Ohio State Football: Power Ranking the Buckeyes' Best NFL Players of All Time

David Regimbal@davidreg412Featured ColumnistMay 7, 2014

Four hundred and five draft picks. Sixty-seven first-round selections. 

Only two schools have had more players drafted into the NFL than Ohio State. Those numbers serve as proof that OSU is the Big Ten's best entryway into the NFL, but it also reflects the program's long and rich history.

Which former Buckeyes went on to have the best professional careers?

With hundreds of options, determining that can't be accomplished with a simple glance at the stats. Pro Bowl appearances, All-Pro selections and, of course, Super Bowl rings are a big factor.


10. Mike Vrabel

Mike Vrabel might not have the stats or Pro Bowl selections of other players on this list, but his jewelry collection sets him apart.

Vrabel won three Super Bowls as a member of the New England Patriots. His best year—and lone Pro Bowl selection—came in 2007 when he piled up 77 tackles and 12.5 sacks from his outside linebacker spot.

He was versatile, though, something Patriots coach Bill Belichick identified early. Vrabel was occasionally used in goal-line packages, and throughout his 14-year career that spanned three teams, he caught 10 passes, all of which were touchdowns.


9. Dick LeBeau

Long before Dick LeBeau was guiding the Pittsburgh Steelers to Super Bowls as a defensive coordinator, he was a pivotal member of one of the NFL's best secondaries. 

LeBeau, originally drafted by the Cleveland Browns, wound up playing cornerback for the Detroit Lions for 14 seasons between 1959-1972. During his long and successful career, he piled up 762 total tackles and 62 interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns.

LeBeau was a three-time Pro Bowler and was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.


8. Eddie George

Ohio State has produced a number of outstanding running backs—most notably Archie Griffin, the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner—but none had the kind of pro career Eddie George had.

A Heisman winner himself, George was drafted by the Houston Oilers the year before the team moved to Tennessee. In nine seasons (his last with the Dallas Cowboys), he rushed for 10,441 yards (which ranks 25th all time) and 68 touchdowns. He was Rookie of the Year in 1996 and made four consecutive Pro Bowls between 1997-2000.


7. Bill Willis

Bill Willis' eight-year career spanned 1946-1953, which were the first eight seasons in Browns history. The first four seasons were a part of the All-America Football Conference before the league collapsed and Cleveland joined the NFL in 1950.

Willis, a middle defensive guard, anchored the Browns defense for nearly a decade, earning three consecutive Pro Bowl selections between 1950-1953. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame as a member of the 1977 class.


6. Dante Lavelli

Dante Lavelli was a teammate of Willis' at the collegiate level at Ohio State and professionally in Cleveland. While Lavelli's career with the Buckeyes was brief, (he played just three games before being drafted into military service), he returned and enjoyed a successful 11-year career with the Browns.

Nicknamed "Gluefingers," Lavelli was a dynamic receiver who had 6,488 receiving yards and 62 touchdowns throughout his career. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975.


5. Jack Tatum

Dubbed "The Assassin" by his teammates, Jack Tatum was one of the most feared and ruthless hitters in NFL history. The tough-nosed safety played nine seasons with the Oakland Raiders before closing out his career after a year with the Oilers. 

Tatum, a three-time Pro Bowler, was a part of the Super Bowl champion Raiders team during the 1976-77 season.


4. Jim Parker

Few offensive linemen in NFL history had a bigger impact or accumulated more accolades than Jim Parker.

Drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Colts in 1957, Parker immediately bolstered Baltimore's front line. After his rookie season, Parker ripped off eight consecutive Pro Bowl seasons, two of which (1958, 1959) ended with NFL championships.

He was versatile. Throughout his career, Parker bounced between tackle and guard positions for the Colts. In 1973, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


3. Orlando Pace

The "pancake" block was made famous by Orlando Pace at Ohio State, but the big-time left tackle took his otherworldly talents to the NFL for a very successful career.

Pace spent the first 12 years of his career with the St. Louis Rams, serving as the backbone of one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history. Pace was a seven-time Pro Bowler and helped guide the Rams to a Super Bowl victory over the Tennessee Titans during the 1999-00 season.


2. Cris Carter

Cris Carter was one of the best receivers not only in Ohio State history, but also in the NFL as well.

His career got off to a rough start with a three-year stint in Philadelphia, but once he landed in Minnesota, he blossomed. Carter spent the next 12 of his 16-year career with the Vikings, and during an eight-year span between 1993-2000, he made the Pro Bowl every year.

Carter finished with 13,899 receiving yards, which ranks ninth all time in NFL history, to complement 130 receiving touchdowns.


1. Lou Groza

Who doesn't love an offensive lineman who can kick?

Lou Groza's unbelievable professional career spanned 21 seasons in total. From 1946-1959, Groza played both kicker and left tackle for the Cleveland Browns, piling up nine Pro Bowl selections. After one year of retirement, Groza rejoined the team solely as a kicker, a role he played from 1961-1967.

According to Mike Peticca of The Plain Dealer, Groza helped Cleveland play in 13 title games (four in the AAFC and nine NFL championship games), and in 1974, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Other Contenders

Dick Schafrath (offensive lineman), Randy Gradishar (linebacker), Jim Tyrer (offensive lineman), Paul Warfield (wide receiver), Chris Spielman (linebacker) and Joey Galloway (wide receiver).


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