The NFL draft was done remotely Thursday as the coronavirus pandemic canceled the event’s Las Vegas appearance.
Despite the virtual venue, it felt the same as ever — Roger Goodell was booed, New York Jets fans griped about their pick, and the broadcast essentially acted as an Ohio State infomercial.
Quarterback Joe Burrow, who spent three years with the Buckeyes, was taken No. 1 overall by Cincinnati, defensive end Chase Young went second to Washington, cornerback Jeff Okudah was selected third by Detroit, and cornerback Damon Arnette was taken 19th by Las Vegas.
“That’s why we do what we do,” Ohio State recruiting director Mark Pantoni said this month.
“Guys we recruit early on, hopefully, they come here, develop, and accomplish their dreams. All three of those guys are well deserving. They’re all elite competitors. They’re all great kids. And they have great futures ahead of them in the NFL.”
Ohio State’s talent evaluation and recruiting are already approaching a different stratosphere. The continued placement in the draft — nine more Buckeyes are expected to be taken in the final six rounds Friday and Saturday — only adds to their credibility.
Ryan Day and Co. are currently putting together one of the best classes in college football history. Relationships form the foundation, but producing draft picks is part of the allure. While Ohio State attracts mostly four and five-stars, the track record of turning three-stars into NFL players is another gauge.
“We don’t shy away from it,” Day said last week. “We’re very proud of our development.”
This marked the fourth draft in five years that the Buckeyes had at least one player selected among the top four overall picks, the second time in five years they had two top-five picks, and the sixth time since 1996 that they had multiple top-10 picks.
It’s expected to be the sixth consecutive draft that features at least seven former Ohio State players. The 2014 edition had six.
Entering Thursday’s festivities, the Buckeyes and USC were tied at 81 with the most first-round picks in NFL draft history. That list now reads: 1. Ohio State, 84, 2. USC, 82.
“I’m really not interested in being around anybody that doesn’t want to be the best in the world at what they do,” Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said.
“To me, the measuring stick for us in this profession is to be chosen by the group at the next level as being the best at what you do. That’s what a first-round draft pick represents.”
Ohio State’s defense has been particularly fruitful for NFL franchises in recent years.
Thirteen OSU defenders have been taken in the first round in the past seven drafts, with three of those picks coming in the top five. Eight defensive backs have been first-round picks since 2014. Young’s selection marked the first time a single school has had three defensive players go in the top five in three straight drafts, joining Denzel Ward and Nick Bosa, with Okudah joining all three one pick later.
“(Young and Okudah) are very, very high-end NFL players who will play a long time,” Day said. “They’re both great people, good leaders, very productive on the field. They’re tough. They’re durable. They don’t miss practice. They don’t miss games. They don’t miss snaps. They just play. I think both are can’t-miss guys.”
A comprehensive history of the NFL draft cannot be written without multiple chapters about Ohio State, the school with the most overall selections and top-10 picks since the event went to its current seven-round iteration in 1994.
The Buckeyes have 48 former players on NFL active rosters, a number that will increase by double digits this weekend.
“Ohio State’s a part of the process because it’s the best place in the country to play football,” said wide receivers coach Brian Hartline, who played seven years in the NFL. “The draft takes care of itself. Everyone knows that.”