With so many former Ohio State players earning first round — and late round — draft picks in 2016, it’s no surprise that the incoming rookies took the NFL by storm. Not only have these new players contributed, but they’ve excelled and broken records along the way. And it’s not just rookies, some Buckeye legends who are now considered veterans are still showing the young guys a thing or two.
Of the 38 Buckeyes on active rosters — not including those on IR (Cam Heyward and James Laurinaitis) — 18 made the ballot for the 2017 Pro Bowl. Of those, five earned the nod their rookie season.
- Joey Bosa (Chargers), Taylor Decker (Lions), Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys), Michael Thomas (Saints) and Jalin Marshall (Jets).
This young group of potential Pro-Bowlers is anything but surprising. Each of them was expected to be NFL-ready upon leaving Ohio State -- three of the five being first round draft picks -- and have already proven just how valuable they can be at the next level.
Joey Bosa’s preseason contract dispute is a thing of the past as Chargers fans and teammates see the type of talent they got with their No. 3 overall pick. In eight games, the rookie defensive end already has 5.5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. It wouldn’t be a big surprise if Bosa finished his rookie season with some individual awards as well — maybe even Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Things have been a bit more up and down for Taylor Decker in his rookie season on the Lions offensive line, but he has been able to adjust along the way. He was put at left tackle almost immediately after the draft, and has slowly grown into the position, learning to better protect quarterback Matt Stafford’s blind side. With more snaps and more games under his belt, the former SLOB is regaining his confidence.
Ezekiel Elliott is currently crushing rookie season franchise and league records with weeks still to play. The running back leads the NFL with 1,285 rushing yards and ranks first in rushing attempts (263) and second in rushing touchdowns (12). The NFL announced Monday that Elliott leads the entire league with 681,361 votes — followed by Dak Prescott (607,621 votes) and Tom Brady (519,210 votes) in third. Not only is he a shoe-in for the Pro Bowl — although likely to miss it with a postseason run that could take Dallas to the Super Bowl — but he’s also vying for at least one individual award.
Another player competing for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award is wideout Michael Thomas. He may not have quite the stats that Zeke does -- few do — but he leads NFL rookies with 69 receptions, 831 yards and seven touchdown catches. Meaning the Buckeyes tout the leading NFL rookie in both rushing and receiving. Thomas has also outperformed all five of the receivers drafted ahead of him in 2016 — who have 1,394 yards combined.
Jalin Marshall earned his place on the Pro Bowl ballot as a return specialist -- which is ironic since he was stripped of his special team duties in Week 11 to focus on offense. This move is also surprising for any Buckeye who remembers — and has nightmares about -- all those dropped returns during his Ohio State days.
- Alex Boone (Vikings), Kurt Coleman, Ted Ginn Jr., Andrew Norwell (Panthers), Johnathan Hankins (Giants), Carlos Hyde (49ers), Malcolm Jenkins (Eagles), Nick Mangold (Jets), Jack Mewhort (Colts), Mike Nugent (Bengals), Terrelle Pryor (Browns), John Simon (Texans), and Ryan Shazier (Steelers).
Many of the Buckeye veterans named to the Pro Bowl ballot are some of the most celebrated Ohio State football alumni. Seeing names like Hyde and Shazier would surprise few from the state of Ohio, but others have either been having questionable seasons or are stepping into brand new territory.
Alex Boone was shuffled around to a few teams before landing in Minnesota in 2016. The guard has been moved all over the line this season with injuries affecting both him and teammates, but he’s been helpful wherever he plays. Even if he didn’t earn the spot with his talent, his unwavering ability to ‘tell it like it is’ makes him a fan favorite.
The Panthers are one of the most Buckeye-loaded teams in the NFL and three of those could be headed to the Pro Bowl. Ted Ginn Jr. finally scored his first touchdown of the season in Week 11, and followed that up with two more in as many game — including the longest touchdown reception of his career (88 yards) in Week 12. Safety Kurt Coleman has been much more effective in Carolina, stacking up 20 tackles, a forced fumble and interception in just two games, before being sidelined with a concussion. Left guard Andrew Norwell is the only player on the line to still be in the position he started the season, but his touch of consistency was enough to make the 2017 Pro Bowl ballot.
