There are few draft classes that have been or will be talked about as often as the 2016 class out of Ohio State. Not only did the players, now heading into their second year in the league, make their mark in the first round of the draft (five picks), but they left a footnote in the history books as well.
Several Buckeyes lived up to the hype in their rookie seasons last year, but a few still had some growing pains to deal with. Now, with a year of experience under their belts, the 14 former Buckeyes are looking for their chance to make a mark on NFL history -- and several of them probably will, if they haven’t already.
It hasn’t been a smooth offseason for all the Buckeyes heading into Year 2; there were a few hiccups — legal and injury-related — that could keep a couple of them off of the field for at least a portion of the 2017 season.
Here’s a look at how the 2016 NFL Draft class out of Ohio State is looking so far in training camp.
The first round pick had a bit of an adjustment to make when he got picked by the New York Giants before last season. A fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, Apple was forced to relive many of his NFC East rival tweets before landing in New York.
Apple fought some injuries his first season in the league, but overall showed promise for the future of the team’s secondary. The Giants’ ranked No. 2 in the league as a scoring defense, and the Buckeye earned the starting role among the already impressive group. He’s gained some confidence with a year of experience, and is starting to show off in practice against the likes of NFL star Odell Beckham Jr.
Pass breakup Eli Apple on Odell. pic.twitter.com/19RO7tAKN3— Paul Schwartz (@NYPost_Schwartz) August 1, 2017
This season, the Buckeye will welcome former teammate Marshon Lattimore to the Saints secondary, but Bell will need to stay focused on keeping his role in the starting lineup. He’s had a good training camp thus far, but hasn’t been entirely consistent. In addition, he appears to be way more handsy than in the past, which could create some penalty issues once games start.
Bell will need to find a way to keep up with his receiver, while not using his hands to maintain his coverage. Once he falls behind, Bell is quick to grab or push his opponent to try and reclaim some ground — it usually doesn’t work like that. He also had an unfortunate run-in with fellow-Buckeye Michael Thomas, although Bell isn’t likely the first or last defender to be embarrassed by the wide out.
It’s hard to believe that anyone would underestimate the powerhouse Buckeye, who not only continued his families legacy of NFL talent, but finished his rookie season as the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Despite not playing in the first four weeks of the 2016 regular season, Bosa came back with a vengeance (10.5 sacks) to nab the post-season hardware and earn the trust and respect of both the organization and fanbase.
The Chargers coaches, especially head coach Anthony Lynn, aren’t expecting any sort of dip in production in Bosa’s first full year following some pretty dominant efforts early on in training camp.
“He looks like he’s picked up where he left off,” Lynn said after training camp practice. “He’s running around. Rushing the passer. Going up against Russell (Okung) every day, and that’s a good competition for him. It’s only going to make Russell better and (Bosa) better. But Joey looks good!”
Unfortunately for the left tackle, Decker injured his shoulder during OTAs and wound up undergoing surgery in early June. He’ll be missed by the Detroit Lions, that’s for sure. Decker was the only player aside from quarterback Matthew Stafford, who lined up for every single offensive snap in 2016 — and that was as a rookie.
There were a lot of expectations for the Buckeye heading into 2017, but now the goal is just to get him back on the field.
Zeke, Zeke, Zeke. The star running back has made no shortage of unfortunate headlines during the offseason, but that hasn’t shaken the Dallas Cowboys’ faith in the second-year player. Potentially facing a short suspension following an NFL investigation into an alleged domestic incident, the Cowboys are moving forward as if they’ll have their starter come Week 1.
Elliott broke numerous rushing and rookie records both for the Cowboys’ franchise and league-wide last year. He amassed 1,631 rushing yards on 322 carries for 15 touchdowns and 91 first downs — not to mention 363 additional yards via the pass for one more TD and 11 more first downs — during his rookie season, and with a rookie quarterback at the helm. Now a year later, the Dallas offense has officially moved on from the Tony Romo-return drama, and can look towards the future with Dak Prescott as their guy.
