Having won eight National Championships, the Ohio State Buckeyes are one of the most successful programs in all of college football. Last claiming a National Championship in 2014, the Buckeyes are almost always one of the top programs in the sport year in and year out. The Buckeyes hold an all-time record of 866-322-53, which is good for an impressive .724 winning percentage.
The Buckeyes have churned out their fair share of players that have gone on to have success in the NFL and will continue to do so in the forthcoming years. In the same breath, there have also been those ex-Ohio State players that both showed promise at the college level and dominated in the college ranks that completely fell flat once entering the pro level. Here, we take a look at ten Ohio State Buckeyes that succeeded in the NFL and five Buckeyes that failed in the NFL.
17 Succeeded: Terrelle Pryor
Originally beginning his career as a quarterback, Terrelle Pryor wasn't able to find success in the NFL until he made the jump to wide receiver. It was believed that despite Pryor being a formidable QB at Ohio State, his talents weren't anywhere near being ready for the pros. It's hard to say whether or not Pryor would've succeeded as a QB in the league considering he only had a fair shake in one season (2013). But Pryor did not look promising as his pick total (11) eclipsed that of his TD total (7). In 2016, Pryor found his footing when he went from throwing the pigskin to catching the pigskin. Pryor finished the 2016 campaign with 1,007 receiving yards and 4 TDs as one of (and maybe only) bright spots for the lowly Browns. Pryor was able to parlay his success in year one as a WR to a lucrative one-year deal with the Washington Redskins for $8 million in the offseason.
16 Succeeded: Nick Mangold
A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Center Nick Mangold was viewed as the defensive anchor for Gang Green during the majority of seasons he spent with New York's (err, New Jersey's) stepchild franchise. The Centerville, Ohio native, as mentioned, is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection having been named to the NFL's All-Star Game every year from 2008-2015, with the exception of 2012. In addition, Mangold is a two-time All-Pro First Team Selection having received the dubious honor in 2009 and 2010 and has also made the All-Pro First Team on once occasion in 2011. Mangold is currently a free agent and at 33 years of age, his best years are likely behind him. However, he still possesses veteran leadership that would be valuable to any and every one of the NFL's 32 franchises.
14 Failed: Troy Smith
After winning the Heisman Trophy in 2006, Troy Smith declared for the NFL Draft. Despite winning the most prestigious award in college football, Smith was not a 1st-round selection. Smith wasn't even a 2nd-rounder, nor was he a 3rd-round selection; he wasn't even taken in the 4th round! Instead, Smith fell all the way to 5th round when he was selected with the 174th pick by the Baltimore Ravens. Fortunately for the Ravens and the NFL's other 31 franchises, they did not select Smith with a more lucrative draft slot considering Smith was nothing more than a bust. Smith ended up only playing in twenty games in four years and on one hand it can be argued that he never really received a proper shot to prove himself. But when you're a former Heisman Trophy winner and you're out of the league in four years and playing north of the border, you're looked at as one who failed in the pros.
13 Succeeded: Jack Tatum
Selected with the 19th pick in the 1971 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, Jack Tatum made the transition to the pro game with ease. In his third season, Tatum set the NFL record for the longest fumble return in the history of the game as he took one back for 104 yards against the Green Bay Packers. Tatum was named to the NFL's Pro Bowl in three consecutive years from 1973-1975, was named a two-time Second-Team All-Pro selection and won a Super Bowl in 1977 with "Da Raiders." Yet, despite all these accolades, Tatum's most illustrious honor may be being named the sixth hardest hitter in the history of the game by NFL Films. This is unsurprising as Tatum wasn't a fan favorite (well, unless you were a Raider or Buckeye fan).
11 Succeeded: Ezekiel Elliott
Bursting onto the NFL scene in the 2016 season, many pundits were declaring that the Dallas Cowboys absolutely reached for Ezekiel Elliott with the 4th-overall pick in that year's draft. Elliott proved his naysayers wrong from the minute he stepped foot on the NFL gridiron and rewarded the 'Boys brass for believing in him. Elliott absolutely tore it up in his rookie campaign as he rushed for an NFL league-leading 1,631 yards, 15 TDs and a three-digit YPG average at 108.7. Unsurprisingly, Elliott was named to the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl and was named First-Team All-Pro. Elliott will have his work cut out for him in his sophomore season as he set the bar immensely high in his rookie season. But if Elliott's rookie season proved anything, it's that he certainly is NFL game-ready.
10 Failed: Devin Smith
Taken with the 37th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the New York Jets obviously had high hopes when they drafted Devin Smith. Unfortunately for the Jets, Smith became an injury-plagued wideout almost from the minute they selected him. Most recently, Smith missed the entire 2017 season due to tearing his ACL for the second time (in the same knee he had torn his ACL in the prior season). In his second season, Smith began the year late as he was recovering from an ACL tear from the previous season and had one of the worst campaigns of a WR in NFL history. In 4 games, Smith went for an uninspiring and dismal 20 yards and a single reception. To no one's surprise, the New York Jets released Smith on Monday, May 22nd, 2017.
9 Succeeded: Dick LeBeau
Having played in the NFL for 14 years from 1959-1972, it's easy to see that LeBeau was one hell of a player to last in the league for over a dozen years. In his 14 seasons in Detroit, LeBeau collected a remarkable 62 interceptions and accumulated 762 yards to go along with the picks, and reached the end zone on four occasions. But while his accolades as a player are certainly nothing to scoff at, he's more renown for what he has done as a coach. LeBeau is a two-time Super Bowl Champion having won Super Bowls XL and XLIII with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2008, LeBeau was named the Sporting News Coordinator of the Year. At 79 years of age, LeBeau is still active on the sidelines as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach of the Tennessee Titans.