Johnathan Hankins is already in his fourth season with the Giants and shows no signs of slowing down. The defensive tackle has 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble — that was scooped up by teammate Jason Pierre-Paul for a touchdown -- and a blocked kick, all in addition to his 34 total tackles this season.
The third year running back started the 2016 season off strong with six touchdowns in the first five weeks of play. Unfortunately, Carlos Hyde was then sidelined with a shoulder injury until Week 10. In his 10 games this season, he’s rushed for 686 yards in addition to 126 receiving yards for seven total touchdowns.
Malcolm Jenkins has been the leader of the Eagles defense and plays just about every position in the secondary. He plays with more energy and passion than a host of rookies — even in his 8th season — and if his gloves were covered in Stick ‘Em he’d be on his way to double digit interceptions this season. Jenkins has recorded 60 total tackles, six passes defended, one sack and a Pick-6 so far this year.
The Jets’ longtime center sat out for a considerable stretch this season with an ankle injury -- even wearing a boot for a few weeks -- but that didn’t stop him from making the Pro Bowl ballot. Since he was drafted in 2006, Nick Mangold has been voted to seven (7!) Pro Bowls, making the trip every year from 2008-11 and 2013-15.
Colts starting left guard Jack Mewhort missed the first games of the season with a knee issue, followed by a tricep injury that kept him sidelined mid-year. He was able to return after the bye week, relieving immense pressure from a mismatched and injured offensive line. He was healthy enough by Thanksgiving to take 100% of the team’s 63 offensive snaps against the Steelers.
Kicker Mike Nugent making the Pro Bowl might be the biggest stretch in this entire list. After a very successful career, 2016 and the new kicking rules have not been kind to the Ohio State legend. This season he’s missed five field goals and five point after attempts — a far cry from his near perfect record in scarlet and grey. This might be Nugent’s last chance for the Pro Bowl, as it seems doubtful the Bengals will sign him to a new deal in the offseason.
This is the first nomination for Terrelle Pryor the wide receiver, and it’s not all that surprising given the kind of year he’s having despite the 0-12 situation in Cleveland. The former quarterback is on track to finish the season with over 1,000 receiving yards and already has four receiving and one rushing touchdown. He’s also one of the only non-rookie offensive threat the Browns have thanks to his 6’4, 223-pound frame.
When Texans fans learned that J.J. Watt would be out for the season, they had to look toward John Simon, who stepped up in ways that might have earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl. He was forced to sit out the past two weeks due to a chest injury, but is expected to be back by the end of the season. Sitting at 50 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two passes defended, the Buckeye is already having a career year.
The linebacker has been and continues to be one of the best at his position — and possibly one of the best defenders — in the the league. Ryan Shazier missed several games in October due to a lingering knee issue, but is still having a year that defies expectations. In just nine games this year, he’s amassed 56 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven stuffs for 31 yards, five passes defended, a forced fumble and an interception.
Still a chance
He might not have made the official ballot, but with fans and social media making up a third of the voting, Nate Ebner still has a chance to accomplish one more dream. Just months after making a run at Olympic gold in rugby sevens, he’s back with the Patriots and currently leads the NFL in special teams tackles. With so many accomplishments already under his belt, he’s hoping for a social media push to get him to the Pro Bowl.
Fan voting will continue through Tuesday, December 13, using the online ballot or via social media by using #ProBowlVote and the player’s first and last name on Twitter and Instagram. On Facebook, fans can comment on any official Pro Bowl Vote post by the NFL or a club.
Players will be announced live on the NFL Network on Tuesday, December 20. And the the game will be played on Sunday, January 29, 2017 from Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
The 2017 Pro Bowl will mark the return of the traditional AFC vs. NFC format following three years using an "unconferenced" structure.