Ohio State is one of those college football powerhouses year in and year out. Over the years the school has produced some very talented NFL players. Some players from Ohio State have gone on to have great careers, while others were lucky enough to get drafted but haven’t achieved much at the professional level. The Buckeyes have won multiple national championships under coaches like Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel, and Urban Meyer.
Some of the all-time greats to play for Ohio State include guys like Archie Griffin, Jack Tatum, Chris Spielman, Eddie George, Orlando Pace, Dick LeBeau, and Cris Carter. With so many players being drafted from Ohio State every year, there are plenty of great ones currently in the NFL. There are also a few that haven’t done so well at the professional level as of yet. If you are an Ohio State fan, you need to check out this list of the eight best and seven worst former Ohio State Buckeyes currently in the NFL.
15 Best: Cameron Heyward - DE Pittsburgh Steelers
Defensive end Cameron Heyward won three Big Ten championships while playing for Ohio State in 2007, 2008, and 2009. He was also named a freshman All-American and ended his college career with 162 tackles, 15 sacks, 31 tackles for loss, and 1 interception. Heyward was drafted #31 overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 NFL Draft. Through the 2016 season he has 218 tackles, 25 sacks, 18 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles. He tore his pectoral muscle in late 2016 which caused him to miss the rest of the season. In 2015 he signed a six-year deal with the Steelers for $59.25 million including $15 million guaranteed and a $12 million signing bonus.
If his name is familiar, that's because he is the son of former NFL fullback, the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward.
14 Worst: Nate Ebner – S New England Patriots
It’s hard to include a New England Patriot on a worst list, but safety and special teamer Nate Ebner has not lived up to his potential. While playing for Ohio State he won a Big Ten championship in 2009. Ebner was drafted #197 overall by the New England Patriots, so he went from an elite college to an elite NFL team. He was been lucky enough to win two Super Bowls with the Patriots, and also was named a second team All-Pro selection in 2016. Through the 2016 season Ebner has 66 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 forced fumble. He didn’t play high school football and is a rugby player who has represented the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Ebner is a great athlete who could develop into a solid NFL player if given the opportunity.
13 Best: Carlos Hyde - RB San Francisco 49ers
Running back Carlos Hyde played at Ohio State from 2010 to 2013. During that time, he was a second team All-Big Ten selection in 2012 and a first team All-Big Ten selection in 2013. That same year he also won the Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year award. Hyde was drafted #57 overall by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2014 NFL Draft. He has battled injuries since replacing Frank Gore on the 49ers. Through the 2016 season, Hyde had just over 400 rushing attempts for 1,753 yards and 13 touchdowns. In 2016, he finished with just under 1,000 rushing yards and was selected as an alternate for the Pro Bowl before he was placed on injured reserve for his MCL injury. If he can stay healthy and the 49ers can improve their offensive line, he may develop into one of the best running backs in the league.
12 Worst: Braxton Miller – WR Houston Texans
Braxton Miller was a stud as the starting quarterback for Ohio State. During his time there he won the CFP national championship and the Big Ten championship in 2014. Miller was later converted to wide receiver when the team had too many QBs. He also was named the two-time Big Ten Most Valuable Player, two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, two-time first team All-Big Ten selection, and Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Miller was drafted #85 overall by the Houston Texans in the 2016 NFL Draft. He hasn’t been able to convert his success at the professional level and only had 15 receptions for 99 yards and 1 touchdown in his rookie season. It seems like Houston isn’t interested in using him at QB.
11 Best: Terrelle Pryor - WR Washington Redskins
In 2015, Terrelle Pryor was stuck on a lowly Cleveland Browns team, trying to make the most of a bad situation. He is now signed with the Washington Redskins, hoping to make it further up the league in standings. Pryor was the starting quarterback at Ohio State from 2008 to 2010. During that time he won two Big Ten championships and was named Big Ten Freshman on the Year. He played quarterback for the Oakland Raiders and actually started 10 games although he had more interceptions than touchdowns. When he joined the Cleveland Browns in 2015 he converted to wide receiver and had more than 1,000 yards. Pryor is one of those guys who is a great athlete and the fact that he has to be defined by a certain position on the field limits his abilities.
10 Worst: John Simon – LB Houston Texans
Linebacker John Simon played at Ohio State where he won the Big Ten championship in 2009 and was a two-time first team All-Big Ten selection. He also was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2012. Simon had a strong college career but hasn’t been as effective in the NFL. He was drafted #129 overall by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2013 NFL Draft. Simon only lasted one season in Baltimore before he was waived. He was signed by the Houston Texans and played there from 2014 to 2016 before signing with the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. That contract was for a three year deal worth $13.5 million. Through the 2016 season Simon has 120 total tackles, 10 quarterback sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery.
9 Best: Ryan Shazier - LB Pittsburgh Steelers
Linebacker Ryan Shazier first committed to play at Florida for coach Urban Meyer. After Meyer left, Shazier went to Ohio State to play for Jim Tressel. He ended up playing for Meyer when he replaced Tressel as head coach. Shazier had his best season at Ohio State in 2013 when he was named first team All-American and first team All-Big Ten. He was drafted #15 overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2014 NFL Draft. He has had a successful NFL career so far, and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2016. Through the 2016 season, Shazier had 21 tackles, 7 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 4 interceptions.
