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Opinion: 2016 NFL draft will be loaded with Ohio State talent

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Then-sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa (97) chases after then-redshirt senior Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner (98) during a game against Michigan on Nov. 29 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 42-28. Credit: Lantern file photo

Then-sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa (97) chases after then-redshirt senior Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner (98) during a game against Michigan on Nov. 29 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 42-28.
Credit: Lantern file photo

Five former Ohio State football players heard their names called throughout the seven rounds of the 2015 NFL draft. The 2016 edition could very well see five Buckeyes announced, as well — in Round 1.

The first 32 picks this year were devoid of OSU talent, with wide receiver Devin Smith being the first player selected at No. 37 overall.

For the Buckeye faithful, this might have come as a disappointment, as they suffered through dry draft analysis and endless commercial breaks just to witness a mostly scarlet and gray-free weekend.

Well, have no fear, because OSU could very well be taking over the NFL rookie landscape a year from now.

Of course, much is contingent on several eligible players leaving early. Redshirt junior quarterback Cardale Jones, junior defensive lineman Joey Bosa, redshirt sophomore linebacker Darron Lee and junior running back Ezekiel Elliott could stack the 2017 NFL draft if they so choose to stay for an extra season.

But with a national championship and a likely premier spot on the draft board already at hand, why wouldn’t they leave?

As it stands right now, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be uttering the words “Ohio State” quite often throughout the first round next spring.

If healthy, Bosa will most likely go No. 1 overall. While there are a couple of other contenders for the coveted spot, such as a pair of Ole Miss stars in offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil and defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, Bosa’s combination of speed and power have already wreaked havoc on the college scene — and he will still be just 20 years old when the season kicks off Sept. 7.

With an absurd 21 sacks and a unanimous first-team All-American honor already under his belt in just two seasons, the race is on for the Bosa sweepstakes.

He could be followed closely behind by Jones, who could be a top 10 pick — if the quarterback even manages to see the field this season, that is.

Should redshirt senior Braxton Miller  — though the possibility of him slotting in front of Jones seems unlikely at this point — or redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett nab the starting spot, Jones could elect to stay for his fifth year, in which case he could be the potential No. 1 overall pick in 2017.

But should the Glenville High School product start and thrive as he did in his three 2014 starts, his upside and natural talent will likely make him the first quarterback taken off the board in 2016, with only a fellow Big Ten quarterback — Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg — coming close to Jones’ prestige.

Then there’s Elliott, who will likely come in as the top running back prospect in the draft, safely ahead of the next-best prospect, Alabama’s Derrick Henry.

Senior offensive lineman Taylor Decker — the only OSU 2016 first-round prospect who does not have any remaining eligibility after this season — should go in the top 20, as well.

Finally, Lee — a converted quarterback — is the least likely to leave, as it would be after just three years of experience — two in games — playing on the defensive side of the ball. But should he leave, his pass-rushing abilities could have him fit in at the end of the first day — making him the fifth Buckeye off the board.

So, to recap, five Buckeyes could be taken on day one of the 2016 NFL draft. Five Buckeyes were taken overall in the three days of this year’s edition.

And those five aren’t the only Buckeyes who will flood the NFL ranks next year.

Senior linebacker Joshua Perry ranks as one of the top outside linebacker prospects and should go in the second round — with a shot at being OSU’s sixth first-round prospect.

Defensive lineman Adolphus Washington will also likely be called on the second day, with a chance to move up to the first with a strong senior campaign.

And don’t forget Miller, who should be drafted in some way, shape or form. It could be as a quarterback, or it could be a completely different position, depending on how coach Urban Meyer elects to use him this season.

Now in Meyer’s fourth year in Columbus, the NFL is starting to see the fruits of his recruiting labors loom on the horizon.

OSU has only had two players chosen in the first round in the last four years — both in 2014. An offensive player from OSU has not been selected in the first since running back Beanie Wells in 2009.

Next year, all of those marks will assuredly be forgotten. If everything goes as expected, OSU’s record of five first-round picks, set in 2006, could be a thing of the past, as well.

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