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Ohio State’s NFL rookies look to take the league by storm

You could be hearing “THE Ohio State University” a lot more this fall.

NFL: New Orleans Saints-Minicamp Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Buckeyes may have had an impressive showing in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but those selected in later rounds still have a good chance of seeing playing time come the start of the regular season. The five non-first rounders with the greatest chance of making an impact their rookie season include three offense and two defense players.

It didn’t take long for several Ohio State players to make names for themselves with their new teams; with hard work and dedication, they are scoffing at any indication they won’t be successful at the next level.

Michael Thomas

The Saints are already excited for their new WR3. Thomas has impressed with his work ethic and commitment to his craft; quarterback Drew Brees liked the extra reps Thomas asked for after practice, and the extra time he spent learning at the facility.

The transition from college to the NFL can be tough with so much to learn; putting in the effort early on as a rookie not only earns you respect, but quickens the time between newbie and starter.

The chemistry between QB Brees and his new wideout has been likened to that of Marques Colston, which could mean big things for Thomas in New Orleans.

But as Thomas would likely tell you himself, “Shhhhhh”.

Vonn Bell

Thomas wasn’t the only Buckeye to head to the Saints, with Vonn Bell being picked up shortly after the wide receiver. Bell has impressed at the next level, not only with his “ball-hawking” abilities, but also his potential and commitment to special teams.

“To me, the thing that really stood out is his ability to play specials teams, and his ‘want to’ to play special teams,” Aaron Glenn, Saints secondary coach, said after rookie camp. “A lot of times that tells you a lot about a player. They’re a starter – how do they operate on special teams? He made a lot of good tackles on special teams. That says a lot about who he was, a special teams guy and a starter on defense.

It’s no surprise that someone coming from an Urban Meyer-coached team would feel strongly about the importance of special teams, but the rarity for starters wanting to put in the extra work and extra load on their bodies for the position is lauded in the NFL.

His defender skills won’t go to waste but you could see Bell as a starter right away in a special teams role.

Braxton Miller

The Texans didn’t hide their excitement for their latest wide out draft pick, with the highly regarded former quarterback being one of the wild cards of this years rookie class. With only one season at receiver under his belt, but the kind of athleticism most coaches dream about, his potential in the NFL has been somewhat hard to discern.

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien faced Miller and the Buckeyes back in 2012 and 2013 when he was the head coach during Penn State’s “transitional” years. Knowing the kind of competitor Miller is had to give the coach confidence taking the young talent in the third round of the draft, and noted soon thereafter they have a plan for Miller.

Miller may not be a starter when the regular season kicks off in early September, but he is sure to see some playing time and could contribute right away. As he gets some reps under his belt, he’ll be able to settle into a rhythm and really make a dent in the offensive roster, but will need some consistent success to build up his confidence at the next level.

Nick Vannett

One of the biggest steals of the draft will (predictably) be the tight end out of Ohio State. The Seahawks are already excited about the potential of the “Gronk-like” Buckeye; Vannett’s size is a big plus, but add to that his ability to protect the quarterback AND catch the ball, he’s looking at a good place to jump start his career in Seattle.

“He’s surprised us,’’ head coach Pete Carroll said after mini camp. “He has surprised us, We knew that he could catch the ball and all that, but he’s a very natural catcher. He shows the savvy and instincts that you hope a guy has. I know (quarterback) Russell (Wilson) has really clicked into him. He picked up on it and has already shown trust and working the ball his way. He’s exceeded our expectations a little bit in only a positive, great way for us.’’

Such high praise from a coach who knows first-hand the possible issues transitioning from college to the NFL could bring. The team is excited to get him in pads and see his blocking ability later in the summer, but for now is looking like the No. 2 tight end behind Luke Willson — Jimmy Graham is still rehabbing, but could wind up losing his backup role if the rookie continues to shine.

While Vannett might not be a starter right away, the Seahawks tend to play multiple tight ends, and could lend to the Buckeye contributing throughout the year.

Joshua Perry

The linebacker was not only drafted by the San Diego Chargers, but first-round pick and Ohio State teammate Joey Bosa was the one who announced the pick. The unique situation led to two Buckeye superstars landing on the same defense out west, and landed them as roommates when they first headed to camp.

Unsurprisingly, Perry stepped out into the community his first week in San Diego to learn how he can contribute off the field. As a fan favorite at Ohio State, he will undoubtedly win the hearts of Charger fans everywhere. Perry doesn’t want to limit his success to just that off the field, and looks to contribute early on as well.

Chargers linebackers coach Bob Babich spoke about how Perry can find success his rookie season, explaining, “So number one, he needs to make sure he does a good job on special teams. Then as a linebacker, there is a lot that has been thrown at him this spring as far as scheme. He is doing just fine, but the longer he is in the scheme, the better player he’ll become. All we want to do in the linebacker room is play fast. If you make a mistake, we talk about making it full speed. That is all we are trying to do, and Joshua is doing a good job.”

Perry is one of the selfless players who is willing to do whatever is needed to help the team, whether it be on special teams or defense. As he gets more adjusted to his new schemes and teammates, he’s sure to find just as much success as he had in college.