8 Succeeded: Chris Spielman
Despite being born in the city of the NFL's Hall of Fame (Canton, Ohio), it's highly unlikely that Chris Spielman will be Hall of Fame bound anytime soon. Nonetheless, this isn't to say that Spielman wasn't a successful pro; it's just to say that he wasn't Hall of Fame level successful. Spielman was taken with the 2nd pick in the 2nd round by the Detroit Lions at the 29th slot. He played for the Lions from 1988-1995 and was a defensive anchor for the team as he was selected for the Pro Bowl from 1989-1991, as well as in 1994. In addition, Spielman made NFL All-Pro in 1991, 1992 and 1994. The LB finished his NFL career with 1,363 tackles, 6 interceptions and 13 forced fumbles. Spielman currently serves as an NFL analyst for FOX.
7 Failed: Archie Griffin
A back-to-back Heisman Trophy winner in 1974 and 1975, Archie Griffin is the epitome of Mr. Buckeye. However, despite Griffin being arguably the greatest Buckeye to ever sport the scarlet and gray of the OSU program, his time in the NFL was a little different. It's not that Griffin was a terrible player; it's that Griffin was nowhere near the player he was in college. Griffin played in the NFL from 1976-1982, staying in the Buckeye State as he played for the Cincinnati Bengals. While donning the black and orange stripes, Griffin only rushed for a 100 or more yards on three occasions. To add insult to injury, Griffin not once eclipsed 700 yards in the NFL. Griffin was a phenomenal Buckeye, but the same cannot be said about him as an NFL pro.
6 Succeeded: John Brockington
In 1971, the Green Bay Packers selected John Brockington with the 9t- overall pick in the NFL Draft. Brockington rewarded the franchise in his inaugural year as he not only took home the award for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, but also managed to make the Pro Bowl and was also named to the All-Pro team. Brockington followed up the following two seasons with All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections as well. Brockington would go on to play 4 more seasons, but never was named All-Pro nor did he make the Pro Bowl again. Brockington finished his career with 5,185 yards on the ground for 30 trips to the end zone and was named to the Packers Hall of Fame seven years after he retired in 1984.
5 Succeeded: Cris Carter
Despite declaring for the 1987 NFL Draft, Cris Carter went undrafted. Nonetheless, Carter still found his way to the NFL as the Philadelphia Eagles selected him in the 4th round of that year's Supplemental Draft. Technically, Carter had found an "NFL home," but he didn't really find his footing until he became a member of the Minnesota Vikings in 1990. As a Viking, Carter made the Pro Bowl on eight straight occasions from 1993-2000. Along with Carter's Pro Bowl selections he led the league in receiving TDs in 1995, 1997 and 1999. In 2013, Carter received the ultimate honor by being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame which surpassed his other most impressive accomplishment of having his number retired by the Vikings.
4 Failed: Dan Wilkinson
When you're taken with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, it's obvious from day one that the franchise who is selecting you has high hopes for you. In 1994, the Cincinnati Bengals selected DT Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. Wilkinson spent 13 seasons in the NFL, which is a testament to his durability, but at the same time he never became the player many predicted him to be. Moreover, he wasn't a game-changer and didn't make a single All-NFL team nor was he selected for the NFL Pro Bowl once. Wilkinson finished his career with just 388 tackles, 5 picks and 6 forced fumbles despite playing in just under 200 games at 195 (and starting a whopping 182 of them).
3 Succeeded: Orlando Pace
While playing on a team dubbed as "The Greatest Show on Turf" alongside the likes of offensive stalwarts Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Kurt Warner, its easy to forget that the then St. Louis Rams had one of the best offensive tackles in Orlando Pace on those teams as well. Inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame on February 6th, 2016, Pace's accolades speak for themselves. Selected with the first overall pick in 1997, Pace was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection from 1999-2005, was a three-time All-Pro First-Team selection in 1999, 2001 and 2003 and helped the Rams come up victorious in Super Bowl XXXIV against former Buckeye teammate Eddie George (more on him later). Pace will forever be remembered as a Buckeyes and Rams great.
2 Succeeded: Eddie George
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 24th, 1973, Eddie George was one half of one of the NFL's most intimidating QB and RB duos during his time in the NFL. Along with the late great Steve McNair, George brought a winning pedigree to Nashville, Tennessee almost from the minute the team relocated from Houston (becoming the Tennessee Titans and ridding itself of its former Oilers name). George concluded his career as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, but he will always be remembered as a Titan (and a Buckeye). George reached the Pro Bowl on four straight occasions from 1997-2000, won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1996 and was instrumental in leading the Titans franchise to its lone (and incredibly heartbreaking) Super Bowl.
1 Failed: Maurice Clarett
Maurice Clarett not only donned red as a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes but was a walking red flag from the minute he stepped foot on the gridiron in Columbus, Ohio. Clarett was such a problem at OSU that he was even dismissed from the program. The problem was Clarett had talent and he showcased this in the 2002 season when he rushed for 1,237 yards and 18 TDs en route to leading the Buckeyes to the 2002 BCS Championship. But he was more trouble then he was worth. In 2005, Clarett was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the third round despite having not played college football in two years due to his dismissal. Clarett didn't end up making the team and was waived before the season began. To make matters worse, Clarett wasn't picked up by any team on waivers. Clarett's NFL career was a colossal failure from the minute he was drafted.