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Pat Elflein is ready to defy expectations again heading into the NFL Draft

The soon-to-be NFL lineman was the lowest rated member of Urban Meyer’s first OSU recruiting class.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

When Urban Meyer signed his first recruiting class as the head coach of the Ohio State football team, there were a number of big names that seemed like can’t miss prospects, including Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, and Michael Thomas, after the latter spent a year at Fork Union Military Academy. There were also a number of moderately heralded recruits that turned into stars, like Cardale Jones, Tyvis Powell, and Joshua Perry.

However, at the bottom of nearly every recruiting service’s rankings of the 2012 Buckeye class was the 983rd rated player in the country, a 6’3, 280 lb. offensive guard from Pickerington, OH named Pat Elflein. The eventual Buckeye great was ranked as the 55th guard in his class, and the 62nd best player to come out of Ohio in 2012.

Following a foot injury that forced him to red-shirt his first year on campus, Elflein played as a reserve in every game of his freshman year, and then started 40 straight games en route to becoming a team captain and one of the most heralded lineman in Ohio State history.

After surprising many by returning to Columbus for a fifth season in 2016, and taking over at center for his recruiting classmate, Jacoby Boren, Elflein is currently being projected to be taken in the early-to-mid second round at this week’s NFL Draft. It is unclear if teams are looking at him to play center or guard, but SBNation’s NFL Draft Editor Dan Kadar believes that he would be a great option for a rebuilding team, perhaps like the Jets at No. 39.

“The Jets probably won’t be competing in 2017 so it’s time to start putting the foundation blocks in for a long-term movement,” Kadar said as part of his mock draft earlier this month, “and Elflein is one of the safest picks in the draft.”

Despite his extensive resumé in Columbus, Elflein did not perform as well at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis as he would have liked, causing some talent evaluators to question his athleticism.

In NFL.com’s prospect overview, Lance Zierlein wrote that, Elflein’s “footwork can be a little labored at times at the center position. (He has) marginal twitch, with short-area reaction time that is just average.”

However, both Zierlein and CBS Sports’ Rob Rang praised Elflein’s toughness and leadership. At the combine, he emphasized his experience playing multiple positions across the offensive line.

“(I) told them I have experience starting at right, left guard and center and that I’m able to play all three, and switch around and be versatile,” he said during the media availability in Indianapolis. “I feel like that’s a good marketing tool for me, and so I just tell them whatever the need is I can do it and do it at a high level.”

The winner of the 2016 Rimington Award, given annually to the outstanding collegiate offensive center, Elflein was also named to 10 first-team All-America lists as a senior. So, as he transitions into the professional phase of his career, Elflein has proven that he is more than comfortable overcoming the odds.