Monday, April 22, 2024

Five hidden Ohio State football NFL Draft gems since 2000


The Ohio State football team has had plenty of top-tier talent head to the NFL over the years. They've also had quite a few hidden gems. Here are some of the best.

By Ryan Stano | Apr 13, 2024

The Ohio State football program is judged on how many players they produce in the NFL year after year. Most of the players that are drafted are done so with high picks. There have been plenty of Buckeyes who have been really good players after being first-round picks.

Then there are some Buckeyes who weren't drafted as highly but have still been good players. Those hidden gems are guys that GMs love because they didn't have to use a lot of draft capital to get them. These guys just show up and do their job at a high level.

Since 2000, there have been five hidden gems that I want to highlight who were former Ohio State football players. None of these players were first-round picks but all of them had long and successful NFL careers. They were still really good players.

The first player had the longest career of anyone on this list.

5. Mike Nugent, K

Mike Nugent was about as automatic as it gets from a kicker standpoint. When he was with the Ohio State football team, it seemed like he was going to make every single kick. He was a member of Ohio State's 2002 national championship team that took down Miami.

Nugent was a very high draft pick for a kicker, being taken in the second round by the New York Jets in the 2005 NFL Draft. He was the highest kicker drafted in that year. He deserved it too. Nugent was a weapon for a long time in the NFL after that for multiple teams.

Nugent played for ten different teams in his NFL career that spanned 16 seasons. He played his last season for the Arizona Cardinals in 2020. It's rare to have an NFL career go that long, even for kickers. But that's a testament to how good Nugent was at his craft.

As far as hidden gems go, this is a good one. To have a 16-year NFL after being a second-round pick I'd say is pretty darn good. Nugent got to play in a lot of different cities and made a lot of money from different franchises. That's a pretty good living.

The next player on this list was a sixth-round pick but won multiple titles.


4. Nate Ebner

Nate Ebner hardly played for the Ohio State football team. He only played for two seasons with them because he was a rugby player. Yet, his speed is what attracted him to Urban Meyer once he walked on. He could run a 4.48 40-yard dash so that made him an extremely valuable gunner.

Ebner never really played as a cornerback, although he did record a sack for the Buckeyes. He was a sixth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. He was one of the prototypical draft picks by Bill Belichick, who was always looking for certain traits.

While Ebner never really got to play on defense, he was an excellent special teams player for the Patriots. In fact, he was named Second-team All-Pro in 2016 as a special teams player. He was at the peak of his position as a specialist and made a good living that way.

Ebner won three Super Bowls with New England in his career, by far the most championships of anyone on this list. Quite frankly, he just contributed to winning football. That's what he did during his entire career, most of which was spent in New England.

Ebner finished his career with the New York Giants and finished playing in 2021. He ended up having a ten-year NFL career, all as a special teams player. That's a nice hidden gem if you ask me. The next player on this list is still playing at a solid level on defense.


3. Johnathan Hankins

The only defensive player on this list who actually started on defense, Johnathan Hankins has had a productive NFL career. He was a second-round draft pick back in the 2013 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. He spent the first four years of his career in New York.

Hankins is still playing at the age of 32 and just got signed by the Seattle Seahawks. He has played for five different NFL franchises so far. He has been able to add value everywhere he's been because of the space he's able to eat up in the middle as a nose tackle.

So far, he's played in 11 NFL seasons and this year will be his 12th. He doesn't show any signs of slowing down either. Hankins can still fill up the middle and make it tough for teams to run up the gut and he can still push the pocket around on quarterbacks too.

Hankins has made a lot of money in his career. As a second-round pick, it's impressive to see him still out there and being productive. He's one of those guys who just does everything right when he's on the team and is a veteran presence in the locker room.

The next player on this list was actually the highest-paid player at his position at one point after signing a massive contract extension.


2. Corey Linsley

As a fifth-round pick, Corey Linsley has had an excellent career. He was taken in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers and was the starting center for Aaron Rodgers and did quite well. It's impressive to be a starter as a fifth-round pick, especially for such an accomplished quarterback.

Linsley was named First-team All-Pro in 2020 in his final season playing for the Packers. He was also named to the Pro Bowl in 2021, as well as a Second-team All-Pro player. That was when he was signed by the Chargers in a contract that made him the highest-paid center in the league.

He signed a five-year $62.5 million contract to play for Los Angeles, something Green Bay was not willing to match. Linsley actually just agreed to restructure his contract a few weeks ago to give the Chargers a little more flexibility in free agency this season.

Linsley is still at the top of his game at 32 years of age. He's a very good player and will be for at least another three or four seasons. He can be relied on in both the run game and the pass game. Not only that, but he's an excellent leader for the rest of the offensive line.

Linsley is one of the best hidden gems since 2000 for the Ohio State football program. He's a solid player and a really good person. That's the best you can hope for from a fifth-round pick. The final person on this list was actually a third-round pick


1. Terry McLaurin

Terry McLaurin was even a hidden gem when he was a member of the Ohio State football team. He was just a three-star recruit coming out of Cathedral High School in Indianapolis. He turned himself into a really good receiver and a great special teams player for the Buckeyes.

McLaurin was a third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Washington Commanders. He has turned himself into the number one receiver on that team and has done a lot with horrible quarterback play over the course of his four full years in Washington.

McLaurin was named to the Pro Bowl in 2022 and could have more on his resume if he had some better QB play. He has had over 1,000 receiving yards in every season except for his rookie one. The best quarterback he's played with might have been Sam Howell, who is no longer there.

Washington is expected to draft a quarterback with the number-two pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Perhaps that can finally be the answer to that position. Whoever it is will probably be the best quarterback McLaurin has played with. He should only get better in his career now.

To be the best receiver on a team after being a third-round pick is a really nice achievement. As I mentioned, he should continue to get better. He's 28 years old so he's in the prime of his career. He's as good of a hidden gem as it gets.


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