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Ohio State is still an offseason winner despite losses to the NFL

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Though some key members have moved on, the Buckeyes still return a talented team.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

“When it comes to selling elite recruits on the chance to be developed into draft picks, few staffs have as much evidence to work with as Ohio State’s right now.”

- Austin Ward, ESPN

Even with the losses to the NFL for Ohio State, including players such as Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore, Curtis Samuel, and Noah Brown will certainly sting, but the offseason can still be considered a success for the Buckeyes. After all, they return quarterback J.T. Barrett, back for his senior season. And they also get to bring back Billy Price, who will likely shift over to center, as well as key defensive linemen Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, and Jalyn Holmes.

Add in Jamarco Jones coming back and tight end Marcus Baugh, and the team still holds much of its shape from the team that the College Football Playoff saw in 2016-17. The 31-0 loss to Clemson in the national semifinal game looked to have stung just enough to help bring these players back for another run at a championship.

And an important aspect of these losses is they were mostly from the same position groups. Hooker, Lattimore, and Gareon Conley all exit from the defensive backs, which the Buckeyes should be able to shore up on considering recent commitments and players still on the roster (including Damon Webb). Samuel and Brown left a bevy of talent behind them as well, with plenty of candidates perhaps ready and up to the task of replacing the two offensive players at H-back and wide receiver.

“[Big Ten underclassmen that could leave early in 2018] Jerome Baker, Sam Hubbard, Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Weber”

- Jesse Temple, ESPN

With the topic of players leaving early for the NFL draft, Ohio State survived its latest annual departures from stars including stars in the secondary and on the offensive side of the ball. But it’s never too early to take a peek at who could declare for the draft after the 2017 season and which candidates seem most likely. Jesse Temple of ESPN broke down the most likely players to do just that in the Big Ten, and four Buckeyes made the list. Of the four mentioned, defensive end Sam Hubbard seems the most obvious choice, given that he could have left after this season and chose to stay another year. The defensive terror did an excellent job the past two seasons of wreaking havoc on quarterbacks across the league and he’ll likely head for the professional level after next season.

Mike Weber was also included, which may seem like a surprise at first but as the article mentions, when you consider the professional lifespan of a running back in the NFL, it makes much more sense that if the rising redshirt sophomore has another great year he could head for greener pastures. Jerome Baker had his breakout year this past season with the Buckeyes in part due to an injury to Dante Booker, who was supposed to be the starting linebacker. Dre’Mont Jones quietly finished with 47 tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and will likely play a larger role next season, so it’s not impossible to see him leaving early either.

“Unsurprisingly, Ezekiel Elliott was named the PFWA Rookie of the Year, as well as the Offensive Rookie of the Year. His college teammate, Joey Bosa, was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year.”

- Harry Lyles Jr., SB Nation

Former Ohio State standouts Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa haven’t stopped producing at a high level in the NFL, either. Their extremely successful college careers have transitioned beautifully into the professional stage as Elliott was named the Pro Football Writers Association Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year, while Bosa took the Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Elliott had a monster rookie season, posting 1,631 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 322 carries. The former Buckeye running back was just recently knocked out of the playoffs by Green Bay, but still performed well in the game.

Bosa, meanwhile, missed the Chargers’ first four games but quickly made up ground on the rest of the league finishing the year with 10.5 sacks. The mark put him among the best in the NFL. Both also made the PFWA All-Rookie team, along with former Buckeye offensive tackle Taylor Decker.

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