The 2022 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday night in Las Vegas. Ohio State enters this year’s draft holding the lead for producing the most first round picks. The Buckeyes currently have seen 85 players selected in the first round, which is two more than USC. Ohio State has a more sizable lead on Michigan, who is tied for eighth with LSU, with both schools claiming 48 first round picks.
One area where Ohio State can’t claim to be at the top of when it comes to the NFL Draft is in the number of total overall draft picks. The Buckeyes sit third all-time with 473 players draft, while Notre Dame has the top spot with 520 draft picks, and USC has produced 517 NFL Draft selections. If Ohio State is going to pass those two schools when it comes to the number of draft picks the Buckeyes have produced, it will likely take a while since Ohio State is almost 50 picks behind Notre Dame.
The NFL Draft gives fans reasons for optimism each year. The annual draft class gets fans thinking change might be around the corner for those teams that struggled the previous year, or it could help a contender solidify their standing. For Buckeye fans, there aren’t many feelings in spring that can rival when their NFL team selects a Buckeye. For some teams, it feels like a yearly occurrence when they select an Ohio State player, while for others it is something that happens around once a decade.
Today’s question: What is your favorite Ohio State draft pick that your favorite NFL team has made?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: Buffalo Bills - Nate Clements
Over the years the Buffalo Bills have made a few selections of Ohio State players. The most notable recent selection came when the Bills picked Donte Whitner with the eighth pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Buffalo also selected Adolphus Washington in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, followed by Cardale Jones in the next round. Needless to say, the Bills aren’t the New Orleans Saints when it comes to drafting Ohio State players.
For the first 17 years of this century, there wasn’t much to cheer about when it came to the on-field product that we saw from the Buffalo Bills. After going to four-straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s, the Bills underwent a rebuilding project when they hired Gregg Williams to replace Wade Phillips as head coach. Unfortunately, Williams was the first in a line of mediocre head coaches the Bills would employ during their playoff drought.
One of the few bright spots for the Bills from 2001-06 was Nate Clements, who was selected with the 21st pick of the 2001 NFL Draft. The Ohio State product was the first cornerback taken in the draft. Clements also was able to step into a secondary that already had Antoine Winfield starting. In his rookie season, Clements started 11 games and picked off three passes, returning one for a touchdown.
Clements would only get better over the next few years, picking off six passes in his second and fourth seasons with the Bills. Also, Clements returned one interception for a touchdown in five of his first six years in the NFL, with 2005 being the only season during that span where he didn’t reach the end zone. In his fourth year in the league, Clements was selected to the Pro Bowl, which is the only time that he was chosen for the event.
Nothing good can last forever. That feels like it’s especially true in Buffalo, where it can be tougher to retain star players at times, since the lure and possible earning capability of playing in a bigger market is a little too much to pass up. Following the 2006 season, Clements agreed to a contract with the San Francisco 49ers that made him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL at the time. Following four years in San Francisco, Clements would return to the Buckeye State to close out his professional career, playing two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.
It’s a shame that the Bills weren’t a better team when the had Clements on their roster, because he was one of the best in the game at cornerback. Opting for Clements over Whitner as my favorite Buckeye that was drafted by the Bills was an easy decision, especially with the inconsistent play from Whitner, as well as some of his crying about the fan base. Clements definitely set a standard that is going to be tough to top when the next crop of Buckeyes are drafted by Buffalo in the future.
Meredith’s answer: Cleveland Browns - Denzel Ward
There’s been no shortage of Ohio State draftees on the Cleveland Browns, but the clear winner — especially in recent memory — has to be cornerback Denzel Ward, whom the Browns selected with the fourth-overall pick in 2018.
Not only was Ward a standout for Ohio State, he’s been one of the few first round draft picks for Cleveland since the Browns’ return to the league that hasn’t been utterly disappointing. In fact, Ward followed up his consensus All-American performance in 2017 at Ohio State with a Pro Bowl appearance as a rookie in 2018. He added one more Pro Bowl in 2021.
All that success also led to a payday for Ward, who just signed a monster deal this month that made him the highest paid defensive back in the league. He certainly deserves it. Ward has pulled in 10 picks in four seasons and he simply doesn’t allow opposing receivers to catch the ball.
It doesn’t hurt that the Browns didn’t stop with Ward and are continuing to add depth in the defensive secondary, including with highly touted picks like Greedy Williams and fellow Big Ten DB Greg Newsome II.
One of the other reasons to love Ward is that he’s been part of a roster revamp in recent years that’s made the whole Browns team better. Cleveland’s defense could almost be considered formidable! Ward is one of many good players on defense (it doesn’t hurt that Myles Garrett is anchoring the line) that makes the whole unit run smoothly. It’s a far cry from those days when Joe Haden seemed to be doing all the work himself in the defensive secondary.
With Ward’s new contract, hopefully this new era of consistency and (dare I say it?) good defensive play continues in Cleveland.
I have to mention that my first runner up would be none other than current Ohio State wide receivers coach, Brian Hartline.