The 2017 NFL Draft is now over, and players are starting to put in work with their new teams at the next level. As the start of OTAs and offseason programs get underway, several former Ohio State studs are already showing off.
How are the Buckeye rookies doing?
There were nine Buckeyes added to rosters this spring, through either the draft or signed as an undrafted free agent, including: Noah Brown (Cowboys), Gareon Conley (Raiders), Pat Elflein (Vikings), Craig Fada (Texans), Malik Hooker (Colts), Cameron Johnston (Eagles), Marshon Lattimore (Saints), Raekwon McMillan (Dolphins), Curtis Samuel (Panthers), Corey Smith (Bengals), and Dontre Wilson (Chargers).
Offensive lineman Pat Elflein just inked his rookie deal with the Vikings, and after being invited for a tryout with the Texans, linebacker Craig Fada signed a free agent deal with the team in late-April. Other undrafted free agents to sign with a team include Cam Johnston — who has a good shot of competing for playing time his rookie season with the Eagles — and Corey Brown signed with the Bengals after taking part in a local pro day workout.
Working out on the sideline, Malik Hooker still hasn’t been able to fully participate in the Colts’ offseason program, as he recovers from surgery in January, but is expected to see a lot of playing time his rookie season. The same can’t be said of Dontre Wilson, who despite being invited to tryout for the Chargers, ultimately never signed with the team after a doctor expressed concern over his foot — a lingering issue for Wilson throughout his time at Ohio State. Wilson was omitted from the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, with his only NFL interview coming at Ohio State’s pro day workout.
That feeling of being left out really hitting me smh— Dontre (TRE) Wilson (@treydayy_) May 24, 2017
After sexual assault allegations days before the draft, Gareon Conley fell down teams’ draft boards, but not completely. The Raiders ended up taking a risk with the Buckeye, and are already seeing the benefits. Conley is as dedicated as ever to his performance on the field, and despite all Raider rookies having to earn their way to first and second-team, he’s impressed his new coaches.
Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio spoke about Conley, according to RaidersWire, saying “He’s really more about business. He’s a student of the game. He’s a guy that wants to know. Very bright and is picking up things quick.”
Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley. He's working with second team behind Sean Smith, David Amerson. pic.twitter.com/tOq8tfIafa— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) May 30, 2017
Another impressive secondary player out of Ohio State last season was Marshon Lattimore. Drafted by the Saints, where he’ll join former teammates Michael Thomas and Vonn Bell, the cornerback is another one who is trying to earn his keep with a new team. Despite an unimpressive first round of OTAs, the thing that stands out to coaches most is Lattimore’s desire to learn and improve — which is already an impressive feat for a rookie.
“He’s hungry as heck. He says all the time, ‘Coach, I need to work on this technique; I need to work on this,’ ” secondary coach Aaron Glenn said, according to The Advocate. “To me, just his eagerness to learn. He didn’t come in as a rookie thinking, ‘I know it all.’ He came in as a rookie and said, ‘I need to learn.’ That’s the good thing about him.”
VIDEO: Saints D-coordinator Dennis Allen on Marshon Lattimore what he likes about the rookie CB pic.twitter.com/ssGcryzrLn— WWL Radio (@WWLAMFM) May 25, 2017
Offensive weapon Curtis Samuel had a chance to get acclimated to the Panthers training facility during rookie minicamp, and is soaking up all the advice and experience from veteran players — specifically quarterback Cam Newton. The Hback turned wide receiver said it’s great having a guy like Newton taking the time to offer insight along the way.
"I feel like I did OK for my first OTA," Samuel said after his first OTA. "I want to let the game come to me, be patient and be as productive as I can. I just want to make the most of this opportunity."
So excited for the season, Curtis Samuel is a for sure upgrade from Ted Ginn Jr. pic.twitter.com/et8HYo9dF8— Lawrence (@Kreeeve_) May 6, 2017
Anything new with 2nd year NFL players out of Ohio State?
Most of the record-breaking class of 2016 out of Ohio State is still with the their first NFL team, with the exception of Tyvis Powell. The safety was released at the beginning of the Seahawks playoff run, but was signed by his hometown Cleveland Browns just after the season wrapped up.
Once again, Joey Bosa drew some offseason ire when he didn’t show up for voluntary workouts early this spring, but was still working out with his trainer in preparation of being fully engaged during OTAs and training camp.
Ezekiel Elliott has — as expected -- become the newest running back to take over the league. Despite being in town for the start of offseason training, he was the passenger in another car accident which kept him sidelined for the first round of drills. At this point, the running back should probably just forego driving or riding in cars altogether.
The full second-year class includes: Eli Apple (Giants), Vonn Bell (Saints), Joey Bosa (Chargers), Taylor Decker (Lions), Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys), Cardale Jones (Bills), Darron Lee (Jets), Jalin Marshall (Jets), Braxton Miller (Texans), Joshua Perry (Chargers), Tyvis Powell (Browns), Michael Thomas (Saints), Nick Vannett (Seahawks), and Adolphus Washington (Bills).
Now heading into their second season in the league, expectations have been raised by this bar-setting group.
Who is suiting up for a new NFL team this season?
Free agency brought several roster shakeups across the league, but specifically for a group of Buckeyes. Players like Corey ‘Philly’ Brown (CAR→BUF), Ted Ginn Jr. (CAR→NO), Johnathan Hankins (NYG→IND), Terrelle Pryor Sr. (CLE→WAS), and John Simon (HOU -> IND) all found themselves moving ahead of organized team activities.
One of the breakout receivers last season was Terrelle Pryor, who after officially making the transition from quarterback to wideout had his first 1,000-plus season. He was expected to stay in Cleveland in 2017, but Pryor and the team were on two different pages when it came to amount and duration of a new contract.
Instead, Pryor signed a one-year deal with Washington, and is hoping to contribute enough to earn a longterm deal with the organization. He’s spent the past two months working out with his new quarterback Kirk Cousins — who is trying to get used to having such a big target downfield.
“I’m bigger and my body movement is different than guys he’s played with,” Pryor said, according to ESPN. “So the movement and how I run, it’s deceptive. It doesn’t look like I’m really flying, but I’m flying. Different things like that he has to feel out, and he will. I have to keep getting better with the offense and the nuance of the routes, and I will.”
Former teammates at Ohio State, Hankins and Simon are also on the move, joining Jack Mewhort in Indy for a Silver Bullet reunion that should be feared throughout the league. The three are familiar with each other not just on the field, but off, and could make a big impact on the chemistry of the Colts’ defense.
Finally, the Panthers are no longer one of the more Buckeye-loaded teams in the NFL, with the departure of both Philly Brown and Ginn. Instead Brown is now on the receiving end of Cardale Jones passes in Buffalo, and Ginn is working downfield with Michael Thomas down in New Orleans.
There’s still plenty of offseason left, but with 51 players out of Ohio State on an active NFL roster, the 2017 season is gearing up to be an exciting one.