COLUMBUS, Ohio — If you’re hoping to catch up on your favorite ex-Ohio State players this NFL wild-card weekend, you’ll have plenty of options.
The Buckeyes will be represented in each of professional football’s four postseason games in the next two days.
With a nation-high 12 players selected in last year’s draft and two more Ohio State rookies signed as free agents last offseason, the boom in Buckeyes now playing at the next level shouldn’t come as a surprise. Per Sporting Charts, 56 Ohio State alums played in the NFL this past season, tied with Georgia as the fifth-most of any program. For comparison’s sake, in 2015 the Buckeyes ranked 10th in the country in pro players with 47 to their credit.
So what’s changed?
Obviously, the addition of 14 pro players in one season helped Ohio State’s cause. But under the direction of Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes were due for a big class. That’s because, much like he did at Florida, Meyer has transformed Ohio State into a pipeline program for the NFL.
In his first five years in Columbus, Meyer has produced 26 draft picks — with more on their way to the NFL this offseason.
It’s become Meyer’s top recruiting tool and something he’s even taken into consideration when it comes to making hires on his staff.
“That’s a big part of recruiting now,” Meyer said after nine Ohio State underclassmen declared for the draft a year ago. “Of course we’re using that.”
That’s why the Buckeyes official Twitter account has taken to providing updates on their former players at the next level.
The @NFL regular season came to a close and the Buckeyes didn’t stop putting up big numbers ?
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) January 3, 2017
Ohio State’s Twitter account should have plenty of content to work with in the coming weeks. A dozen ex-Buckeyes will participate in the upcoming NFL playoffs. Some of Ohio State’s alums will play their first playoff games this weekend, while others will enjoy byes until the division round.
Here’s a look at which ex-Buckeyes will take part in this weekend’s NFL wild-card weekend:
Saturday: Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans, 4:35 p.m. ET, ESPN
Not only do the Houston Texans employ former Buckeyes great Mike Vrabel as its defensive line coach, but two OSU fan favorites in players Braxton Miller and John Simon. Neither, however, will participate in this game.
A shoulder injury landed Miller on injured reserve following the 11th week of the season. In 10 games in his rookie year, the two-time Big Ten MVP caught 15 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Simon has dealt with a pectoral injury since late November, returning in Week 16, but missing Week 17. Per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Simon didn’t practice in the days leading up to Saturday’s tilt.
When healthy, Simon served as a starting outside linebacker in the Texans defense. In 11 games this season, the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year tallied 51 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
It’s also worth noting that former Michigan State quarterback and Buckeyes adversary Connor Cook will start for the Raiders this weekend.
Saturday: Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks, 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC
Rooting for Detroit Lions rookie left tackle Taylor Decker is about as close as you’ll get to seeing Ohio State fans root for a team in Michigan.
The Big Ten’s Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2015, Decker’s pro career has gotten off to a strong start. Advanced analytics site Pro Football Focus has consistently ranked the former Buckeyes player as one of its top rookies throughout the 2016 campaign.
After recently releasing safety Tyvis Powell, the Seattle Seahawks possess just one ex-Ohio State player on its roster in Nick Vannett. In nine games, the 2016 third-round pick has tallied three receptions for 32 yards.
Sunday: Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:05 p.m. ET, CBS
If you’re an Ohio State fan searching for a pro team to latch onto, the Pittsburgh Steelers might be your best bet. The Steel Curtain has typically featured two former Buckeyes fan favorites.
The star of the show is linebacker Ryan Shazier, who has flourished in the Steelers defense since being picked by Pittsburgh in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. In 16 games this season, Shazier tallied 87 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions.
Up front, former Ohio State defensive end Cam Heyward anchored Pittsburgh’s defensive line until a pectoral injury in November landed him on injured reserve. The former Ohio State captain recorded 21 tackles in seven games this season, including 3.5 sacks.
Sunday: New York Giants at Green Bay Packers, 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX
This matchup will give you the most bang for your buck if you’re a Buckeyes fan. With defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins and cornerback Eli Apple, the Giants are the only NFL team playing this weekend that will feature two Ohio State alums on the field.
The first ex-Buckeyes player selected in the Meyer era, Hankins has become one of the Giants most reliable defensive players in the past four seasons. In 2016, he tallied 29 tackles, including three sacks and a forced fumble, on New York’s fourth-ranked defense.
The No. 10 overall pick of the 2016 draft, Apple isn’t officially a starter but has enjoyed plenty of playing time in his rookie year. In his debut campaign, the two-year starter at Ohio State has posted 51 tackles, seven passes defended and an interception.
The Packers, meanwhile, feature an ex-Buckeyes player of their own in their starting lineup in center Corey Linsley. The former fifth-round pick lost his starting job to injury this past offseason before regaining it midway through the season.