Ohio State football: Early NFL Draft entry trends

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26:  Denzel Ward of Ohio State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #4 overall by the Cleveland Browns during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: Denzel Ward of Ohio State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #4 overall by the Cleveland Browns during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Credit: Tom Pennington

Credit: Tom Pennington

Three Ohio State football players have declared for the NFL Draft so far.

The deadline to do so is Jan. 17, but with Shaun Wade opting to return and several others indicating they will as well, the former group appears likely to stay at three.

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Twice as many players left early last season, and the trio equals the smallest group of the past five years.

Here is more about Ohio State early NFL draftees:

1. Not counting this year, 54 Ohio State underclassmen have gone pro early since 1992.

Prior to this year, 2.25 players per year have gone pro early from Ohio State since Alonzo Spellman in 1992, an average that has gone up by more than 50 percent in the last eight years.

2. Almost half of Ohio State’s early entries (26) have come since 2013.

No one left early in 2012, the spring after Urban Meyer was named the head coach of the Buckeyes, but 3.7 players per year have made the leap since.

Coach John Cooper lost 14 players early to the NFL, including Nate Clements and Ryan Pickett after Cooper was fired in January 2001. Jim Tressel replaced Cooper and had 13 early entries from the drafts of 2002-11. (That does not count Terrelle Pryor, who entered the supplemental draft after Tressel was forced out in May 2011.)

3. No Ohio State players left early for the spring draft in five different years — 1998, 2003, ’11, ’12 and ’15.

The Buckeyes went undefeated in 2012 and flirted with a national title in three of the other seasons before being knocked off in November.

The ’11 season was derailed by multiple NCAA issues involving Tressel, Pryor and a handful of other players.

4. More than half of Ohio State’s 45 first-round picks since 1992 have been early entries.

Of the 54 early entries, 30 have been taken in the first round.

The latter group includes Nick Bosa and Dwayne Haskins last year, the 10th time at least two Buckeyes with eligibility remaining were taken in the first round.

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Chase Young and Jeffrey Okudah are expected to make that 11 in April while J.K. Dobbins could continue another trend.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Defensive end had three more sacks against Penn State on Saturday

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

5. Non-first round picks going pro early has become more common in the past few years.

From ’92-2001, Ohio State had 14 players leave early and only two (linebacker Lorenzo Styles and Na’il Diggs) were not taken in the first round.

From 2002-10, the latter number tripled as running back Maurice Clarett and cornerbacks Derek Ross and Ashton Youboty went in the third round while linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, receiver Brian Hartline and cornerback Donald Washington were fourth-round picks.

Since ‘11, 15 of Ohio State’s early entries have not been first-round picks. That group includes Tyvis Powell and Jalin Marshall, who were not drafted at all but made the NFL as free agents.

6. Defensive backs have been the most likely to leave early.

A dozen Ohio State cornerbacks have left early (Okudah makes 13) with Denzel Ward, Gareon Conley, Eli Apple, Bradley Roby, Chris Gamble, Clements and Shawn Springs all being first-round picks.

So were safeties Malik Hooker and Donte Whitner.

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In all, 15 Ohio State DBs have gone pro with eligibility remaining while 10 receivers and nine linebackers have done so.

Knowing that, it should not come as a surprise more than half (34) of the early entries have been defensive players. Of those 34, 19 have been first-round picks.