There are a lot of former Ohio State Buckeyes playing in the NFL right now.
Like, a lot.
Whether they’re seasoned veterans or are just entering the league, it’s become increasingly hard to ignore the Scarlet and Gray’s presence in the pros.
Over the past two years, 19 Buckeyes have been selected in the NFL Draft, with eight of those selections coming in the first round. Last season alone saw 35 alumni play at least one snap.
Greater award opportunities could be on the horizon, particularly when it comes to league MVP. It’s an honor no former player has ever won, but that might change this upcoming season.
That being said, let’s take a look at which Buckeyes have the best chance of bringing home the 2017 NFL MVP.
No. 5: Malcolm Jenkins
Since leaving the New Orleans Saints for the Philadelphia Eagles three years ago, Malcolm Jenkins career has taken off. He’s become one of, if not the best safety in the NFL and further reinforced that narrative in 2016.
Jenkins snagged three interceptions and returned two for touchdowns, tying the league-high. He also had nine passes defended and continued to prove his value to the Eagles as their resident ball-hawk.
Malcolm Jenkins : 6 tackles & 2 INT's including a 34-yard pick 6 pic.twitter.com/SCXzuuvFSt— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) December 23, 2016
The last time a defensive player was awarded MVP was in 1986 when some guy named Lawrence Taylor was terrorizing the NFL. Given his position and voters’ history of favoring those on offense, Jenkins odds here are obviously exceedingly low.
However, it’s the 29-year-old’s prowess as an elite difference-maker for a potential playoff team that give him a puncher’s chance.
No. 4: Carlos Hyde
It’s no secret that Carlos Hyde has had as difficult a time as any in the league at staying healthy. Last season was no different, as the San Francisco 49ers top tailback was sidelined for three games, compiling 988 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
Carlos Hyde has shown the ability to generate big plays. pic.twitter.com/ze26qvuUZm— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 17, 2017
It was what El Guapo did earlier in the 2016 season that landed him a spot on this list, though. Through Week 4, Hyde led the NFL in rushing touchdowns with five and showed flashes of being a true franchise back.
Despite playing on divisional bottom feeder, the former 2014 second-round pick is primed for a breakout year under a new regime that wants to see more from him in the 49ers offense.
No. 3: Michael Thomas
All Michael Thomas needed was one season to show the collective professional football world that he’s here to stay.
The sixth receiver selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, Thomas led all rookies in receptions (92), receiving yards (1,137), touchdowns (9) and catches of 20+ yards (18). Compared to the rest of the league, Thomas finished 9th in receptions, 9th in receiving yards, and 6th in touchdowns.
Not only was he Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ favorite target, but Thomas had the most efficient rookie receiver campaign since Randy Moss’ in 1998.
I wouldn’t sleep on @Cantguardmike as he heads into Year Two.
No. 2: Joey Bosa
A contractual holdout may have cost Joey Bosa the first four games of his rookie season, but that’s all it really cost him. Once he took the field for the
San Diego Los Angeles Chargers, it became abundantly clear why he was taken with the third overall pick.
Bosa led all rookies in sacks with 10.5 in 2016, four shy of the rookie sack record. He averaged the second-most sacks per game and had more quarterback pressures in his first 12 starts than any player of the past 11 years.
While Bosa was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year, just imagine what he’ll do in a full 16-game slate.
No. 1: Ezekiel Elliott
The best odds of being crowned NFL MVP undoubtedly belong to Ezekiel Elliott. No other rookie made as big or as immediate an impact on their team, as Elliott cemented his status as one of the league’s premier running backs.
In a historically productive debut season, Zeke churned out 1,631 yards on 322 carries and tacked on 16 touchdowns to boot. He accounted for more first downs than anyone else in the NFL and became the new face of the Dallas Cowboys in the process (sorry, Dak).
Although Elliott can’t seem to stay out of trouble, he’s still a legitimate MVP candidate and could be the first back to win the award since Adrian Peterson in 2012. If the NFL decides to suspend Elliott for any portion of the 2017 season, however, that would obviously impact his ability to put up the stats needed to win the award.