"First team: Center - Pat Elflein, Linebacker - Raekwon McMillan"
- Sports Illustrated
The preseason accolades keeping on coming for the leaders of the 2016 Ohio State Buckeyes. Center Pat Elflein and middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan have been mentioned on most of the award lists possible at their position and have now been named to Sports Illustrated's preseason All-America team. The duo were the only Buckeyes to make the list. Elflein was an All-American last season at guard but shifting over to center doesn't seem to have hurt his prospects in that regard. Should he lead Ohio State's offensive line again this season, Elflein could be looking at a very respectable draft pick and another appearance on the finalized version of the All-America team.
McMillan, meanwhile, enters his junior season in Columbus. The former five-star linebacker has already started to live up to the hype when Ohio State was recruiting him, seeing plenty of action as a true freshman and then last season as a starter in his own right. McMillan led the team in tackles last season and will look to do the same as he prepares for a professional career of his own. With a team so young on both sides of the ball, players like Elflein and McMillan are invaluable, especially in critical moments during games which the Buckeyes are sure to find themselves in this year.
"Not only will Elliott be the Cowboys' most impactful rookie, he very well could be the NFL's, too."
- Cameron DaSilva, FOX Sports
Cameron DaSilva of FOX Sports took the liberty of predicting which rookies would have the most impact in their first years for each team in the NFL. Ohio State's rookies represented well, as four of the Buckeyes drafted were named to the list. The first (and most obvious) was Ezekiel Elliott, playing for the Dallas Cowboys. With already building excitement by having the top jersey sales at NFL shop, Elliott is expected to be a centerpiece for the Cowboys offense this season and is even being taken high in fantasy football drafts with the potential to be great from day one. And with an offensive line that large and powerful, how could you not be excited for No. 15?
Also making the list were Michael Thomas in New Orleans (over Vonn Bell), Braxton Miller in Houston (over Will Fuller), and Taylor Decker in Detroit. Thomas has been reportedly having a fantastic camp for the Saints and has been one of the top performers during the offseason. Miller figures to touch the ball a fair share this season simply because of his versatility with the ability to carry the ball and also make catches which might give him a slight edge over Will Fuller out of Notre Dame. Decker looks like he'll be playing some right tackle this season but could eventually move over to left tackle where he's more comfortable down the line but will still have a huge impact on protecting Matthew Stafford for the Lions.
"You're not going to win ever rep. ... That humbles you. You will be humbled. It's fun, though. I love it."
- Darron Lee via Randy Lange, NewYorkJets.com
Another one of the rookie Ohio State players making the transition to the NFL is linebacker Darron Lee. Lee passed on coming back to Columbus for another season after making his mark on the program by helping the Buckeyes get a national championship and Fiesta Bowl win. Now, playing with the New York Jets, Lee is trying his best to get his mind up to speed, where his body has already caught up. As Lee mentions in the article, the practice grind is a marathon and not a sprint. Although Lee has shown to have good instincts and has the physicality to succeed on this level, the mental part is taking some more getting used to.
A freshman All-American in 2014 followed by a second-team All-American honor, Lee is smart enough of a football player to not be slowed down for long. The Jets have been pleased overall with their first-round pick, and have praised Lee's attitude and general lack of ego. Always a team player, Lee is set up for success in the NFL and should be fun to watch as the years progress.
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