Since 1936, the first year in which an official pro football draft took place, 481 Ohio State Buckeyes have been selected in the NFL Draft. Two players – Russ Thomas and Bob Meyers – were actually drafted into the NFL twice, in back-to-back (but separate) years. And 14 of those 481 former Buckeyes were also taken in the AFL Draft, including the legendary Hall of Fame wideout Paul Warfield.
That makes 497 total draft picks for OSU since Gomer Jones was selected by the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals nearly a century ago.
Of the nearly 500 Buckeyes taken, hundreds have enjoyed successful pro careers, while others flamed out and/or never playing a snap after their time in Columbus. The Ohio State football program has produced NFL Hall of Famers, Pro Bowlers, Players and Rookies of the Year, ten-year tackling dummies, one-and-doners, monumental busts, and everything in between.
All of these former OSU football players share one thing in common, which is their affiliation with THE greatest university on the planet. Conversely, one thing that sets them all apart is their varying degrees of success (or lack thereof) in the NFL.
Another way to look at it is in terms of value. Each of these players produced value – positive or negative – for the team which drafted them. And that is what I am going to look at in the weeks leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft. I am going to attempt to identify the seven best Scarlet and Gray values, picking only one player from each round (length of the modern draft, and going in reverse order).
Before we get started, “best” and “most” must be sorted out. Best value is not the same as most valuable. And most valuable is not same as best value. Warfield, Eddie George, Orlando Pace, Jack Tatum, or Jim Parker would inarguably be among the most valuable (former) Buckeyes at the professional level. All became team captains, Pro Bowlers, eventual Hall of Famers, you name it. But they were also taken within the first 20 picks of their respective drafts, whereas Dick LeBeau made the NFL Hall of Fame as a fifth-rounder.
I might argue that LeBeau was the better overall value because of where/when he was drafted. But going round by round means I do not have to choose between Pace or LeBeau, which is a good thing because there are already plenty of difficult decisions ahead...
Without further ado, let’s go bargain shopping.
Round 7: Kurt Coleman, Safety
Prior to joining the Buckeyes, Coleman was a four-star cornerback out of Clayton, Ohio. Highly regarded for his athleticism and willingness to initiate contact, he was recruited by Luke Fickell and committed to Ohio State as part of Jim Tressel’s 2006 class. Coleman would eventually transition to safety, earn captain status and All-American honors, and most importantly, develop into a rock-solid leader for the Scarlet and Gray.
Of course, Coleman also made it to the NFL and enjoyed a successful pro career, which is why he is the subject of this piece. But his football-playing days nearly came to an end before he even played a down in The Shoe.
That is because on April 14, 2006, Coleman was involved in a practice collision with teammate Tyson Gentry, which left Gentry paralyzed. Feeling guilt, remorse, and who knows what, Coleman contemplated walking away from football in the immediate aftermath. And nobody would (or could) have blamed him.
But when he visited Gentry in the hospital just a few weeks later, Coleman was greeted with compassion, rather than hostility or resentment. That compassion helped him move past the unfortunate on-field event and continue pursuing his football career... And what a solid career it turned out to be.
Coleman excelled as a do-it-all safety for OSU but lacked certain elite traits. He stood less than six feet tall, ran a 4.55 forty during the pre-draft process, and despite being named to All-Big Ten and All-American teams in Columbus, fit the profile of a career special teamer/backup at the next level.
So it came as no surprise when Coleman slid to the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft, where the Philadelphia Eagles snatched him up with pick No. 244. 2-4-4. Which means he was chosen just 11 spots before “Mr. Irrelevant” — AKA the last pick of the entire draft. Odds of Coleman even making Philly’s roster (let alone contributing) were long, but the rookie from Ohio State quickly proved his worth. Or dare I say... value.
During the Eagles’ fourth preseason game, Coleman returned two fumble recoveries for touchdowns en route to securing a role on the active roster. He appeared in 15 regular season games as rookie, starting two. He also started Philly’s wildcard playoff game, racking up seven total tackles. From No. 244 in the draft to No. 1 on the depth chart, Coleman had seemingly arrived.
But despite ending his rookie season on a high note, Coleman was not handed a starting gig in 2011. He did earn it prior to Week 1, but was benched just a few weeks later. However, the former Buckeye eventually won his spot back and won NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 6 thanks to a three-interception performance against the Chicago Bears.
Coleman picked off four passes that season (2011) and totaled 93 tackles the following year, but was replaced as the Eagles’ starter in 2013. He then signed a free agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings prior to 2014, but was cut before the season even began. Looking for a third home in a short period of time, Coleman reunited with Andy Reid in Kansas City and spent one season with the Chiefs.
The competitive and cutthroat nature of the NFL likely had Coleman feeling like pick 244 all over again, but his best football was still ahead of him. In 2015, he signed a free agent deal with the Carolina Panthers and enjoyed the most successful season of his professional career. He totaled 90 tackles and 7(!) INT, helping the Panthers go 15-1 during the regular season. Coleman’s team made it all the way to Super Bowl 50, where they lost to the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos.
As a result of his fantastic 2015 season, Coleman was offered a contract extension by Carolina with $7 million guaranteed. He gladly accepted and enjoyed two more productive seasons with the Panthers.
The former Buckeye captain signed one more lucrative contract during his career, when he joined the New Orleans Saints in 2018. Coleman only lasted one season on the bayou, before appearing in 14 games as a backup for the Buffalo Bills in 2019. By then he was 31 years old and had spent a decade in the league. Not too shabby for a seventh-round pick.
Coleman racked up 554 tackles and 21 INT in his NFL career, which ended after the stint in Buffalo. He never made a Pro Bowl, but was among the league’s top-graded safeties during that special 2015 campaign and helped the Panthers achieve what is still their best regular season record.
Entering the league as pick No. 244, Kurt Coleman defied the odds. His NFL career lasted longer than most players, let alone those who were taken so late in the modern draft. His ROI was through the roof, making him the best Buckeye value from the seventh round.