Ohio State football: What will Buckeyes 2017 NFL Draft class look like after record-setting 2016? – cleveland.com

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — One of the most fascinating things about Ohio State football’s big NFL Draft weekend was watching the younger Buckeyes react in real time on social media.

What’s next is always what’s most interesting.

So there was cornerback Marshon Lattimore lamenting the fact he was tweeting so much on Friday night, but also unable to contain his excitement while Buckeyes continued to come off the board.

And there was receiver Parris Campbell, preaching patience and telling Lattimore that it was OK because their time in the NFL limelight would soon come. Who knows if that will actually be the case, but college football players are allowed to dream. Especially on draft night.

The social media conversation this year was different than last year, when Michael Thomas cracked jokes on Twitter as players from other teams Ohio State beat came off the board in the 2016 NFL Draft. This year was an Ohio State celebration.

Campbell was right, though. Both he and Lattimore will have to wait. They’re eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft, but the odds of them actually getting drafted next year are low. They first need to establish themselves as productive college players.

Ohio State’s 2016 NFL Draft lived up to the billing with 12 selections, all in the first four rounds. That always seemed likely when you surveyed the talent on the roster coming into the 2015 season. But what about now?

As the party dies down from this historic draft, how is Ohio State’s potential 2017 NFL Draft class shaping up? It’s early to ponder that, yes, but it’s also what we do in sports. What’s next is always what’s most interesting.

Two days after the 2015 draft ended, we presented the possibility of 18 Ohio State players finding their way into the NFL this spring. It ended up being 15: Twelve draft picks plus three undrafted free agents.

Ohio State’s 2017 number won’t be that high. Or at least there isn’t enough established talent on the Buckeyes roster to throw out a number anywhere close to 18 or 15. Even 10 feels way too high.

How about seven? Seven Buckeyes drafted in 2017 would still be a good weekend. Sorry this year set the bar so high.

Here’s what the last five schools to produce double-digit draft classes produced in the following year’s draft:

• Florida State had 11 selections in 2015, and two in 2016.

• Louisville had 10 selections in 2015, and one in 2016.

• Florida State had 11 selections in 2013, and seven in 2014.

• USC had 11 selections in 2009, and seven in 2010.

• USC had 10 selections in 2008, and 11 in 2009.

See Ohio State’s 12 selections in the 2016 NFL Draft

If the Buckeyes had seven drafted players a year after having 12, that would just about fall in line with the rest of the teams above. Here’s how Ohio State could get to that seven in 2017:

Pat Elflein is a definite. He’s a senior sliding over to center after passing up on the 2016 NFL Draft. Elflein could be the top center selected next spring, and is a potential first-round pick.

Raekwon McMillan will be a junior next season, but he’s one the best inside linebackers in the country, if not the best. If he comes out, which seems likely, he could be a first-round pick. He’s projected No. 19 overall in this Bleacher Report early stab at a 2017 mock draft.

So that’s two, and other early-declaring juniors could join McMillan.

Cornerback Gareon Conley could be on the Eli Apple track and come out after two seasons as a starting corner. Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State’s sack leader in 2015, will be a fourth-year junior like Conley and could easily make the jump after another productive season. Marcus Baugh will be the No. 1 tight end next year, and could add to his value with a role in a more pass-friendly Ohio State offense. That’s five.

Sam Hubbard will be a third-year sophomore next season, but he’s projected as the No. 15 overall pick in that same Bleacher Report 2017 mock draft. That’s six.

What makes seven? Could J.T. Barrett head to the NFL after this season?

He projects as a Heisman candidate (again). If things go the way Ohio State wants them too, this should be Barrett’s most productive season as a Buckeye. He’s the No. 4 quarterback among players in his class according to CBS Sports, and it’s possible the senior quarterback crop isn’t very appealing to the NFL. Barrett making the jump is realistic. That’s seven.

It won’t be historic. You can’t expect every year to be that way. This projection of seven if based off what we know of Ohio State’s roster already. It’s possible Ohio State could get to double-digits again, but that would mean some surprises.

The 4 types of player that could mean another double-digit Ohio State draft class in 2017