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Ohio State’s most recent rookie class might have been the best ever in the NFL

With players like Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa leading the way, the Buckeyes have starred at the professional level.

NFL: NFC Divisional-Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

“At the very least, it's safe to say that the Ohio State Buckeyes just sent one of the best draft classes the league has ever seen into the NFL.”

- Bill Barnwell, ESPN

When you stack up this most recent draft class of rookies from Ohio State, it’s hard to pick a better group of rookies in the NFL, ever. That might be lofty praise, but in reality, it’s hard to match what the former Buckeyes have done on the football field this past season. Just to start things off at the top of the list, you have Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott, who just had one of the best seasons by a rookie running back in NFL history and Joey Bosa, who is an obvious choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year. From there, you have Taylor Decker, who started at left tackle all season for a Detroit Lions team that made it to the playoffs and Michael Thomas who played with the New Orleans Saints (and where he hauled in 92 receptions, the second-most ever from a rookie receiver) where he had 1,137 receiving yards on the year.

It doesn’t stop there, and even that alone may have been enough to determine this class as the best ever. When you throw in guys like Eli Apple, who was an impact corner for the New York Giants, and defenders Vonn Bell, Darron Lee, and Adolphus Washington, who all had solid individual seasons on subpar teams, the case gets even stronger. Cardale Jones didn’t have much of an impact but Braxton Miller did start in six games for the Houston Texans this season.

“We had talked about it together. But we actually didn’t all expect to have the exact same room as we did last year. Nobody really expected that because that rarely happens. Obviously we love playing with each other and the fact that we all wanted to come back, we’re all happy. Now that it has happened, we’ve got a lot to prove and a lot of responsibility to perform like one of the best units on the team.”

- Sam Hubbard via Austin Ward, ESPN

There was surely a slight sigh of relief for Urban Meyer and the rest of the Ohio State coaching staff when several key defensive linemen decided they wanted to come back for another season with the Buckeyes. After all, Tyquan Lewis - the Big Ten defensive lineman of the year - could have easily jumped to the NFL. The same could really be said for the physical freak that is Sam Hubbard who will help provide a pass rush on the other end of the defensive line. Another junior that could have potentially gone on to the NFL was Jalyn Holmes, who returns for another season.

When you stop to consider the talent around those three already coming back, the potential for Ohio State’s defensive line in 2017 is scary high. Nick Bosa, Dre’Mont Jones, and even someone like Tracy Sprinkle who suffered a season-ending injury in the first game against Bowling Green, could see a lot of time and make a large impact next year. The Buckeyes have been fortunate to have some of the better defensive lines in the country the past several years and 2017 is shaping up to be no different as the unit will likely anchor a defense that is losing quite a bit of talent in the secondary.

“[Ezekiel Elliott] is the first Cowboys player to win SN's award since Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett in 1977, and the third overall. The other winner also was a running back, Calvin Hill, in 1969.”

- Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News

Despite his team being knocked out in the playoffs, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was named Sporting News’ Rookie of the Year for 2016. The former Buckeye was simply sensational in his first year in the NFL, rushing for 1,631 yards and 16 touchdowns and only fell short of Eric Dickerson’s rookie numbers as a running back. He also helped the Cowboys enter the playoffs as the top seed with a 13-3 record on the season. It’s also worth noting that Elliott only played in 13 games, none of those games missed from injury, but rather his team making sure he stayed rested for the postseason.

As the article above points out, what’s impressive about Elliott’s numbers are not just in the stats themselves but rather that he’s not in a league that relies on workhorse running backs anymore. If anything, it’s a quarterback’s league and the MVP voting shows that, as Elliott was joined by players such as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan.