Ohio State vs. Michigan players in the NFL: How the Big Ten’s rivals fare in all-time draft picks

Ohio State and Michigan are two of the most famous programs in college football. The Big Ten powerhouses have some of the most wins and national championships in the history of the sport.

Along the way, many of these key players from the two teams have gone on to pursue football careers in the NFL. In both history and the past few years, few schools can match the number of talent sent to the NFL.

Many more players from Ohio and Michigan states will join the NFL after the 2022 season. Players like Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Michigan’s Blake Corum and Olusegun Oluwatimi, who are expected to play key roles in the latest installment of The Game, are expected to bring home NFL teams when Ohio State and Michigan meet in 2023.

How have the two programs compared in NFL draft picks up to this point in their respective histories? Sports news takes a look.

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Most NFL draft picks by school

  • State of Ohio: 480
  • Michigan: 397

Based on Pro Football Reference draft data, the Buckeyes have 480 all-time draft picks while Michigan have just 397. The Buckeyes rank third all-time behind Notre Dame (522) and USC (516), while the Wolverines have fifth-most, separated from the top three by Oklahoma in fourth (412).

However, the NFL draft has only included seven rounds since 1994, a format it follows to this day. Before that, there had been major differences with eight in 1993, 12 in 1977-92, and 17 in 1967-76 at the start of the Super Bowl era. The NFL Draft has been around since 1936.

Given its continued dominance, it should come as no surprise that Ohio State has had the most draft picks by a wide margin since the NFL draft was pushed back to seven rounds. The Buckeyes have sent 190 players to the NFL since 1994, 22 more than Alabama (168), which has the second most. The gap between first and second places is almost as great as the gap between second and eighth places, which is USC (147).

The Wolverines are the 11th most NFL draft picks in the seven-round era with 130.

Jim Harbaugh and Ryan Day have continued their two programs’ trend of producing draft pick numbers. Since Jim Harbaugh became Michigan’s head coach in 2015, 44 players have gone to the NFL. Only Alabama (65), Ohio State (61), LSU (54), and Georgia (50) have produced more. Day has sent 26 players to the NFL since becoming head coach in 2019, surpassed only by LSU and Georgia (31 each) and with Alabama in third place.

Most players were drafted from the school in a year

  • State of Ohio: 14
  • Michigan: 11

How does a school get many all-time draft picks? It helps to send massive classes to the NFL all at once. Ohio State held the draft-era seven-round record with 14 players drafted in a single year (2004), tied on points with LSU (2020) before Georgia broke the record with 15 in 2022. In draft history was Texas (17th in 1984). ) has the single class record. Michigan’s program record of 11 has been equaled twice: first in 1972 and then again in 2017.

Both programs are among the few schools to have had classes where they sent double-digit players to the league in the same class. 35 schools have sent 10 or more players to the league in the same season for at least a year. Ohio State has done it eight times. Michigan has done it four times. Only USC (15) and Notre Dame (13) had double-digit draft ratings higher than the Buckeyes.

In the seven-round era, only 15 schools sent at least 10 players to the NFL at any one time. The state of Ohio is tied with four classes with Alabama for most over 10 classes. Michigan ranks sixth with two such classes.

Day is yet to produce a draft class as big as Harbaugh’s record of 11 set in 2017. Day’s biggest class since becoming the Buckeyes’ head coach is 10, which he achieved in both 2020 and 2021.

Most first-round picks by school

  • State of Ohio: 87
  • Michigan: 51

No school has produced more first-round draft picks than Ohio State since the very first NFL draft. The Buckeyes sent 87 players to the NFL in the first round of picks. USC (84) is the only other team to have more than 76. The Wolverines are seventh in history at 51.

In seven-round draft history, Ohio State still leads with 49 and Alabama is second with 46. Michigan has the ninth-most first-round selections since 1994 with 30.

As with overall draft picks, the Buckeyes have accumulated the big overall draft picks with large swathes of players entering singles drafts. Ohio State had five players in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft, which ranks third most all-time and in the seven-round era. Michigan’s most first-round picks have been three, which came in 1995 and 2001.

Since Harbaugh became the Wolverines’ head coach, Michigan has had eight first-round picks, tied with Florida for sixth-most in that span. Alabama (24), Ohio State (18), Georgia (13), LSU (11) and Clemson (10) are the only teams with more. Day has sent six players to the first round of the draft since becoming head coach, behind only Alabama (12), Georgia (eight) and LSU (seven).

Best NFL Players by School

But it’s not always just about sending players to the draft. It’s often about how players perform when they reach the NFL. And this is where it gets a little smoother.

Both Ohio State and Michigan have six players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Michigan’s Hall of Famers are Elroy Hirsch, Tom Mack, Dan Dierdorf, Ty Law, Charles Woodson and Steve Hutchinson. Ohio State Hall of Famers include Dante Lavelli, Jim Parker, Dick LeBeau, Paul Warfield, Cris Carter, and Orlando Pace.

Ohio State has the second most Combine Pro Bowl appearances with 175, behind only USC’s 226. Michigan is in 10th place with 113.

Then there’s Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value (AV), which the site describes as “an attempt to determine a player’s seasonal value at any position and in any year using a single number.” And among programs with at least 200 draft players in the NFL, few teams have produced better-performing players. Of teams with at least 200 drafted players, Ohio State draftees average 19.17 AV per player (5th), while Michigan draftees average 18.28 per player (10th).

The final angle is which school produced the best players. And if you look at the top, nobody has produced a better player than Michigan. That would be Tom Brady, who has an AV of 184, the best of any player in NFL history. Ohio State’s best player by approximate worth right now is Paul Warfield, who has a career AV of 108.

But since Brady is still playing and Cameron Heyward is still in the league, both still contribute to those AV totals — and each could contribute to Hall of Fame totals.