Best Ohio State draft picks in NFL history
Ohio State ranks third among all schools with 430 players selected in the NFL draft.
The Buckeyes added that list with an outstanding 2016 draft class that included 12 players and five first-round picks. Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott and San Diego's Joey Bosa enjoyed fantastic rookie seasons. They could be the next players to join this list of rich talent in the future.
How rich, exactly? Bill Willis and Lou Groza are among the former NFL legends that weren’t drafted. Ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft, here’s a look at the 16 best Buckeyes based on their NFL careers, from stars — to megastars.
1 Antoine Winfield, CB (Round 1, No. 23, 1999)
Ohio State has sent a pipeline of cornerbacks to the NFL since the John Cooper era in the 1990s, and that’s a trend that continues to the present day.
No cornerback represents that run better than Winfield, a sound tackler and three-time Pro Bowl selection who enjoyed a 14-year career between stops in Minnesota and Buffalo. Winfield finished with 1,054 career tackles.
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2 Jack Tatum, S, (Round 1, No. 19, 1971)
Tatum was nicknamed “The Assassin,” and with good reason. He’s still considered one of the more vicious hitters to ever play the game. Tatum was another piece in Oakland’s nasty defenses of the 1970s.
He appeared in three Pro Bowls and helped the Raiders win Super Bowl XI. Tatum finished with 37 interceptions over a 10-year career.
3 Chris Spielman, LB (Round 2, No. 29, 1988)
Spielman was a decorated two-time All-American at Ohio State, and his workmanlike attitude carried over in the NFL as a middle linebacker for the Detroit Lions. He was a tackling machine. He had 153 total tackles as a rookie in 1988, which started a string of eight straight seasons with 100 tackles or more.
Spielman made four Pro Bowls with the Lions. He’s another former Buckeye whose NFL career might is undervalued.
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4 Jim Marshall, DE (Round 4, No. 44, 1960)
Marshall rose to prominence as part of “The Purple People Eaters” defense for the Minnesota Vikings in the 1960s. He started in 270 consecutive games, a record that stood until Brett Favre surpassed it in 2009.
He played in three Super Bowls and two Pro Bowls as a reliable defensive end. Marshall, however, is still best-remembered for the “Wrong Way Run” against the San Francisco 49ers in 1964, where he recovered a fumble and ran 66 yards into the wrong end zone.
5 Dick Schafrath, T/G (Round 2, No. 23, 1959)
Schafrath is yet another Ohio-born Buckeye who found a home with the Cleveland Browns. Schafrath became a fixture at left tackle in Cleveland, and he also showed he could play guard. Schafrath was selected to six Pro Bowls and was voted team MVP in 1963 and helped the Browns win their last pro sports championship in 1964.
6 Bob Vogel, T (Round 1, No. 5, 1963)
Vogel joined Jim Parker on Baltimore’s offensive line in 1963 and became a fixture at tackle for the Colts. Vogel made five Pro Bowl appearances and played on the Super Bowl V championship team.
Vogel played in 139 games in his career. He’s yet another offensive lineman who enjoyed a fantastic career at the next level.
7 Nick Mangold, C (Round 1, 29, 2006)
This might seem high, but Mangold is flat-out nasty. He’s been a source of stability in the interior for the Jets since being drafted in the first round in 2006, and he was one of the leaders for Rex Ryan’s “Ground-and-Pound” offense. Mangold is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection on the right trajectory to be a Hall of Fame selection when he retires. He's another first-round pick who lived up to the billing.
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8 Jim Tyrer, T (Round 14, No. 188, 1961)
Tyrer opted for the AFL out of college, and he was a third-round pick by the Houston Texans. He developed into an eight-time all-AFL selection with the Texans and later Kansas City Chiefs and was a part of three AFL championship teams.
Tyrer also helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl IV and is still considered one of the best left tackles of that era.
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9 Dante Lavelli, WR (Round 12, No. 103, 1947)
Lavelli — nicknamed "Gluefingers" — was a home-town hero from nearby Hudson, Ohio, who fought in World War II before starting his NFL career. He became a vertical threat for the Browns and had a career-high 843 yards and eight TDs as a rookie. Lavelli made three Pro Bowls and played on three championship games in the 1950s. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975.
10 Eddie George, RB (Round 1, No. 14, 1996)
George won the Heisman Trophy at Ohio State and went on to become a workhorse in the NFL. No other word better describes George, who led the NFL with 403 carries in 2000.
He helped the Titans reach Super Bowl XXXIV and made four Pro Bowl appearances. George finished nine seasons with 2,865 carries for 10,441 yards, which ranks 27th on the all-time list.
George is on the fringe of the Hall of Fame conversation, but his numbers are underrated.
11 Randy Gradishar, LB (Round 1, No. 14, 1974)
Gradishar was one of Woody Hayes’ best linebackers at Ohio State, and that carried over into the next level with the Denver Broncos. Gradishar was a key piece in the “Orange Crush” defense, and he made seven Pro Bowls. Gradishar earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1978. He finished his career with 2,049 total tackles. He’s not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Maybe he should be.
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12 Dick LeBeau, DB (Round 5, No. 58, 1959)
LeBeau is renowned for his contributions to the game as a defensive coordinator, but his playing career gets overshadowed as a result. He’s tied for 10th on the all-time list with 62 career interceptions, and he had four interceptions or more in 12 consecutive seasons from 1960-71.
LeBeau made three Pro Bowls as a player and won two Super Bowls as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive coordinator.
13 Paul Warfield, WR (Round 1, No. 11, 1964)
Seeing a trend here? Warfield was one of the NFL’s first true deep-threat receivers of the early Super Bowl era in the 1960s and 1970s. He averaged 20.1 yards per reception for his career between stops in Cleveland and Miami, where he was the No. 1 receiver on three championship teams. He was a key piece of the Dolphins’ undefeated team in 1972. Warfield was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
14 Cris Carter, WR (Supplemental Draft, 1987)
Carter evolved into one of the best possession receivers in NFL history, and the numbers bear that out. He ranks in the top five all time in receptions (1,101) and touchdowns (130), and he had 13,899 receiving yards on the way to eight Pro Bowl appearances.
The sure-handed receiver had back-to-back seasons with 122 catches in 1994-95.
Carter was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
15 Jim Parker, G/T (Round 1, No. 8, 1957)
Parker was a first-round pick 40 years before Orlando Pace, but the offensive tackle made the same impact for the Baltimore Colts championship teams in 1958-59.
Parker emerged as a great pass protector for Johnny Unitas.
He was selected to eight Pro Bowls and played in 135 games. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1973.
16 Orlando Pace, T (Round 1, No. 1, 1997)
Pace, a 6-7, 325-pound mammoth offensive tackle, became the cornerstone for the Rams’ offensive line and a building block for the “Greatest Show on Turf.”
Men of that size simply aren’t supposed to be able to move like he could.
Pace made seven Pro Bowls and helped St. Louis win Super Bowl XXXIV.
He was elected to the Pro Bowl Hall of Fame in 2016. Given Pace delivered the expectations of a No. 1 pick, he’s the No. 1 pick on this list.