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Ohio State’s 2013 NFL Draft class was the ‘Year of the Undrafted Free Agent’

Two Buckeye draft picks that year, though, are still chipping away at an NFL career.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

You could call 2013 the Year of the Undrafted Free Agent for players out of Ohio State. Despite three big-name Buckeyes hearing their name called during the seven-round event, a handful of others went on to sign deals with teams, before bouncing from practice squad to practice squad in different cities.

The only Buckeyes to still be on an NFL roster, however, are two of the three that were draft picks that year — although none of the players are still with the team that drafted them.

2013 NFL Draft results

Player Position Draft Pick Team
Player Position Draft Pick Team
Johnathan Hankins DT Round 2 (No. 49) New York Giants*
John Simon LB Round 4 (No. 129) Houston Texans*
Reid Fragel OT Round 7 (No. 240) Cincinnati Bengals*
Jake Stoneburner TE Undrafted Free Agent Green Bay Packers*
Zach Boren FB Undrafted Free Agent Houston Texans*
Travis Howard CB Undrafted Free Agent Houston Texans*
Orhian Johnson S Undrafted Free Agent Houston Texans*
Etienne Sabino LB Undrafted Free Agent New York Giants*
Nathan Williams DE Undrafted Free Agent Minnesota Vikings*
*No longer with this team

The draft picks

Johnathan Hankins: After playing out the four years of his rookie contract with the New York Giants, Hankins slowly became a pivotal interior defender, and wanted a big-money, multi-year deal when he hit the free agency market in 2017. And that’s what he got with the Indianapolis Colts, who signed the Buckeye DT to a three-year, $30 million deal.

Hankins started 41-of-52 games he suited up for with the Giants, and notched 140 total tackles, 10.0 sacks and three forced fumbles. He followed that up with 44 total tackles, three pass breakups and 2.0 sacks in his first season with the Colts. Despite a solid performance, a new head coach and shift in defensive scheme saw Hankins’ exit from Indy, and the Buckeye is now one again wading the water of free agency for a new roster spot.

John Simon: It took a couple seasons of development, but heading during the 2017 free agency, Simon was a top linebacker option for teams, thanks to two breakout seasons in Houston. He was initially drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, but was eventually brought into the Texans family with the help of now-Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. The Buckeye legend, with both NFL playing experience and time as a coach at Ohio State, knew of Simon’s potential and was able to mold that during the 2015 and 2016 seasons with Houston.

Not only did Simon benefit from learning alongside defensive masterminds like J.J. Watt, but injuries to key defenders like Jadaveon Clowney saw a shift in personnel and an increase in playing time for the up-and-coming linebacker. Simon played in all 16 regular season games for the Texans in 2015, and notched 5.0 sacks and 49 total tackles. He followed that up with an 11-game, 3.5 sack and 51 total tackle performance.

The Colts won him over in free agency and in 2017 the Buckeye was playing for Indianapolis, alongside a slew of other Buckeyes — and draft class mate, Johnathan Hankins. After starting the season embodying a defensive shift toward the better for the Colts, claiming 3.0 sacks and pick-6 in nine games, Simon was sidelined with an injury and spent the rest of the year on IR. He’s still expected to be a big contributor for Indy once the offseason programs get underway, and probably hasn’t even reached his ceiling in terms of NFL potential.

Reid Fragel: The offensive tackle out of Ohio State was initially drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the final round of the 2013 event. He started his rookie season on the team’s practice squad, before being signed by Cleveland in late-October. He then spent portions of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 on and off of practice squads for five different NFL teams — 31 career roster transactions since he was drafted.

In 2017, he was signed to the Minnesota Vikings on a futures deal, but didn’t make the final 53-man roster, and was cut in the preseason. He hasn’t signed a reserve deal just yet in 2018, but my money is even if he does, it’s just as a training camp roster spot and ultimately will take his career in another direction sooner rather than later.


Canadian Football League

Travis Howard: After initially signing with the Houston Texans, Howard ended up spending his rookie season on the practice squad for both the New England Patriots and New York Giants. He ended up being cut by the Giants just head of the 2014 season, and spent the 2015 offseason bouncing from the Giants to the Falcons, and then to IR.

I talked to the cornerback in late-January about his future plans, and he had recently signed a contract with the Winnipeg Bombers. With DeVier Posey showing this offseason that you can turn a short-stint in the CFL into another shot at the NFL, Howard isn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet.


Practice squad regulars

Jake Stoneburner: Of all the undrafted free agents out of the 2013 draft class, the Buckeye tight end had the biggest taste of success. Throughout his NFL career, Stoneburner saw 22 roster changes; between moving from practice squad to active rosters and then cut, just to do it all over again, made for a very busy five years.

During his rookie season with the Green Bay Packers, Stoneburner mostly participated in special teams, but did seeing playing time in nine games. He started his first season in the league as a practice squad player, but only used half a season towards his PS eligibility.

It wasn’t until 2015 that the tight end really showed signs of NFL potential. He saw playing time in 11 games that year with the Miami Dolphins and even started one game on offense. Stoneburner never really became a consistent contributor, but did haul in five reception (off five targets) for 47 yards and two touchdowns as a professional football player — something not many people can say.

Zach Boren: One of the Buckeye-family football legacy, Zach Boren was signed by the Houston Texans following the 2013 NFL Draft, and spent his rookie season on the team’s practice squad. The running back was then signed to a reserve/future contract with the (then-San Diego) Chargers in early 2014, but was waived ahead of final roster cuts during the preseason. Boren’s last stop was a one-month stint with the Tennessee Titans as a preseason roster filler in 2015.

Since then, though, the Boren family started their own business, providing both dumpsters and a rather fantastic troll of Michigan. The business involves his brother, Justin; and father, Mike.


Never saw a snap

Orhian Johnson: One of the four Buckeyes signed to the Houston Texans coming out of Ohio State, Johnson would spend the next couple of seasons switching from safety to linebacker and back again. He was signed to the Arizona Cardinals practice squad in December of his rookie season but was ultimately cut during the 2014 preseason. He never found another landing spot and that was all she wrote for his NFL career.

Etienne Sabino: Similar to his former teammate, Sabino wouldn’t see any playing time at the next level. Signed by the New York Giants out of Ohio State, the Buckeye linebacker was cut just before the start of his rookie season. He’d end up going unsigned throughout the 2013 season, before signing with the (then-St. Louis) Rams in March of 2014. Once again Sabino was a causality of the final 53-man roster cut and would never ink another NFL deal.

Nathan Williams: The Buckeye defensive lineman had a productive career in Columbus — finishing at No. 6 in the Big Ten in 2010 with 4.0 sacks — but that wouldn’t ultimately translate to the NFL. After signing with the Minnesota Vikings in the spring of 2013, he wouldn’t make the roster or end up signing anywhere else thereafter. It was a very short stint as an NFL prospect for the former Rushman.


This is the fourth in a five-part series, evaluating the draft classes out of Ohio State from 2012-2016, in reverse order.