Ohio State football has always produced high-quality NFL talent. Throughout the last four years, this has been especially true out of the defensive backfield. Since the 2014 NFL Draft, the Buckeyes have produced five first-round draft picks at the cornerback and safety positions – six total in the first two rounds. Not only have they molded players regarded highly in the draft, but also guys that have continued to play at a high level in the league.
2014: Bradley Roby (Rd. 1 – Pick 31)
Roby spent three years at Ohio State, essentially kicking off the Buckeyes’ run of dominant defensive backs. In his three seasons in college, he recorded 132 tackles with eight interceptions – two for touchdowns – and 19 passes defensed. Roby did not stop being a shutdown corner in the NFL, either. Throughout his four seasons, all for the Denver Broncos, Roby has recorded six interceptions and five forced fumbles with a whopping 47 passes defensed.
2016: Eli Apple (Rd. 1 – Pick 10)
Apple spent just two seasons at Ohio State, playing a big role on the 2014 National Championship team. With the Buckeyes, he racked up 86 tackles and four interceptions with 17 passes defensed. Apple has really been the only OSU defensive back to struggle of late, recording just one interception in his first two years with the Giants. At just 22 years old, Apple still has a ton of time to develop and improve his game at the highest level.
2016: Vonn Bell (Rd. 2 – Pick 61)
Bell also played a big role on the 2014 National Championship team, spending three years in Columbus. As one of the team’s starting safeties, Bell tallied 175 total tackles and nine interceptions. As part of a revitalized Saints defense over the course of the last two seasons, Bell has started in 21 games in his first two years in the NFL. In New Orleans, he has totaled 102 tackles with six passes defensed and four forced fumbles.
2017: Marshon Lattimore (Rd. 1 – Pick 11)
Perhaps the best corner to come out of Ohio State in recent memory, Lattimore joined Bell on the Saints after spending just two years with the Buckeyes. After playing in only three games his freshman year, Lattimore started all 13 games in 2016, recording 45 tackles with four interceptions and nine pass break-ups in his sophomore year. Having recorded two interceptions and nine passes defensed thus far this season, Lattimore has already become one of the best defensive players on the Saints in just his rookie year.
2017: Malik Hooker (Rd. 1 – Pick 15)
One of the most impressive players in recent memory at any position for Ohio State has been Malik Hooker. In Hooker’s sophomore year, he snagged seven interceptions, three of which for touchdowns, and recorded 84 tackles. Drawing comparisons to safety Ed Reed, Hooker has shown tremendous potential to be the best safety in the NFL. Starting six games for the Colts, Hooker recorded three interceptions and 15 tackles. Unfortunately, his season was cut short after tearing his ACL.
2017: Gareon Conley (Rd. 1 – Pick 24)
Lining up opposite Lattimore in his final year at Ohio State, Conley spent three years with the Buckeyes. In that time, he picked off six passes with 91 tackles and 15 pass break ups, also playing on the team that won the national title. Conley has shown flashes in the league, but has yet to show all that he has to offer in the NFL. As a result of lingering shin splint issues, Conley has played in just two games this season.
The DB draft-train has not stopped in 2017. Current Buckeye corner Denzel Ward will likely be a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, coming in at 15th overall on Todd McShay’s latest mock draft and 20th overall on Mel Kiper Jr.’s. Ward totaled 15 pass break ups and two picks for the Buckeyes this season as their top corner.
Future recruits have taken notice of Ohio State’s success at getting defensive backs into the league, as shown by their current 2018 recruiting class. In just the first week of December, the Buckeyes already have 15 ESPN 300 recruits, including two corners and two safeties. Out of the five defensive backs in Ohio State’s incoming class, three are four-star recruits and one is a five-star (according to 247Sports composite scores).
With the talent that has been flowing through Columbus in the defensive backfield in recent years, Ohio State might just be the new DBU.
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