Offensive linemen are inherently un-sexy, and despite his recent physical transformation former Ohio State center Pat Elflein is no exception. But while he may not possess the sizzle of Malik Hooker or upside of Marshon Lattimore, the reigning Rimington Trophy winner may be the safest pick of all the ex-Buckeyes in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Given both his consistency and versatility, it’s not hard to imagine the Pickerington, Ohio, native enjoying a lengthy pro career with whichever team selects him next month.
Until then, let’s take a look how Elflein how got here and what remains ahead.
A 3-star prospect out of Pickerington North, Elflein arrived at Ohio State as a member of Urban Meyer’s first recruiting class in Columbus, though hardly highly touted. In fact, per 247Sports, Elflein was the lowest-ranked member of the Buckeyes’ 2012 class.
In addition to Ohio State, Elflein held offers from Northwestern, Indiana, Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Toledo, Akron and Miami (Ohio). He was the class of 2012’s No. 55 offensive guard and 983rd-ranked prospect, per the 247Sports composite.
After redshirting in 2012, Elflein received a rather memorable introduction to the college football world. When Buckeyes guard Marcus Hall was ejected for his involvement in a fight during Ohio State’s 2013 win vs. Michigan — and subsequently suspended for the next week’s Big Ten title game — it was Elflein who replaced him.
“Someone told me that Marcus just threw a punch and I was like ‘Uh-oh,’ ” Elflein recalled last November. “Then they started naming off numbers that were ejected and I heard 79. So I was like, ‘All right, I’m in.’ Just going in there with those guys, you didn’t really have time to freak out.”
Elflein performed admirably in Hall’s absence and would spend the next two seasons as the Buckeyes’ starting right guard, serving as a key cog in Ohio State’s run to the first College Football Playoff championship. Before his senior season in 2016, he converted to center and would go on to earn unanimous All-American honors and win the Rimington Trophy, presented each season to the nation’s top center.
With his big senior season, Elflein became the Buckeyes’ first national individual award winner since 2008.
What coaches and teammates said about Pat Elflein
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer: “I can’t give an adjective to overemphasize his value to our program. And I’ve done this 29 years. He’s as good a player, person, leader as I’ve ever been around.”
Buckeyes QB J.T. Barrett: “He means a lot to me. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had and that’s just solely because he cares about the people. I think at times, especially when you’re at a top university, you get caught up in doing well and your own individual success. It was one of those things where he had himself together, but he always (sought) out to see how you were doing or how somebody else was doing.”
What the draft experts are saying about Pat Elflein
I’d take Pat Elflein in second round and have a very nice player for 10 years.
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 3, 2017
Elflein: Power game. Versatile. Can play guard or center. Strong ability in the reach game. Easily get to the second level. Smart technician
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 24, 2017
In his most recent mock draft, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller projected Elflein as a third-round pick, selected 69th overall by the Los Angeles Rams. Miller also grades the former Ohio State center as his top-ranked player at the position and the best pass- and run-blocking center.
Scouts Inc. ranks Elflein as its 68th overall player and No. 1 center.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com likens Elflein to Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick.
“Elflein is a smart, tireless worker with a winning background and experience at all three interior offensive line spots,” Zierlein writes. “While his feet are just average, his core strength and wrestling background could make him a favorite of teams looking for more strength at the center position.”
The 31st overall pick of the 2013 draft, Frederick has made three Pro Bowls in the first four seasons of his NFL career. If Elflein manages to replicate that sort of success, he will have proven to have been more than just a safe pick.