Ohio State football: K.J. Hill’s fall to seventh round a surprise

Ohio State’s K.J. Hill scores a touchdown after a catch against Minnesota on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

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Ohio State’s K.J. Hill scores a touchdown after a catch against Minnesota on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

Program’s all-time leading receiver one of 10 Buckeyes drafted

While 10 Ohio State Buckeyes heard their names called from Thursday to Saturday in the NFL Draft, the program’s all-time leading pass catcher saw 219 players selected before him.

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“It was real hard just seeing other receivers go before you,” K.J. Hill told reporters on a conference call, “but I got my name called, and that’s the most important thing on this day. My dream came true. I’m just so happy and so blessed.”

Hill maintained a positive attitude despite slipping to the sixth pick of the seventh round, where the Los Angeles Chargers drafted him. He was the 34th wide receiver taken, though few ahead of him can boast of the production he delivered the last four seasons at Ohio State. He finished his career ranked first all-time in receptions (201) and sixth in receiving yards (2,332).

Ohio State coach Ryan Day, who talked on a conference call Sunday about how his program fared in the draft, said he didn’t understand why Hill didn’t get picked earlier.

“All he does is get open, catch the ball and make great plays,” Day said. “He’s the most productive wide receiver in Ohio State history. I don’t get that one at all. The Chargers got a complete steal, and I think a lot of guys missed on him.”

On the third day of the draft, Ohio State also saw safety Jordan Fuller drafted in the sixth round by the Los Angeles Rams and defensive tackle Jashon Cornell drafted in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions.

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Five other Buckeyes signed as undrafted free agents: tight end Rashod Berry (New England Patriots); offensive lineman Brandon Bowen (Carolina Panthers); wide receivers Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor (New York Giants); and longsnapper Liam McCullough (Las Vegas Raiders).

Day expects even the undrafted players to have a good opportunity to make NFL rosters.

“It is difficult, and there’s a lot of people vying for those spots,” Day said. “At the end of the day, some of those guys just need an opportunity to get on the field.”

Ohio State tied with Michigan for the second-most draft picks in 2020. National champion LSU had 14 picks, including Joe Burrow, chosen first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals. Alabama ranked fourth with nine picks. The Southeastern Conference had 63 players selected, and the Big Ten ranked second with 48.

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Only Ohio State could boast of having two of the first three picks with the Washington Redskins taking defensive end Chase Young and then the Detroit Lions drafting cornerback Jeff Okudah following the Bengals’ selection of Burrow. A year from now, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields could be in a similar spot if he chooses to enter the draft after his junior season.

Day said Fields’ goals at the next level have been part of the conversation since he arrived at Ohio State.

“We’ll put him in position to go to New York City (for the Heisman ceremony) and to be a first-round draft pick,” Day said. “It’s his job to be a great leader and bring a championship back to Ohio State. His development this past year has been tremendous. He’s still got a long way to go. But I think there’s a level of trust there. Based on how it goes this season, we’ll either say, ‘You’re ready to go and go get it,’ or maybe you need another year.”

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