The relationship Zeke has formed with Prescott, coming in through the same draft class, and living together during the season, will only contribute to an even more explosive offensive chemistry, which hasn’t seemed to simmer during the offseason, with the two continuing to connect at training camp.
Elliott has been the same fun-loving rusher that he was at Ohio State, and shouldn’t be expected to take a big step backwards in his second year. The one thing that could derail his effort to best an already record-setting rookie season, is a suspension that keeps him off of the field for multiple games.
Just as teams were welcoming rookies for the start of training camp, 12-gauge was packing his bags, and reportedly crying tears of joy, as he heard the news that he was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers. Joining his former Buckeye teammates Bosa and Joshua Perry, the quarterback should have no trouble adjusting to his new city and team.
Jones spoke to the media during training camp about how much being able to play alongside Philip Rivers and learn from him means to the Buckeye. He noted that he was the one celebrity of sorts that had him “starstruck”.
One of the reasons the Chargers were interested in Jones, is because he had worked with head coach Anthony Lynn last season when Lynn was the OC for Buffalo.
"He's a big quarterback," Lynn said, according to ESPN. "He's more mobile than what people give him credit for. He has a nice arm and can make every throw. I think he's a good, young quarterback to develop."
Jones’ career trajectory could be completely different now that he has the opportunity to learn under Rivers, and in a system that sees the potential in developing the Buckeye into a NFL-caliber starting quarterback.
Another 2016 first-round pick out of Ohio State, the 6’1, 232-pound linebacker is coming off of a season in which he had to share snaps as the starter and dealt with lingering injuries that affected the entire team’s defense. Despite the ups and downs, he finished the year with 73 total tackles and 1.0 sack, and a growing understanding of the playbook.
Darron Lee: I Wasnt necessarily comfortable with the playbook in 2017. Couldnt tell you half the terminology. Now i'm much more comfortable— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) August 1, 2017
As the projected starter, Lee won’t get as much playing time in the upcoming preseason games, but it’s critical he uses the snaps that he does get to prove his longterm value to the Jets organization. He’s expected to fill the inside linebacker role in the team’s 3-4 scheme, and is slowly becoming one of the few sure-things, on a young team filled with question marks.
It wasn’t exactly a smooth offseason for Marshall, but luckily for him, the Jets seemed to clear the locker room of most of their veteran talent -- specifically at wide receiver -- leaving a spot for the now-suspended Buckeye.
Marshall was suspended by the league for four games for violating the NFL Substance Abuse Policy. The Jets have little flexibility with their roster, having cut Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall, along with already having to place Devin Smith, Brisly Estime and Quinton Patton on IR. The team will likely be forced to accept the second-year player’s suspension and hope he can make it up to them once he gets back on the field.
A lot of people down on Jalin Marshall b/c of suspension and punt return struggles, but Bowles clearly likes him a lot.— Glenn Naughton (@AceFan23) July 29, 2017
The team did bring in wideout Lucky Whitehead — who was released by the Cowboys after being falsely identified in a shoplifting incident — but that doesn’t exactly mean that Marshall will be heading for the exit. The Jets will have to get down to their final 53-man roster by early September, and only time will tell if they decide to cut the Buckeye and save $1.1 million in cap space.
Miller didn’t finish his rookie season off quite the way that he had hoped, battling injuries throughout the season and a quarterback situation that had many in the NFL scratching their head. Now, heading into Year 2, Miller has yet another offseason as a receiver under his belt and is ready to have a breakout year.
Better yet, he might actually get the chance. Early on in training camp teammate and fellow WR Will Fuller broke his collarbone and isn’t expected to return until maybe November, leaving the Texans with 2-3 months of production to fill.
Queue Braxton Miller.
