Despite coming off a tremendously disappointing conclusion to the 2016 season, six Ohio State players have decided to forego another year in Columbus, focusing on getting better for potential NFL careers. In certain respects, some of the players who are leaving actually have two years of eligibility remaining.
CB Gareon Conley ~ Signed in 2013, Conley redshirted his first year. After two years of starting in 2015 and 2016, Conley elected to give up his final year of eligibility. Conley has been projected as a possible first round draft choice.
DB Malik Hooker ~ Signed in 2014, Hooker redshirted during the national championship year. Hooker played primarily on special teams in 2015, but emerged as a playmaker in the role of former NFL great Ed Reed in 2016. Even with two years of eligibility remaining, Hooker made the correct choice in declaring early for the 2017 NFL Draft. Hooker will probably be selected within the first ten picks of the 2017 NFL Draft, based on plays like below…
H-Back Curtis Samuel ~ Samuel played a multitude of roles in his three years in Columbus. Playing as a true freshman in 2014, Samuel was able to contribute running and receiving the ball. Samuel became Ohio State’s focal offensive weapon in 2016, leading the Buckeyes with 74 receptions while adding 845 yards on the ground, with a total of 15 touchdowns. Samuel could sneak into the late first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but will probably be a second or third round pick. No matter what kind of NFL career Samuel has, this play will immortalize Samuel in the hearts of Buckeye fans everywhere…
WR Noah Brown ~ Of all the players on this list, Brown probably qualifies as a surprise early entrant into the 2017 NFL Draft. Brown played sparingly as a true freshman in 2014, and suffered an injury that eliminated his 2015 season. Brown started off strong in 2016 before tapering off down the stretch. With a strong performance at the NFL Combine and at workouts, Brown will look to elevate his draft stock, but Brown is looking like a day three NFL draft choice.
MLB Raekwon McMillan ~ Arguably the crown jewel of the 2014 recruiting class, McMillan vied for playing time as a true freshman during the national championship season. Taking over the middle linebacker spot in 2015, McMillan led the Buckeyes in tackles in both 2015 and 2016. With NFL teams playing more and more nickel packages, McMillan will probably be a day two pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
CB Marshon Lattimore ~ Lattimore was also highly-touted as a recruit in 2014, but battled hamstring injuries in both 2014 and 2015. Lattimore emerged as one of the best defensive backs in the country in 2016. Even with two years of eligibility, Lattimore made the right decision to declare for the 2017 NFL Draft, with his stock so high. Lattimore should be a high selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Would I be happy if all six of these players were donning the scarlet and gray for Ohio State in 2017? Absolutely. Do I understand why all six of these players have decided to fulfill their respective dreams of a NFL career? Absolutely.
Gentlemen, thank you for all of your contributions to Ohio State. You will all be missed, but not forgotten. #GoBucks!