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Former Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier used his alopecia to become a better person and player

Being able to laugh helped Shazier in the short and long term.

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Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

“[Ryan] Shazier doesn't know if hairlessness caters to the law of aerodynamics, but he laughed anyway. It was a laugh, after all, two decades in the making.

- Aditi Kinkhabwala, NFL.com

Ryan Shazier looks like any other football player when he’s in full uniform, helmet included. But when the helmet comes off, Shazier is notably hairless, outside of a clump under his chin. This is due to the alopecia Shazier was born with, an autoimmune disease that tackles hair follicles. Despite this, Shazier’s parents told him growing up that nothing was wrong with him, and to laugh off the detractors, and that’s exactly what he’s done. Shazier told Kinkhabwala, "That would make kids so mad," he says, smiling as he thinks back. "I used to laugh so much. Even still now, I laugh. I'm not sick, so why not?"

That good attitude that Shazier has kept has translated onto the football field. Kinkhabwala notes, “There's nary a groan after a three-hour training camp practice.” That’s something you want from a guy who is one of the key pieces of your defense. And Shazier is expected to make big strides this season, continuing a great lineage of Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers. Shazier is finally healthy after missing 11 games in two years, and is more than ready to go. He told Kinkhabwala, "Some people say I play too hard, but that's how I play. Troy played the same way," referencing the great Troy Polamalu. That’s a pretty good player to look up to in terms of style. Hopefully it leads to a career-year for the former Buckeye.

“At this point, the buzz around Thomas is so deafening that he is sure to be drafted too high in just about every fantasy league.”

- Mike Triplett, ESPN

Despite the above sentence possibly seeming like a knock on Thomas, it’s surely not. The hype growing around Michael Thomas is far, especially when you consider who is throwing the ball to him in future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. He’s a physical receiver who has come up with some great mentors around him, including his uncle Keyshawn Johnson. The quarterback situation at Ohio State last year surely had an effect on him, but there’s no questioning Thomas’ talent.

So if you’re drafting in fantasy and Thomas is within reach, he’s not a bad pick. Triplett says that Thomas’ red-zone targets should be fairly high, while still able to make big plays down the field. Triplett also says that he’s gotten the trust of head coach Sean Payton, which a great thing considering he’s one of the best coaches in the game.

“Mangold was our top-ranked center in five of the 10 years he bestrode the position like a colossus, playing nearly 11,000 snaps over that period.”

- Neil Hornsby, Pro Football Focus

Pro Football Focus and Neil Hornsby have released their all-decade team, with the best players from 2006-2015. Their center, is none other than former Ohio State Buckeye Nick Mangold, who has clearly been one of the best in the league since he came in with the New York Jets.

Hornsby goes as far as to say, “If we had the Dwight Stephenson Award (given to the best player in football over the course of one season, regardless of position) from PFF’s inception, I maintain Nick Mangold would have won it on more than one occasion.” That’s pretty high praise for a guy who isn’t playing a skill position, and when you take into account some of the great players that have played across the NFL in the past decade.

“Ohio State Buckeyes: No. 10”

- Dane Brugler, CBS Sports

CBS Sports is doing a countdown of the most NFL talent-rich programs, and the Ohio State Buckeyes came in at No. 10 on their list. The Buckeyes have had 140 picks in the NFL Draft since 1994, which is the most in college football according to Brugler. They’ve had 57 picks in the past 10 years, and 30 in the past five. The 2016 NFL Draft was notably great for the Buckeyes, who had 12 players selected in the draft, with five of them going in the first round, and 10 in the first three rounds.

Tyvis Powell, Jalin Marshall, and Chase Farris were all players who signed deals as undrafted free agents. It was truly a testament to how great Urban Meyer and his staff have been recruiting since his arrival in 2012. Brugler highlights the most likely draftees next year, including Sam Hubbard, Raekwon McMillan, Pat Elflein, Gareon Conley, Tyquan Lewis, Billy Price, as well as J.T. Barrett. He also lists seven other draft-eligible prospects. Depending on how Ohio State’s season goes, it could be another very lucrative draft for the Buckeyes in 2017.

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