WR Braxton Miller looked special today. He made splendid catches on slant routes and deep down sideline. So much athleticism. More confident— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) August 3, 2017
The former quarterback might finally see the number of targets and snaps that he was hoping for in Year 1. With less competition for a spot on the field, Miller will become increasingly important for a team who has struggled — yet sort of succeeded — the past few seasons.
A fan favorite — and personal favorite of mine — Perry defines going above and beyond in his community, while putting in the work needed to succeed on the field. Despite being drafted one round ahead of fellow LB Jatavis Brown, Perry was jumped in the depth chart and was relegated to special teams work during his rookie season. He saw the second most special team snaps on the team (322) behind only Darrell Stuckey, but claimed just 114 defensive snaps in 8-of-16 games last year.
Heading into Year 2, Perry is projected as the backup to Denzel Perryman at the MIKE linebacker position. Perry’s leadership off the field will certainly help on the field and in the MIKE role, but he might have to wait another season or two before carving out a spot in the starting roster. Our friends at Bolts from the Blue guesstimate the Buckeye will snag at least 150-200 defensive snaps in 2017, specifically in run situations and goal line package.
The end of Powell’s rookie season didn’t exactly play out the way that he had hoped, watching the Seahawks head to the playoffs after being waived earlier that week. Like every stumbling block he’s come across thus far, Powell took the news in stride and was quickly claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Browns.
He had a bit of fun with the idea of playing back in his hometown, even throwing some playful shade toward Michigan alum Jabrill Peppers when the team took him in the 2017 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, playing at home wasn’t in the cards for Powell who once again found himself waived.
Third times the charm, right?
Powell currently resides on the Indianapolis Colts roster, along with many of his Buckeye brothers, including Johnathan Hankins, John Simon, Jack Mewhort and Malik Hooker. Here’s hoping he makes the final 53-man roster at the end of camp.
One of the top offensive rookies in the 2016 draft class, Thomas kept his #Shhhhh moniker at the next level and let his work speak for itself. The wideout only missed one game last season, and finished with 1,137 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He also proved that his size will be a big advantage in the team having a reliable deep threat option, snagging 62 first downs last season.
He’s coming into his second-year with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, and has another former Buckeye, Ted Ginn Jr. on the receiving corp alongside him. Thomas is expected to continue building on a season in which he claimed the second-most catches (92) and seventh-most yards of any rookie wideout... ever.
However, Thomas isn’t resting on a solid Year 1, and he knows that in order to be one of the best in the league, he’ll have to continue improving each day, telling The Advocate, "I've only got one year under my belt. As long as I keep stacking years, better years than I had last year, and staying consistent, that's how these guys are always being talked about."
Michael Thomas with a grab pic.twitter.com/dJRySsJ1nz— Amos Morale III (@Amos_MoraleIII) July 31, 2017
The Seattle tight end is heading into his second year with hopes of seeing more than the four targets he had during his rookie season. He managed to snag 32 offensive yards last year, and while that number is expected to rise in Year 2, he’s still the team’s No. 3 option heading into the season behind Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson — in an increasingly crowded TE room.
Jimmy Graham pumped after TE Marcus Lucas catches TD from Trevone Boykin.— Dugar, Michael-Shawn (@MikeDugar) August 4, 2017
Related: Lucas and Nick Vannett have a dope handshake.
And while he might not have seen that much playing time in 2016, he’s had some valuable time learning under Graham — one of the most productive tight ends in the league.
Another Buckeye who spent the offseason embroiled in legal woes, Washington was cited earlier this summer for improperly carrying a concealed weapon after a scary encounter with Cincinnati police. Video of encounter was later released, showing the police officer telling the Buckeye how lucky he was that the situation didn’t escalate.
Washington tried to have the case handled before kicking off training camp, but was just a few days behind. He was set for a pre-trial hearing on August 1, with the hopes that the case would be dismissed.
He is one of only two Buckeyes for the Bills heading into the season; having traded Cardale Jones and signed Corey “Philly” Brown.