity to take leadership roles both at his position and within the program.
Munford played relatively well in the trenches in 2018 and really set himself up to retain his spot at left tackle this fall. If he has an All-Big Ten season and finds a way to stand out, he could have his name called by Roger Goodell in April 2020.
After redshirting his freshman year and not seeing the field much for much of 2018, Davis earned his first-ever start against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship and helped the Buckeyes win back-to-back titles. He took over for an injured Demetrius Knox, who suffered a foot injury in the win over Michigan, and provided a great boost to an experienced offensive line in the final two games of the season.
However, the only returning starter in the trenches for Ohio State is Munford, and that will mean wide-open competitions at center, the two guard spots and right tackle. As for Davis, I fully expect him to take over permanently at either left or right guard this spring alongside Branden Bowen.
If he performs at the level he is fully capable of consistently next year, he could work his way into a discussion at the next level and possibly have to make the choice to stay or go.