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Six Buckeyes declare for the NFL Draft

Greg Bartram / USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State Buckeyes may have gotten shut out by the eventual national champion Clemson Tigers in the National Semifinal just a few short weeks ago, but head coach Urban Meyer has continued to develop his players. Although winning national championships is very important, getting players to the NFL is also vitally important.

This year, six Buckeyes have decided to forgo at least one more season in Columbus and enter the NFL Draft: cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, safety Malik Hooker, linebacker Raekwon McMillan, H-back Curtis Samuel, and wide receiver Noah Brown.

The last one to officially announce that he was headed to the draft, Lattimore decided to declare after bursting onto the scene in 2016, his first season as a full-time starter. In 13 games this season, the redshirt sophomore had 41 tackles, nine pass breakups, and four interceptions (one pick-six). What might have been most impressive though was that the Cleveland, Ohio native allowed just a 30.2 quarterback rating, which was fifth-best among cornerbacks in the country.

The 6-foot, 192-pound cornerback is considered one of the best at his position in the upcoming draft. In his most recent mock draft, ESPN’s Todd McShay has Lattimore being selected No. 5 overall.

“Lattimore could use some more game experience. But if he leaves Columbus early, CB-needy teams could be enticed by the natural talent he has displayed on the perimeter in his first year as a starter.”


A first-year captain and two-year starter, Conley left his mark at Ohio State. The lone returning starter in the Buckeyes’ secondary heading into 2016, the redshirt junior recorded 26 tackles, eight pass breakups, and four interceptions in his second season as a full-time starter.

The Massillon, Ohio native was one of the main reasons why Ohio State had one of the best secondaries in the country after he allowed just a 15.9 quarterback rating at balls thrown his way, the second-best rating in the country.

One of the draft’s top cornerbacks, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has Conley listed as the second-best cornerback prospect.

He and Lattimore will look to become the third (and possibly fourth) Ohio State cornerback to be selected in the first round of the draft in the last four years. After graduating in December, Conley was able to earn his diploma before heading to the NFL.

Last year at this time, not many people, including Buckeye Nation, knew who Malik Hooker was. Now, he is one of the best safeties in the country. In his first year as a starter, the redshirt junior had 74 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and seven interceptions (school record three pick-sixes).

Being compared to former NFL great Ed Reed by many, the ball-hawking safety has an eye for the ball and his range is almost the entire field. For this comparison and the fact that he is one of, if not the best safety in the upcoming draft, Hooker is all but guaranteed to be a top-15 selection come April.

With Hooker, Lattimore, and Conley all entering the draft, six of Ohio State’s eight defensive backs over the last two years have declared for the draft. They may now, and should now, be considered #DBU.1

A unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection the last two seasons, Raekwon McMillan has been a mainstay in the middle of the Silver Bullets ever since he arrived on campus. In 2016, the junior totaled a team-high 102 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two sacks, five passes defended, and two forced fumbles.

The 6-foot-2, 243-pound middle linebacker is considered the fourth-best player at his position by Miller. A team captain in 2016, McMillan was the quarterback of the defense and led by example. His career in Columbus may be over, but he cemented his spot as one of the best linebackers to ever wear the scarlet and gray.

A bit of a surprise, Curtis Samuel decided to forgo his final season and enter the draft. Although it was a surprise, people around the Buckeyes always made sure to mention that it could happen given the playmaker’s athletic ability.

The only player to record more than 700 rushing and 700 receiving yards in the FBS, Samuel totaled 97 carries for 771 yards and eight touchdowns and 74 catches for 865 yards and seven touchdowns. Although many thought that he should have received more opportunities to make plays happen with his feet, No. 4 made the most of his opportunities.

He may never play for the Buckeyes again, but he will forever be remembered for scoring the game-winning touchdown in Ohio State double-overtime victory over Michigan in his final regular season game.

A dual-threat weapon, Samuel will be one of the top receiver off the board in the draft. The 5-foot-11, 197-pound is one of the few hybrid-type players in the draft, which will allow the team who selects him to be able to use him all over the field.

By far the biggest surprise in the group, almost no one expected Noah Brown to declare for the draft. After breaking his leg in 2015, part of his decision to take the chance and leave Ohio State early could have been due to that injury. Many though the previous five players listed would leave for the NFL, but Brown’s decision caught everyone off guard.

After finishing with just 32 catches for 402 yards and seven touchdowns, Brown was expected to have much more receptions in 2016. Outside of his breakout game against Oklahoma, the wide out didn’t fill up the stat sheet throughout the rest of the season.

Although many didn’t see him entering the draft this year, Brown has an NFL-type body, given his size. He is also a very good blocker on the outside, which could make him a red-zone target for whichever team gets him.


If high schoolers haven’t taken notice already, Ohio State has almost become a minor league spot for the NFL.

The NFL Draft will take place April 27-29 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

  1. Defensive Back University. []