One interesting fact about him is that he suffers from a disease that prevents his body hair from growing. This caused him to be teased in school, but helped him develop the ability to stay calm under pressure.
8 Worst: Cardale Jones – QB Buffalo Bills
Cardale Jones found himself starting the 2014 season at Ohio State as the #3 quarterback. Injuries to Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett made him the starter in the College Football Playoff National Championship. Jones helped the team win the CFP national championship in only his second start. He also won the Big Ten championship and Big Ten Championship Gave MVP in 2014 and the Fiesta Bowl championship in 2016. Jones was drafted #139 overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2016 NFL Draft. He started the season as the #3 QB behind Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel. During his rookie season Jones threw 11 passes for 6 completions and an interception. He is still unproven and it looks like he won’t ever get his chance to shine.
7 Best: Michael Thomas - WR New Orleans Saints
Wide receiver Michael Thomas spent one year at Fork Union Military Academy with future Ohio State teammate Cardale Jones. While playing for Ohio State, he was a CFP national champion and Big Ten champion in 2014. Thomas was drafted #47 overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 2016 NFL Draft. As a rookie, he had the pleasure of playing with quarterback Drew Brees, and he caught 92 passes for 1,137 receiving yards and 9 receiving touchdowns. Thomas was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team in 2016. He set rookie franchise records for receptions, touchdowns, and receiving yards. It looks like he has a bright future, especially as long as Brees remains his quarterback. Thomas signed a four-year deal with the Saints for $5.11 million in 2016.
6 Worst: Michael Bennett - DT Jacksonville Jaguars
Don’t get this Michael Bennett confused with the defensive end who plays for the Seattle Seahawks. This Michael Bennett played Ohio State where he won the CFP national championship and Big Ten championship in 2014. That same year, he was named a second-team All-Big Ten selection. Bennett was drafted #180 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015. He has been injury-prone, starting at the 2015 NFL Combine. He played 13 games during his rookie season and recorded 10 tackles and half a sack. Bennett was officially placed on injured reserve at the beginning of the 2016 season. If he can’t stay healthy, he might not be in the league for much longer. In high school, he won a state championship in shot put as a top track and field competitor.
5 Best: Malcolm Jenkins - S Philadelphia Eagles
Safety Malcolm Jenkins had a great college career playing for Ohio State. He won the Jim Thorpe Award and was named a Consensus All-American in 2008. Jenkins was a second team All-American in 2007 and was a three time first team All-Big Ten selection. He was drafted #14 overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 2009 NFL Draft and played for the Saints until 2013 before joining the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014. Jenkins won a Super Bowl championship with the Saints. He was named second team All-Pro in 2010 and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2015. Through the 2016 season, Jenkins has more than 600 tackles, along with 14 interceptions and 10 forced fumbles. He has also scored 7 defensive touchdowns. In 2016 he signed a five-year deal with the Eagles for $40.5 million.
4 Worst: Adolphus Washington – DT Buffalo Bills
Defensive tackle Adolphus Washington won a College Football Player National Championship over Oregon with Ohio State in 2015. During that game, he had three tackles and a sack. Washington started all 14 games in the 2014 season after playing in 10 his rookie season and 12 his sophomore campaign. He was drafted #80 overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2016 NFL Draft. During his rookie season, Washington recorded 21 total tackles and 2.5 sacks. If given the opportunity, he can become a pretty good player in the NFL, but it doesn’t appear that he has what it takes to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player. If nothing else, at least he should be able to say he is the best player named Adolphus to play in the NFL.
3 Best: Joey Bosa - DE Los Angeles Chargers
Joey Bosa had a great career at Ohio State. He won the CFP national championship and the Big Ten championship in 2014 and was also named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Bosa was a two-time Consensus All-American and a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection. He was drafted #3 overall by the San Diego Chargers in the 2016 NFL Draft. Bosa was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and to the PFWA All-Rookie Team. During his rookie season he recorded 41 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Bosa has all the tools to become one of the best defensive players in the NFL. Now that the Chargers have relocated to Los Angeles he may become a bigger star in the league and could keep the team from giving up as many points as they have in recent seasons.
2 Worst: Jack Mewhort - G Indianapolis Colts
Offensive guard Jack Mewhort is not a household name, but he had a successful career playing at Ohio State. He was a first team All-American in 2013 and a two-time first team All-Big Ten selection. Mewhort was also named second team All-Big Ten in 2011. He was drafted #59 overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 NFL Draft. He started 14 games in his rookie year and all 16 games in 2015. Mewhort was injured in the 2016 preseason. He was able to start 10 games but was eventually placed on injured reserve. Even though it’s a bit harder to measure the success of an offensive lineman, the Colts offense has not played well and has not done a good job of protecting their quarterback Andrew Luck.
1 Best: Ezekiel Elliott - RB Dallas Cowboys
Even with all of his off-the-field issues, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is the best Ohio State Buckeye currently playing in the NFL. That’s big praise, especially considering the amount of high-quality players to come out of the school, paired with the fact that Elliott has only played one season in the NFL. Zeke won the College Football Playoff national championship with the Buckeyes in 2014, and the next year he was named the Big Ten Most Valuable Player and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. In his rookie season he helped the Cowboys win 13 games and reach the playoffs. He was also selected as the league’s Rookie of the Year and led the league in rushing yards. If Elliott can keep his nose clean, he can be legendary.